Program C : Historical Book Binding, Structure and Preservation of Books

San Gemini Preservation Studies 2020
Session 1: June 1 – June 26 (4 weeks)
Location: San Gemini, Italy

Program Information

This program aims to teach the craft of traditional bookbinding, preservation and preventive conservation approach and methods, along with an overview of the history of book making.  This course views books as material structures holding cultural memories and as telling cultural objects in themselves. The program is organized in two courses, both of which involve classroom lectures and practical workshops.

The program is aimed at two types of students: those planning to become book conservators, and those requiring better knowledge about the care of books and bound material in libraries, archives or museums. For those planning a career as book conservators, this is a sound introduction and foundation for further education. Those planning to manage book collections or archives will acquire skills in analyzing the nature of bound material, understanding the state of conservation, and best practices in handling, storage and conservation of library and archival materials.

Students of the following subjects will find this program useful: book binding, book conservation and restoration, library science, library management, archival sciences, management of rare book collections, bookbinding, book design, anthropology and history of technology.

Students participating in this program are required to take part in both (SG204A and SG204B) courses and field projects in the program. This program is designed to be complementary to the Paper Restoration Program in Session 2; students looking for a complete introduction to the field of book restoration should consider taking both programs.

Field Projects Associated with this Program

  • Historic Archives of the Dioceses of Terni, Narni and Amelia

  • San Gemini Historic Archives Restoration Project

  • San Gemini Historic Archives Digitization Project


Introduction to the History and Craft of Book Bindings

Course 1
Instructor Nikolas Sarris
SG 204A (3 Units)

This course introduces students to the history and evolution of Western book-making, from the codex, a completely handmade object, to modern, highly industrialized book-making processes. The course also introduces students to the craft of traditional book making: the materials, the tools, the sewing structures and the assembly process of the various elements. In the workshop students craft four book facsimiles based on historical bookbinding methods: 1) the unsupported sewing structure (Islamic style); 2) the Western medieval style binding; 3) the limp parchment binding; and 4) the modern case binding.


Introduction to the Preservation and Preventive Conservation of Books

Course 2
Instructor Marco Di Bella
SG 204B (3 Units)

This second course focuses on the preservation and preventive conservation of bound material from libraries and archives. It gives an overview of the field including the various agents and processes of deterioration, the methods of preventive conservation (such as handling best practices and environmental controls) and collection care (such as dusting and box-making). In the workshop students implement conservative, non-invasive measures on original material from the Diocese Archives of the City of Terni (containing documents dating back to the 14th century). This work includes: analyzing the state of conservation of bound material and the storage conditions and procedures, producing conservation assessment records for individual items, creating custom protective containers for the archival material and other preventive measures.

Past Book Binding Workshops: