Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Look Back at a Recent Student Event: Legally Binding

Last month, I hosted our second annual student lunch and "behind the scenes" Rare Book Room event. This year, we were lucky to have Barbara Hebard, Burns Conservator, as a special guest. We enjoyed a great lunch, and then went into the Rare Book Room with our six student attendees, a fantastic mix of enthusiastic first, second, and third year law students.

For each book, I gave a brief overview of the content and its importance in our collection, and then Barbara talked about the binding and other physical characteristics. I never fail to learn something when Barbara comes over. In addition to explaining what one can tell about a book and its audience by certain binding features, she pointed out evidence of long-removed clasps on our 1559 Corpus Iuris Civilis; revealed how our 1496 edition of the Decretales of Gregory IX had been bound in vellum over an earlier paper binding; and explained how you can tell how certain owners had clearly planned (or not, depending on the book!) for the addition of copious annotations.

The students, as usual, were amazed at the condition of the paper in our 1475 Nuremberg printing of the Code of Justinian. They had excellent questions about the process of dual-color printing, the relationship between printers and bookbinders, and the importance of annotations and other marginalia for legal historians.

At the end of our session, Barbara showed us all how to sew a pamphlet, and we used our current exhibit catalogs to practice!

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