On this site a few examples are found of so called "membra disiecta"; discarded leaves.
Membra disiecta are pieces of written material (mostly parchment but also on paper) which have lost their original function (as a text-carrier) but have been re-used in bookbindings with another purpose. The pieces which are used are now part of the technical construction of a binding and have lost their initial purpose. Practically from the beginning of printing books manuscripts have been cut to pieces in order to obtain valuable material for binding books. Although maybe not worthwhile keeping for the contents people didn't throw away good, strong and expensive material. The parchment handwritten manuscripts began their new life as paste-downs (and end papers), spine reinforcement, headband supports, covers and boards (paste paperboards composed of handwritten or printed paper).
Ethics & Old Practice
Cutting manuscripts into pieces seems a kind of a criminal act nowadays but that was not the case in the 16th century, as explained above. Until the second half of the 19th century there was no particular interest in these (pieces of) manuscripts. Of course a lot (?) of original manuscripts were saved since the middle ages but these are only some highlights because of the extreme quality of these works. The majority of "normal" texts were considered redundant when printed books emerged.
The profession of bookrestoration is still very young just as the ethical and theoretical base is. Some 30 years ago incunables were rebound in linen covers, lumbacked and stripped of all historical evidence. This is not the way books are treated anno 1999. Restoration and conservation is now based on principles which all are based on a few, simple rules: reversibility, restraint and respect. This has some consequences when confronted with a binding which contains manuscript-material. Very often it is not known that this material is there in the first place because it is hidden by the covermaterial. In present restoration these fragments are mostly kept in place. The state and other aspects are carefully documented either by textual reports or by photography or other means. In other cases (e.g. when the material is too weak to perform the intentional function) the fragments are isolated from their original position, replaced by similar material and the fragments are either bound within the reconstruction so that they are visible from both sides, or kept separate with thorough documentation of the relation between fragment and location or origine.
In all cases these fragments are considered as historical source material for present or future codicological research. The impact of this attitude on the "daily routine" of bookrestoration is very strong. In nearly all the 16th and 17th century bindings manuscriptfragment can be found. These fragments are always part of the fundamental construction of the binding and can't be taken out without severe consequences for the constructive qualities of the binding. Therefor a lot of reserve is obliged when conserving these bindings.
The fragments presented on this site are all "stripped" from old bindings, but NOT BY ME. Some of them were given to me (provenance unknown) and others were bought on secondhand bookfairs etc. (provenance also unknown). This makes these fragments maybe somewhat useless because they can never be traced back to their original historical setting; on the other hand these fragments are interesting "as they are" because of their age and appearance.
About this Site
This site is meant to be viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5+ at 1024 x 768 32bits colours (or better). If you meet this requirements please press f11 now (and f11 again to return to normal view)!
Down at the bottom of this page you can either go to the thumbnail-page and find your way from there or go directly to the first fragment. On each subsequent page you will see a fragment depicted. When you click on this image you will get a magnified view of the fragment. Clicking on the small image next to the magnification will get you back.
On each page a little table is presented which should be filled with the appropriate data on the fragment. Now most (all) is still empty (except for the first fragment: these are sample-data) but I'm counting on your cooperation to determine the qualities of the fragments.
Everybody who thinks that he/she has something to say or add about the quality of the fragments is kindly invited to do so. However, I cannot except any comment when it is not accompanied with both the full name and email-adress of the sender. I have to make sure that nobody's trying to fool us.... I hope that these fragments can be pulled out of the dark by joint attempt...
You can click on "Submit analysis or comment !" at the bottom of the table and your mailprogram should start. In the subject-line the number of the fragment you're commenting on should appear. Please don't change this for this is the only way for me to link your comment to a particular fragment!
Warning & Disclaimer
Some of the images on these pages are quite big (up to 0,3 MB) so it might take some time to download !
The images are owned by Knops Boekrestauratie and are provided with a digital watermark. Images may not be copied or printed without permission of Knops Boekrestauratie.
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