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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

Boxes and Bosses

August 3rd, 2012

Summer Conservation Intern Cheyenne Bsaies reports on how to house huge, metal-clad volumes.

I want to talk to you about boxes. It’s a deceptively simple topic, truly. But the boxes I’m talking about are a far cry from the corrugated boxes every college student knows from moving apartments every summer. For one thing, the boxes I’ve been making are destined to house some of the rarer items in the Spencer collections. They’re studier than a corrugated box, they open differently and they’re cloth covered. In short, they’re very fancy boxes for very interesting and unusual tomes.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing and/or handling a very old book, I highly recommend that you visit the Spencer Library and speak to a librarian there in order to avail yourself of their resources. Maybe the only old books you’ve seen have been in the movies when the protagonist uncovers a secret in an ancient library. They’re huge, leather beasts covered with metal studs and straps and clasps, and you just know something important is going to happen when the hero opens one of them.

Image of Image of Steinhardt Gradual (after 1253) Photograph of the binding of MS J4:1

Left: Steinhardt Gradual. France, after 1253,  (Call No.: MS J4:2); Right: Antiphonary,
Germany, 15–, (Call No.: MS J4:1). Click images to enlarge (trust us, they’re worth enlarging).

Well, those are exactly the books I had the pleasure of working with on this project! And, I have to admit, it’s hard not to feel a bit like Indiana Jones when turning their pages. First I’ll introduce each of them, talk about some of their special features, and then I’ll describe the box making process. Read the rest of this entry »

Oyster Shell: Pearl :: Clamshell: Medieval Manuscript?!?

June 13th, 2012

A clamshell or “drop spine” box is a typical housing for bound materials, like books and manuscripts, or loose materials that should be stored together, such as a set of prints. The fanciest clamshells are covered cloth, paper, or leather, and are custom-made to fit the item that will go inside.

 Clamshell Box for MS B61 (exterior)

Here is an example made to fit MS B61, Registrum Brevium, a 14th century British manuscript written in Latin. This book, because of its age, had been bound in different styles over the centuries. The most recent iteration was a suede binding of the 19th or early 20th century, glued tightly to the backs of the folded pieces of parchment that were sewn together to make up the book.  Read the rest of this entry »