Romanesque Bindings

Romanesque bindings are more frequently observed to have a quire tacket to keep the leaves together before they were given to the binder. Round stations pierced with an awl or sewing needle or cut stations made with a knife or chisel. The slits are very accurate from gathering to gathering, suggesting the quires were held together in a press during the creation of the stations. There is more irregularity in the pierced round holes.  Again, there is no relationship between the number of sewing supports and the length of the spine. The supports of Romanesque bindings are most commonly made of strips of leather split perpendicular to the spine. Single-station sewing was popular during the Romanesque period, as well as a continuation of Herringbone sewing from the Carolingian period. Other types of sewing that does not create links between stations was also used from time to time.

Oak boards were the main cover boards in the Romanesque period. In some cases, the board is thicker at the spine than it is at the fore-edge. The leather strips of the sewing supports enter the board through tunnels in the spine edge. The spine is often lined with a few layers of leather, but this varies greatly, sometimes only patch linings are created rather than running the length of the board. Starch paste was preferred for attaching a leather cover to the boards. Pastedowns were secured after covering the boards.

The technique of blind tooling was perfected during the Romanesque period, however books bound with chamois leather were typically left undecorated. The title is written on the back. Two examples found in the British Library are the Harmony of the Gospels and the Copy of Jerome’s Commentary on Isiah and Ezekiel.

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Exterior of The Harmony of the Gospels

The Harmony of the Gospels was owned by Westminster Abbey and was likely also produced in the same location. The Preserved original binding has a flat spine, semi-circular tab at the head (tail missing), and head endband intact. Oak boards used for the cover are flush with the leaves, and there is a surviving strap to close fastens with a pin. Additionally, there are some traces of pink staining. Keeping with Romanesque traditions, the book is not decorated.

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Exterior of Copy of Jerome's Commentary On Isaiah and Ezekiel

The original binding of the Copy of Jerome’s Commentary on Isiah and Ezekiel book is almost completely intact. There is almost an entire leather over wooden oak boards, and both semi-circular tabs remain at each end of the flat spine. Interestingly, the sewing is colored. There is also a partially surviving chain to attach the book to shelves and a white leather strap holds the book closed, secured with a decorative metal plate. This is possibly a 16th c restoration. This book also remains undecorated – typical for the Romanesque time period.

Romanesque Bindings