Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hidden Notes - Bookbindings

Notes inside a broken binding were a secret trove of information about daily life in the 1400s
I was reading a special interest item on the BBC the other day about hidden libraries in the world.  The impetus was the movement of library items for wars to protect cultural heritage but thrown in were a few examples of other 'secret' writings and one really got me interested.  Seems that a group of students and a professor were surveying broken medeval bindings in the Netherlands at Leiden University and found that the cardboard in the bindings were made from scrap paper!! And not just any scrap paper - they were the notes that typically would be thrown out.  Little messages carried around by servants between people in a large household.  All the things you would want to read that really tell you what life was like.  You have to read the article, it is too cool.

Why is this so interesting to me?  Well, the caskets have printed materials glued behind the mirrors in the double caskets - sometimes you can see the writing peaking through.  And often I have found double printed materials, like test strikes from a printer, used as linings for the carrying cases.  It has been 'on my list' to try to magnify and read the bits and see if I can figure out what they are.

Just like Hannah Smith's note in her casket, the most tiny scrap of writing can give so much evidence to what the pieces are and how they were made.  We just need to find more of them!


Note from 1486 requesting a delivery of wild roses

Scrap paper backing a mirror in a casket where the silver has flaked off the glass to show it in places.  (Private Collection) 

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! Thank you. It's easy for us to firget how precious paper was, it makes sense that it was reused like this but how cool ti find fragments of readability.