view of lake Bolsema


2015 is the 500th anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius, an Italian humanist scholar and printer who founded the Aldine Press in Venice. This also coincides with 25 years of the conservation project in Montefiascone.

To mark both of these events two courses this year focus on this period. As well, we plan to host an exhibition and evening seminar on the Wednesday of week 3, 12th August. More information will be posted on Facebook closer to the time.

For those in the area at the time, current and past participants, please come and join the fun and festivities. However, please do let us know if you do plan to come, so we have the right amount of Prosecco!

27 July-31 August 2015

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.

3-7 August 2015

Italian Stiff-Board Vellum Binding with Slotted Spine

Course Tutors: Scott W. Devine and Tonia Grafakos

This course will explore the use of parchment as a covering material for stiff-board bindings. Participants will recreate a vellum over boards binding of Hesiod’s Works and Days printed by Bartolomeo Zanetti in Venice in 1537. This style of binding was used in Venice c. 1490 – 1670 and often characterized by the use of recycled vellum manuscripts applied flesh side out. The binding features sewing supports covered with alum tawed patches; the vellum over the patches is cut away, creating small slots which allow for greater flexibility in opening. Additional structural features, including transverse spine linings and a wide fore edge turn-in, help to balance the tension of the vellum on the boards and limit warping.

Drawing on their recent study of similar bindings at the New York Public Library, the Newberry Library and the University of Chicago, course tutors will discuss how this binding style evolved and eventually fell out of use, providing an interesting case study of the economics and aesthetics of 16th and early 17th century Venetian book production.

Some knowledge and experience of bookbinding or book history would be useful, but is not essential. All materials will be supplied at a nominal cost. Participants will need to bring basic bookbinding tools. The tutors will contact prospective students well in advance of the class with suggested readings and a list of recommended tools.

10-14 August 2015

The Rylands Fountainebleau Aldine

Course Tutors:  Caroline Checkley-Scott, Stefania Signorello and Julianne Simpson

The publishing legacy of the Aldine press includes scholarly editions of classical authors, the introduction of italic type, and the development of books in small formats that were read much like modern paperbacks. The smaller pocket books may have been less expensive, but they could still be made luxurious with decoration added by hand and bindings embellished with gold. They quickly became popular and were collected throughout Europe by scholars, aristocrats and kings. Special copies were also produced, printed on parchment instead of paper.

This class will focus on a copy of an edition of the Greek poet Oppian, published in 1517, bound by the Royal Binder for Henri II King of France and part of the Royal Library at Fontainebleau. Bound in full leather in the alla Greca style, a wooden boarded, Western /Greek style binding with claps and bosses, with gold finishing and hand painting, it is a complex book that would ordinarily take many weeks and a high level of binding skill to complete. We will complete a beautiful book with many of the features, in the 5 half days (some may be longer!), with full explanations, through a series of talks, of how the original would have been made. *Please note on this occasion due to time restraints it will not be a complete replica.

Those with more advanced skills may achieve results closer to the replica. All materials can be supplied at cost.Some previous binding skill is advantageous, but even those without, will finish with a wonderful book. Follow our blog

The book  is currently on display at the John Rylands Manchester in the Merchants of Print exhibition.

17th – 21st August 2015

An early Islamic binding

Course Tutor: Kristine Rose and Alison Ohta

This course will focus on a small 9th century Abbasid Qurʼan from Cambridge University Library in an early historic binding.

There are relatively few early Islamic bindings extant, fewer still that remain intact and attached to their textblock. This manuscript provides the evidence and opportunity to explore the structure and materials of a codex which is probably from the third century A.H. / ninth century C.E.

Participants will make a model of the structure, paying particular attention to the significant properties of the spine lining, board attachment and endbands, before undertaking the raised cord work decoration. This technique is found in contemporary binding examples across both North Africa and northern Europe.

The influence of Coptic binding traditions and the transmission of binding techniques during this period 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.

Scott W. Devine is the Marie A. Quinlan Director of Preservation and Conservation at Northwestern University Library, where he has worked since 2006. He holds a Masters of Information Science with an Advanced Certificate in Conservation Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and received additional training in rare book conservation at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and at the Centro del bel libro in Ascona, Switzerland. He is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).

Tonia Grafakos is the Chief Conservator at Northwestern University Library, where she has worked since 2008. She holds a Masters of Information Science with an Advanced Certificate in Conservation Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and was the Harper Inglis Conservation Fellow at the Library of Congress. Ms. Grafakos participated in the Gulf Coast Recovery Project after the hurricanes in Louisiana and Mississippi and has contributed to conservation projects at the Pinos y Sarriera Archives in Vilassar de Dalt, Spain. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).

Caroline Checkley-Scott is Collection Care Manager at the University of Manchester Library, also co-managing the Centre of Heritage Imaging and Collection Care(CHICC).She has held posts at both the British Library and Wellcome Library. She has acted as Chair of the Book and Paper Group for ICON. Her research interests include the conservation of early Christian manuscripts from the Middle East, particularly the Syriac Book and the science of parchment. She teaches conservation and book history both nationally and internationally. She is a trustee of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust UK.

Julianne Simpson is Rare Books and Maps Manager at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. She has a first degree in History from the University of Western Australia and Graduate Diploma in Librarianship, previously worked in London, Oxford and Melbourne and completed the MA in the History of the Book at the University of London in 1997. Her research interests include the international book trade in the 16th century, in particular the Plantin-Moretus archives in Antwerp. She is also interested in the study of libraries in the early modern period, annotated books and the recording of provenance in library catalogues. She has been involved with the Monte project, on and off, since 1994, supervising the cataloguing of the library and archives.

Stefania Signorello has been a conservator at the Wellcome Library , London for 12 years. She has a Degree in Fine Arts, and then studied Book and Paper Conservation at Palazzo Spinelli in Florence. She has worked in Rome, Florence, Milan, Austria, Prague and London.  She held posts at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Theatre Museum, at the Bodleian Library, and the Oxford University Archives. Her research interests include book history and book structures. She was Chair of the Book and Paper Group for ICON for a tenure of 3 years.

Kristine Rose is Senior Conservator at the Chester Beatty Library 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 has 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 Islamic Manuscript Association.

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

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 can be found on the Montefiascone Facebook page.