Filling the gap: new approaches to medieval bookbinding studies

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Recent works on medieval manuscripts often combine historic research on textual content and illuminated decoration with material studies, such as pigment characterization, but less frequently with the material structure of codices or their bookbinding features. Despite some scholars having addressed this subject, bookbinding studies continue to lag behind other book-related fields; thus comparisons between different works, to arrive at broader understandings, become a rather difficult task. In this article, a new digital tool to record and compare bookbinding features and materials within the medieval collection of codices produced in the Monastery of Alcobaça is presented. Our methodology is explained, from the compilation of a multilanguage glossary to the design of a digital table-based method for bookbinding descriptions, based on up-to-date international projects and bibliography. This tool addresses the main parts of the book structure (bookblock, sewing and endbands, supports, boards, covering, fastening, and furnishing elements), along with their material analysis. As a starting point, three selected codices serve to establish the criteria and to check the efficiency of the data recording process. Results from these case studies allow a preliminary evaluation of the advantages of the proposed innovative tool for medieval bookbinding studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-126
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Medieval Iberian Studies
Issue number1
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Alcobaça Monastery
  • bookbinding characterization method
  • bookbinding glossary
  • digital tools
  • Medieval bookbinding


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