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Spines reinforced with metal rods in sixteenth-century limp parchment bindings

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A description is given of thirty-six sixteenth-century limp parchment bindings in the University Libraries of Amsterdam and Nijmegen. The spines of these bindings have been reinforced with metal rods incorporated into the sewing (in three cases bars of rolled parchment were used for the same purpose). These reinforcements are hidden under the covers, which are attached to the book block by two different methods: either by lacing-through of the thongs (type I) or by tacketing with strips of parchment (type II). Most of the bindings (24) originate from the library of Jacob Buyck (1545-99) which he began to collect during his theological studies in Louvain (1563-73), continued while he was pastor of the Old Church at Amsterdam until 1578 and afterwards during his exile at Emmerik. The results of this study, supplemented with a number of similar findings elsewhere and with data from the literature, suggest that the binding method employing spine reinforcements with metal rods was fairly generally used in the Eastern Netherlands and the neighbouring area of Rhineland and Westphalia during the sixteenth century. The finding of metal rods as spine reinforcement is discussed in relation to other attempts to stabilize the spine with stiff materials, examples of which can be found from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. In addition to the reinforcements themselves many other structural details of the bindings were recorded in order to establish the typology of the sixteenth-century limp parchment bindings. The coincidence of a number of such details allowed the attribution of three bindings to one and the same bindery.


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