Carolingian Bindings

The Carolingian period marked the introduction of sewing supports. Link stitches are created around lengths of vegetable cords to support the spine and add additional strength in keeping the cover attached to the board.  Herringbone sewing, a style similar to the link stitch, is also popular during the Carolingian period. The sewing thread is anchored by tiny holes in the cover boards, and there are usually three sewing supports regardless of the length of the spine. The sewing stations are prepared in advance for sewing, and there is more frequent use of simple single spans rather than complete link stitches.

Covers were attached via sewing supports. Channels were created to thread the cord through into the thickness of the board, exiting through the cover and away from the spine. Two additional holes were created to separate pairs of cords. This method of attachment allowed for a lot of variation. Pastedowns are very vulnerable and subject to damage. The boards are covered in buckskin, or “chamois” leather, which is thick and stiff, as well as scare and expensive. Occasionally, the surface between the board and the turn-ins is filled with a material similar to gesso.

Most Carolingian manuscripts remained undecorated. Some have stamped patterns in the leather, which does not become a widely used practice for decorating around 1450. There are some elaborate exceptions to the common plain covers. The Psalter of Charles the Bald, for example, is decorated in ivory relief, as well as gold and silver.

Charles the Bald.JPEG

Cover of Psalter of Charles the Bald

Carolingian Bindings