Linking the Past, Forging the Future: A Symposium on Chained Bindings in Forms Old and New

October 7, 2019
Kathleen M Smith
Detail of MSS CODEX M0413 FF BB, Nicholas of Lyra, Postilla super librum Psalmorum, in the Stanford Libraries Manuscript Collection. Photo by Aude Gabory.

Event Description

On October 29th, 2019, from 1:00-5:00PM, the David Rumsey Map Center will host a half-day symposium on chained bindings. This symposium will explore the materials and techniques used in chained bindings for medieval books, as well as the work of conserving and of reconstructing them in the modern era. This event is free and open to the public, but advance registration will be required. Please fill out this form if you would like to register.

This event provides us with the opportunity to engage with broader questions. For example, what does it mean to create a model of a chained binding in the modern world of digital materials, and what can we learn by doing so? What choices were made by the artisans who created these materials? How do libraries and museums assign value to objects and balance questions of security and conservation while providing access and availability?

The presence of several original chained bindings on codices in the Stanford collections testifies to the use of chains to secure valuable books to medieval library shelves. To explore both the materials and techniques used in their creation as well as the meaning and importance of this aspect of library and book history, Stanford Libraries is commissioning a handmade book with chained binding to be used as a teaching model.

The inspiration for this initiative was an original chained binding attached to the boards of a 15th-century manuscript of the biblical commentaries of Nicholas of Lyra (Stanford Libraries Manuscript Collection MSS codex M0413 FF BB) that is frequently used in instruction and teaching. This teaching model will contribute to the knowledge gained by working with the original codex and chained binding. The handmade book will be created by Karen Hanmer, a nationally-recognized book artist, working with Chicago metalsmith Joycelyn Merchant on the fastenings. The chain and clasp will be hand-forged by Celeste Flores, a Bay Area blacksmith. Aude Gabory, book conservator in the Department of Conservation who is treating MSS codex M0413, is consulting closely in the creation of this teaching model.

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Schedule of events

1:00 pm
Kathleen Smith, “Chained Book Bindings as Link to the Past and Window to the Present”
Ben Albritton, “Chained Books, the Romantic Past, and the Popular Imagination”
Richenda Brim, “Preserving the Complexities: Balancing Care and Use in a Research Library Collection”

[Intermission]

2:30 pm
Expert panel discussion: Aude Gabory, Karen Hanmer, and Celeste Flores

  • This panel discussion will begin with a moderated discussion about the professions of all speakers, then there will be presentations of the work done on this project, followed by a Q&A with the audience.

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List of Speakers

Benjamin Albritton (Rare Book Curator, Stanford Libraries) received his PhD in Music History at the University of Washington. At Stanford he spent a decade overseeing digital medieval projects and various aspects of the digital library before moving into a curatorial role.

Richenda Brim (Head of Preservation, Stanford Libraries) oversees the preservation program including Binding and Finishing, Conservation Services, and Preservation. She received her MLIS from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her professional and scholarly interests include preservation of cultural heritage materials and the history of the book and printing.

Celeste Flores (Artist Blacksmith, Clay and Steel) owns and operates her own business creating ornamental and architectural metalwork. She attended at The Academy of Art University where  she was introduced to the art and craft of blacksmithing. In addition to running her business she teaches at The Crucible and has been invited to demonstrate her craft both nationally and internationally.

Aude Gabory (Book Conservator, Stanford Libraries) graduated from the Bookbinding program at North Bennet Street School in Boston and trained in conservation at the Boston Athenaeum, the Newberry Library and the Art Institute of Chicago. She was a Conservation specialist at the University of Chicago libraries before joining Stanford in January 2016.

Karen Hanmer (Book Artist) intertwines history, culture, politics, science and technology in her artist-made books. She utilizes both traditional and contemporary structures, and the work is often playful in content or format. Her work is held in over 200 collections internationally ranging from The British Library and Stanford University to Graceland. She offers instruction in her Chicago studio and across the country.

Kathleen Smith (Curator, Germanic Collections and Medieval Studies, Stanford Libraries) received her MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin and her PhD in Germanic Languages & Literatures from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Before coming to Stanford, she worked in the Research and Development Department of the State and University Library in Gottingen, Germany.

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