view of lake Bolsema


28 July-01 August 2014

Re-creating the Medieval Palette

Course Tutor: Cheryl Porter

This class will study the colours (made from rocks, minerals, metals, insects and plants) that were processed to produce the colours used by artists throughout the medieval era. The focus will mostly (though not exclusively) be on manuscript art (Islamic and European) and participants will re-create the colours using original recipes. Illustrated lectures will address the history, geography, chemistry, iconography and conservation issues. Practical making and painting sessions will follow these lectures.

4-8 August 2014

Two Semi-limp Parchment Binding styles

Course Tutors: Anne Hillam

Much attention and research has been given to limp parchment bindings, resulting in a clear terminology to describe these structures.  This class will focus on the relatively less-researched genre of bindings that have been referred to as “semi-limp”.  On its surface a simple structure, this type of binding presents many quandaries for researchers; the lines between semi- limp and stiff-board bindings can be blurry at best, and even compiling a consistent vocabulary to describe their components is far from straightforward. The semi-limp vellum binding has been conspicuously overlooked in the literature and there are few, if any, published instructions in English on how to make these structures. This class will construct and compare two semi-limp structures from 16-17th century European imprints.  The first will be based on a binding style noted by Nicholas Pickwoad while examining the Ramey collection at the Pierpont Morgan Library.  This binding is distinguished by a laced flexible cover liner, usually consisting of cartonnage or laminated paper, forming what could be viewed as a primary cover (with a secondary parchment cover).   A second, more commonly known structure composed of thin, floating flexible boards will also be constructed.  Both bindings have the characteristic of the parchment cover only being laced on using the endband supports.

 Information gained from an ongoing analysis on a selection of “semi-limp” bindings at the New York Academy of Medicine’s Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Lab will be included in the discussion.

 Some knowledge and experience in bookbinding is required.  All materials needed to construct the models will be provided at a nominal cost. Participants will need to bring basic bookbinding tools.

 11- 15 August 2014

12th century English Limp Tawed Skin Binding

 Course Tutors: Jim Bloxam and Shaun Thompson

Manuscript Pembroke 119 (Alain de Lille, Anticlaudianus) has an exceptional contemporary binding with interesting structural features, including a limp covering of alum-tawed skin, stained red. The covering is further edged with a separate piece of alum tawed skin and was formerly fastened with an alum-tawed strap. An examination, by the tutors, of the sewing which attaches the text-block to the cover has revealed a complex structure that has yet to be recorded. The beautifully executed sewing of all of the elements testify to the sophistication of the craftsmanship of the Romanesque period. 

The tutors will enable the course participants to recreate the binding. Processes will include sewing and covering with alum-tawed skin. The skins will be stained red prior to covering using the appropriate materials and techniques. Complementing the practical aspect of the course, the tutors will seek to set the binding into context. The use of pigments for staining skins will be explored with pigment specialist Cheryl Porter. Some knowledge and experience of bookbinding or book history would be useful, but is not essential. All materials will be supplied (at cost) and participants will need to bring basic bookbinding equipment and tools. The tutors will contact prospective tutees well in advance of the class.

 18-22 August 2014

An Embroidered Turkish Binding

 Course Tutors: Kristine Rose and Gaia Petrella

This workshop will focus on the production of a small 18th century Turkish binding from the Chester Beatty Library. T453 features an unusual leather cover embroidered with metallic threads, and boards attached using the two-piece technique. 

Participants will sew a textblock and add endbands in a traditional Islamic style before constructing these unique covers. Examples of contemporary Turkish bindings will be discussed. 

Cheryl Porter has been Director of the Montefiascone Project since its inception in 1988. After graduating from Camberwell College (University of the Arts, London) she worked at University College London Paintings Analysis Unit, analysing the use of pigments in paintings and manuscripts. She was Manager of Conservation and Preservation at the Dar al-Kutub (National Library and Archives of Egypt) and Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation 2007-2010 and is currently a consultant for a number of institutions with book, papyrus and manuscript collections. She has published many articles concerning colour in manuscripts and has lectured in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and throughout Europe. 

Anne Hillam is a book & paper conservator dividing her time between private practice in Western Massachusetts and work as a Senior Book Conservator at The New York Academy of Medicine’s (NYAM) Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory in New York City. Anne has been at NYAM since 1998, acting as Head of the laboratory from 2007 – 2012.  For more than 20 years she has specialized in the conservation of books and paper artifacts for institutions and individuals.  She is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation. 

Jim Bloxam, Head of Conservation, Cambridge University Library, UK. Jim is an Accredited Conservator of the Institute of Conservation. His particular research interests lie mainly in the history of books: their structural qualities and their cultural context. He has taught historical book structures in the UK, Europe and the US, focusing mainly on Romanesque and Gothic book structures. 

Shaun Thompson is a bench trained bookbinder with over twenty-five years’ experience. He has worked at Cambridge University Library since 2003. During this time Shaun has taken the opportunity to examine and recreate some of the medieval bindings within the library. He has sought to share his knowledge and skills by teaching a number of practical workshops in the UK. Shaun taught a course last year at Montefiascone and is looking forward to returning to share his ever-widening knowledge and experience. 

Kristine Rose is Conservator of Manuscripts and Printed Books (Assistant Keeper) at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation. Prior to this, she worked at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin with particular focus on the Turkish manuscript collection and at Cambridge University Library where she worked on a wide range of Western rare book and manuscript material but always with a particular interest in Islamic binding structures. Her work has focused on Islamic manuscript material for a number of years. Kristine graduated from the BA (Hons) Conservation programme at Camberwell College of Arts in 2002 and is a member of The Islamic Manuscript Association. 

Gaia Petrella is a freelance conservator based in Milan, Italy. Between 2009 and 2011 Gaia worked on the conservation and consolidation of Persian Shahnama manuscripts at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Gaia then worked as a book conservator at the Vatican Library in Rome on a collection of 48 manuscripts from Persia, Turkey and the Arab world with support from the Heydar Aliyev Foundation from Azerbaijan. Since 2012, Gaia has been a tutor on the advanced training course in Library Materials Conservation at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage and Antiquities in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. She is a member of The Islamic Manuscript Association, and a member of ICON.

The cost of the classes are £445( sterling) per week. Participants may sign up for 1,2 3 or all four weeks. All classes are in English and prices include tuition and many of the materials. To enrol, or for further information, please contact Cheryl Porter on More information and images of the books can be found on the Montefiascone Facebook page.