Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

An Embarrassment of Riches: Highlights from a survey of the Summerfield Collection

August 29th, 2017

This year I have been conducting a survey of part of the Summerfield Collection of Renaissance and Early Modern Books. It is not an exhaustive survey, but rather a cursory look at each volume to determine its general condition, immediately address minor refurbishment or housing needs, and note any issues that can be followed up on in future projects. I have not been recording every small detail, but I still get to handle and glance over each volume, which is a great treat – the Summerfield collection is truly a treasure. Summerfield’s many beautiful bindings, in particular the limp vellum and ornately tooled alum-tawed pigskin bindings, merit their own post someday. But today I want to share some of the hidden gems that I’ve encountered in the course of my work.

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

This botanical text (Summerfield D519) has the most lovely line illustrations. Wouldn’t they make absolutely wonderful coloring pages?
(Click all images to enlarge.)

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Summerfield E397 has two pieces of binder’s waste manuscript fragments taped into the back of the volume. Whoever put a new binding on this volume in the last century saved the fragments from the earlier binding.

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Summerfield contains a wealth of pastepapers in classic crumpled-paper and combed patterns.

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

There are also printed pastepapers in big, bold patterns…

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

…as well as tiny, delicate printed patterns.

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

These endpapers with an oversize printed floral design might be made from wallpaper or wallpaper samples.

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Here are two examples of colorful decorated text block edges.

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

It’s always fascinating to get a glimpse of a binding’s structure and the printed or manuscript matter that binders used in their work.

 

Summerfield Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Traces of prior readers, such as this charming handmade bookmark, can be especially thrilling to encounter. Such evidence makes me feel particularly connected to the past and very lucky that I get to do this job!

 

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services

 

Historic Fingerpainting Seems More Dignified

August 24th, 2012

The volume below contains a wonderful example of paste paper on its binding.  Paste paper is most associated with 16th- and 17th-century books from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. It was usually created in the bookbinding workshop for books that did not warrant the expense of marbled paper, a luxurious commodity.

Paste paper binding (call # D2304, Vol.107)      Paste paper detail (from call # D3204 Vol. 107)

Left: This 1815 volume from a run of the Spencer Library’s holdings for the periodical Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung has a binding that uses paste paper (Call Number: D2304 Vol.107).  Right: a detail from the bottom right corner of the volume. Click images to enlarge.

Paste paper was created with starch paste—a staple of any bookbinding operation—and some sort of pigment. Often an implement was dragged through the paper, creating lines that look remarkably three-dimensional.  Once in a while you find a mark of the bookbinder left behind: a finger or thumbprint used to make flowers or other patterns.  There are many instructions for making paste paper, easily discoverable on the internet.

Paste paper detail (Call # MS D38) 
Image of Paste paper detail from Spencer Library's copy of Poem to the Memory of Lady Miller  Paste paper detail (from call # D3254)

Paste paper details from the bindings of volumes in the Spencer Library’s collections. Top left: Tractatus optimus de arte bene moriendi (expanded version by Dominicus Capranica, d. 1458), Germany, 1456. (Call # MS D38). Top right: Saint Bonaventure’s Soliloquium , Germany, 1433. (Call# MS D37). Bottom left: Anna Seward’s Poem to the Memory of Lady Miller by Anna Seward,  1782 (Call Number: D2763). Bottom right: A modern example: Brian North Lee’s Bookplates and Labels by Leo Wyatt, 1988 (Call # D3254). Click images to enlarge.

For more information on paste paper, see Rosamond Loring’s book, Decorated Book Papers; being an account of their designs and fashions (Call Number: C6396).

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services