Byzantine Bookbinding

 Registration is closed for this event
$ 700.00

August 6th, 2018 9:30 AM

  • Instructor: Michael Burke
  • Workshop Type: Binding
  • Workshop Status: Closed
  • Workshop Start: August 6th, 2018 9:30 AM
  • Workshop End: August 10th, 2018 5:30 PM
  • Sessions: 5

This binding originated in Constantinople, the seat of the Roman Empire that lasted for a thousand years after the Fall of Rome. Constantinople became Byzantium became Istanbul, and the binding endured. The essential elements of Byzantine bindings, such as a flexible spine, wooden boards and blind stamped leather are still very much in use today. In this workshop we will make a typical example of this fascinating structure.

Surviving examples of Byzantine bindings (there are very few) date from the tenth to the sixteenth century. They were made over a vast area including Russia and the Balkans, Greece, Syria, Egypt, and beyond. The most elaborate manuscripts were lavishly embellished with precious metals and jewels. They had vellum pages dyed to a royal purple, that were written on with inks of gold and silver.

Students begin by shaping the quarter-sawn oak boards, with the characteristic ‘V’-shaped groove at the board edge; the historical reason for this bizarre feature — found only on Byzantine bindings — will be discussed. They'll then sew the book with linen thread, without the sewing supports or board squares that are common on Western medieval bindings. Unusually, the sewing starts in each board and builds to the center of the book. This results in the extraordinary practice of sewing the book in two halves and then joining them together, another technical aspect peculiar to this structure.

After attaching the two halves of the book together, the spine will be swaddled in a piece of fabric that extends half way across the boards. Next, students will sew Greek-style endbands which continue part way onto the cover, and project beyond the height of the book. The book is then covered with fine goatskin, which will be dyed down slightly to give a natural ‘aged’ look to the leather. After covering the peg and strap fastenings will be made from shaped brass and braided leather. The bindings will be further embellished with decorative brass bosses.

The Byzantine binding is a delight to look at and hold; it is surprisingly refined in construction and functions beautifully too.

Materials to Bring: Clamps; small Pliers; sandpaper; scalpel— #4 handle, #25 blades (available from Havells); square.

Optional and available at SFCB for student use during workshop: awl, needles, bone folder, needles, utility knife, paste brush. The following would be useful, but only bring them if you have them, as the instructor's can be shared: Japanese hole punch, small hand drill with 1.5 mm and 3 mm bits, small block plane, 2 small quick-release clamps.

Workshop Fee (includes $100 materials fee): $700.00

Date & Time: Monday-Friday, August 6-10, 2018 :: 9:30am-5:30pm

Location: 375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Note: Please read over the SFCB Registration Policies before signing up for a class


About the Instructor | Michael Burke

Michael Burke studied bookbinding with Dominic Riley and paper conservation with Karen Zukor. He lives in the Lake District, where he teaches bookbinding. In recent years he has taught and lectured at Society of Bookbinders conferences and seminars, and at Guild of Bookworkers meetings in the USA, as well as teaching tours in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. Each year he teaches summer school at the San Francisco Center for the Book and across the USA. Michael researches the structures of ancient and medieval bindings, and has a Masters degree in the History of the Book from the University of London.

Past Student Reviews:

 “Michael's enthusiasm is infectious. His ability to bring to life historical structures and the larger context of their production is a treat.”

“I intend to return and look forward to next time.”

“Thank you for his patience and good humor, very professional.”

“Absolutely no complaints and hope to have another class with Michael.”

$ 700.00
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103-5133
United States
Workshop Fee
Workshop + Materials Fee $ 700.00
Workshop Details
Instructor Michael Burke
Instructor 2
Instructor 3
Workshop Extra
Workshop Type Binding
Workshop Status Closed
Sessions 5



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