view of lake Bolsema

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MONTEFIASCONE PROJECT 2022

Montefiascone is a small medieval walled city about 100 k (80 miles) north of Rome, on Lake Bolsena. Since 1988, conservators, curators, art historians, book artists, and others interested in books and their history have come together to work, to learn and to enjoy this special place.  Participants come to enjoy the medieval architecture, friendly people, a clean accessible lake, books and scholarship.  The Montefiascone Project is a non-profit making organisation, set up to fund the restoration of the Library of the Seminario Barbarigo in Montefiascone. Participants may attend one, two, three or all four weeks.

Costs are £550 (or euro equivalent) for each week and include all lectures (which are in English).  For more information and to enrol, contact Cheryl Porter: chezzaporter@yahoo.com


For the sake of the local community and everyone associated with the program, we must maintain health and safety standards. We will need to be assured that all course participants comply with Italian regulations concerning vaccinations and other travel requirements. Current Italian government regulations may be found at the Italian Ministry of Health website at

https://www.salute.gov.it/portale/nuovocoronavirus/dettaglioContenutiNuovoCoronavirus.jsp?lingua=english&id=5412&area=nuovoCoronavirus&menu=vuotoand the Italia.it COVID-19 page at COVID-19 (italia.it).

25th-29th July

Recreating the colours on the Medieval palette: Western, Hebrew and Islamic.

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 be on manuscript art – Islamic, Hebrew and European. Participants will re-create the colours using original recipes.  Illustrated lectures will address history, geography, chemistry, iconography and conservation issues.  Practical making and painting sessions will follow these lectures. No previous experience is necessary.

Cheryl Porter is the director of the Montefiascone Conservation Project at the Seminario Barbarigo in Montefiascone, Italy, which she founded in 1988. She graduated from Camberwell College of Arts in 1989, and has subsequently worked in many museums and Learned Societies in the UK and many other countries. She teaches workshops on the history of the uses, and methods of application of colour in manuscripts – Islamic, Western and Hebrew. From 2007-2009 she was Head of Conservation and Preservation for the Thesaurus Islamicus and Dar al-Kutub (National Library) of Egypt Manuscript Project and Deputy Head of the Project from 2009-11. She is a consultant to the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and is currently writing a book based on her manuscript colour workshops.

1st-5th August

Early nineteenth century American and English Bookbinding: Machines, Materials, Structures, and Tools.

Course Tutors: Jeff Peachey & Nicole Alvarado

In England and America, common book structures changed significantly during the early nineteenth century. A typical common calf binding was supplanted by even cheaper, new binding styles, such as paper board bindings and the three-piece adhesive cloth case. We will examine this time period through PowerPoints, readings, discussions, and the hands-on construction of four models: an English common-boards binding, an American extra-boards binding, an American tight-back cloth binding, and an English cloth case. We will explore methods of replicating plain and textured nineteenth century bookcloth, starting with undyed muslin, which will be useful for conserving and sympathetically rebinding books from this time. Close readings from bookbinding manuals, analysis of bindery images, and the use of historic tools will enhance our understanding of this important and underappreciated time period.

Jeff Peachey is the owner of Peachey Conservation LLC, which specializes in preserving the intrinsic, artefactual, aesthetic and historic values of books. With more than 30 years’ experience. He has taught book conservation workshops internationally, and has been awarded numerous fellowships to support his book history research, including at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center (Italy). He invented the Peachey Board Slotting Machine, which is used in book conservation labs internationally, and designs and manufactures specialized tools for other book conservators. He is a Visiting Instructor for the Library and Archives Conservation Education Consortium graduate consortium. His forthcoming publication in Suave Mechanicals 8 details the bookbinding poetry of John Bradford in the broader context of early 19th century binding practice.

Nicole Alvarado received a B.A. in fine arts with a minor in chemistry from Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles before going on to earn her MA, CAS in Art Conservation at SUNY Buffalo State College.  Nicole is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has previously worked at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library, UCLA Library, University of Michigan Library, and Huntington Library.

8th to 12th August

A Chinese Qur’an

Course Tutor: Kristine Rose-Beers & Cécilia Duminuco, with a lecture from Alison Ohta

During this class, participants will make a model of Chester Beatty Is 1602, a 17th or 18th century Chinese Qur’an with its original binding. This small manuscript is distinctly Chinese. It is covered with fine patterned silk, and the pages are made of soft, fibrous paper. In keeping with many Islamic bindings, it has an envelope flap, but this is squared off, similar to those seen in some south-east Asian Islamic manuscripts. This Qur’an is an example of how aspects of the Islamic book were combined with local decorative traditions influencing ornament, calligraphy and illumination.

Muslim communities have been established in China since the 7th century. According to the historical accounts of Chinese Muslims, Islam was first brought to China by Sa’d ibn abi Waqqas, who came to China for the third time at the head of an embassy sent by Uthman, the third caliph, in 651. Emperor Gaozong, the Tang emperor, then ordered the construction of the Memorial Mosque in Guangzhou/Canton, the first mosque in the country. Although scholars have not found any historical evidence that Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas visited China, they agree that the first Muslims must have arrived in China in the 7th century, and that the major trading cities, such as Guangzhou, Quanzhou probably already had their first mosques built during the Tang Dynasty although no reliable sources attest to their actual existence.
Muslims in China have continued to practice their faith sometimes under very difficult circumstances since the 7th century. Today, the Muslim population of China is estimated as representing 0.45% to 2.85% of the total population with 39,000 mosques serving this congregation.  This Qur’an represents the Islamic legacy in China and is a unique opportunity to examine this combination of traditions which were carried along the Silk Roads over the centuries.

Kristine Rose-Beers is Head of Conservation at the Chester Beatty in Dublin and an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation. Her research interests include the conservation of Islamic manuscript material, early binding structures and the use of pigments and dyes in medieval manuscripts. Before moving to Ireland, Kristine worked at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge as Assistant Keeper (Conservator of Manuscripts and Printed Books); at the Chester Beatty Library with a particular focus on the Turkish manuscript collection; and at Cambridge University Library. She graduated from the Conservation programme at Camberwell College of Arts in 2002 and is a member of the Board of Directors of The Islamic Manuscript Association, and the Kairouan Manuscript Project.

Cécilia Duminuco is a book and paper conservator. She graduated from the École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc of Liège with a Masters in Painting Conservation in 2013, before completing a Masters in the Conservation of Books and Library Materials at West Dean College in the UK in 2015. Cécilia joined the Chester Beatty in Dublin as Heritage Council Intern in Conservation 2015-16, before moving to Cambridge University Library to work on Charles Darwin’s Library digitisation project. She then worked at the University of Manchester, before returning to Cambridge University Library in 2019 to work on the digitisation of Greek Manuscripts. Cécilia has now relocated to Belgium where she continues to follow her passion for early bookbinding, non-Western book structures, pigments in illuminated manuscripts and painted surfaces.

Alison Ohta is currently Director of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.  She completed her doctoral thesis at SOAS (London University) on Mamluk bindings and has published and lectured extensively on the subject.

15th-19th August:

Recreating a late sixteenth-century Cambridge bookbinding.

Course tutors: Jim Bloxam & Shaun Thompson, with lectures from David Pearson.

Cambridge, heavily influenced by its university, has always been a place with books at the heart of its activities; a place where they have for many centuries been printed, sold, bound, owned, stored, read and used. Our Montefiascone course, a few years ago, was devoted to making a model of a late 15th century Cambridge binding; this year we will analyse a binding style from a century later and construct a model of a typical late 16th century Cambridge binding.  At the end of the 15th century, leather-covered bindings usually had wooden boards and clasps and decoration depended on labour-intensive repetitive tooling using small hand-held tools.  A century later, wood had given way to pasteboard or pulpboard, clasps had been replaced by cloth ties and decoration looked very different; gilt tooling, unknown in English binding work before about 1520, had become common.

The tutors will enable the course participants to make a model binding.  Processes will include sewing the text-block, sewing the endbands, shaping and attaching the boards and covering with calf-skin.  The covered books will be tooled and have cloth ties attached.  The course will be led by a team bringing together the hands-on binding expertise of Jim Bloxam and Shaun Thompson, from Cambridge University Library, and the historical knowledge of David Pearson.  David, a binding historian, is currently working on a project to map the development of Cambridge binding between the 15th and 18th centuries, so that Cambridge work can be better recognised and dated.  He teaches the evolution of binding styles at the Rare Book Schools in London and Virginia. During the week David will give presentations on ways in which Cambridge binding changed during the 16th century and how it fits into the wider context of British and European binding of the time. He will also consider the value of studying historic bindings, highlighting the questions we should ask.

David Pearson retired in 2017 as Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries for the City of London Corporation, after a professional career of 35 years or so working in various major research libraries in London and elsewhere. He is now a Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies in the University of London, and a member of the teaching staff of the London Rare Books School there. He has published extensively on aspects of book history, with a particular interest in aspects of the book as an owned and designed object; his books include Provenance Research in Book History (1994), Oxford Bookbinding 1500-1640 (2000), English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800 (2005), and Books as History (2008). He has taught and lectured in these fields for numerous audiences and is a Past President of the Bibliographical Society. He is currently working on a project on early modern Cambridge bookbinding, to become a book published by the Legacy Press, and the basis of the Sandars Lectures in Cambridge in 2023.

Jim Bloxam, Head of Conservation and Collection Care, 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 European book structures.

Shaun Thompson is a traditionally trained bookbinder with over thirty years’ experience and a passionate advocate for the importance of hand bookbinding skills in book conservation. He has worked for Cambridge University Library for the past 19 years and presently holds the position of Conservation and Collection Care Manager.

Shaun’s research interests are in early northern European book structures and he has made good use of the Library’s collections to examine the physical aspects and historical techniques used in medieval bindings. He is also an experienced and highly skilled practical teacher, having taught hand bookbinding to conservation students in the UK, at both West Dean College and City and Guilds of London Art School. He has taught courses at Montefiascone since 2013 and is looking forward to returning to share his ever-widening knowledge and experience.