Livius 1588 and some problem solving….

I usually attend auctions in the area when time permits. Most auctions are not interesting, but some can be quite a surprise. I went to the preview at a local antique furniture auction some years ago because the description indicated that they would have books. Among the lots marked ‘collectibles’ I found a large folio of Livy’s History printed in Germany in 1588. What shocked me the most was not the print date, but how it had been rebound. Somebody had wrapped the book in kitchen style linoleum and attached rubber cording along the edges. The work seemed to have been done sometime in the 60s and it was without a doubt the worst binding job that I have ever seen. I made an instant decision that the book had to be saved from further destruction, so I attended the auction and won the bid. After returning home, I called my book binder and informed him about what I was sending him. The book was mailed, and he called within a week. You cannot imagine, he told me, what I found when I took the binding apart. The remains of the old pasteboards are still present, and they have fragments of handwritten paper attached. And, he said, they used fragments with text as reinforcement on the spine as well. While reviewing the images that he later emailed, I realized the script was in Latin. But I had no idea of what. I emailed the images to a friend who is a classical scholar and he replied within a day that the Latin was from Cicero’s Epistles. [How he could figure that out, I have no idea]. But this finding led to another problem. How to create a new binding that would not cover up the fragments. I called my binder to discuss the matter. Let me think about it, he said, and I will get back to you. A couple of days later, he called. I will make a binding with a spine that is detachable. The uploaded image shows the binding with the spine removed. The detachable spine basically slides in and attaches to the boards. An absolutely simple solution that allows the fragments to be accessible. The other fragments were loosely inserted on the inside front board.

7 thoughts on “Livius 1588 and some problem solving….”

  1. What a story! I can’t help but think of the infamous Ecce Homo botched restoration in Spain. Your bookbinder must have been gobsmacked.

    1. I know the restoration in Spain you are referring to. I may be wrong, but I think read somewhere that the church had an increase in tourists as a result of the disaster. My binder also has a sense of humor which makes it enjoyable to work with him on these kinds of problems. By the way, both him and his wife are true artists who love their profession.

  2. Wow! I understand buying a book because it calls out to be saved. In your case it was an amazing adventure. And, how fortunate that you knew the right people and collaborated to preserve in such a creative way. Hope you have pictures of the linoleum binding to preserve it’s journey.

    1. I know that my bookbinder took pictures of the linoleum binding because it was so horrid. I am very pleased about the way his solved the problem with the spine. He agreed with me that it could not just be covered up.

  3. That is an amazing story from beginning to end. What in the world would possess someone to use linoleum? And how lucky you are to know just the right people to solve the mystery and problem.

    1. I have no idea what they were thinking. But I had to save the book… By the way, this was one of the book stories I really could not post on the social site, but thought it was interesting to share. I have learnt over the years to keep track of where the really good people are located. My book binding conservator [and he really is and conservator] is extraordinary talented. I repay his favors by sending him defective books that come with libraries that I have purchased. These are books that are not worth the money to repair. He runs a binding school and always need material for his students. My friend, the classical scholar, gets some old ‘freebees’ now and then.

      1. It’s a great story and I’m glad you shared it. Taken to be a truism, the phrase “it’s not what you know but who you know,” is always said in such derogatory terms. It is true, but I think more often than not in a *very* good way– at least among people of good character.

        We got our donkey by way of such transactions!

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