Friday, October 16, 2009

European Bookbinding Trip

Where have I been, you might wonder, all these weeks that I've been sadly neglecting my blog. Well, I just got back from a trip to Germany and Australia (my husband went on business, and I decided to go along). Bookbinding nerd that I am, I was keen to see as many examples of medieval bookbinding as possible.

First off, I made an appointment to visit the City Archives in Freiburg, Germany. Freiburg is a lovely city on the edge of the Black Forest in Southern Germany. The head archivist, Dr. Ulrich P. Ecker, showed me some wonderful things, including some medieval illuminated manuscripts
that were created by local nuns. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take any photos of the books, but here's an exciting shot of the front door of the archives:

Next, I went to Vienna, Austria, and visited the Austrian National Library. The State Hall at the Hapsburg Palace is the part of the National Library that's open to the public, and as the Hapsburgs were enormously powerful and wealthy in their day, it's a grand sight, with hand bound books from floor to ceiling.

The current exhibition at the State Hall is Approaches to Distant Lands. Geographic Gems from the Austrian National Library, a collection of 17th century atlases showing how Europeans viewed the world outside of Europe. Here is a photo of one of the displays:

Not surprisingly, those 17th century Europeans got a few things wrong. My favourites were the drawings of men (I'm not sure from what country) with no heads--their faces were located in their chests. They all looked a bit surprised about it. You can find out more about the exhibition here:

Saving the best for last, I wound up the trip by visiting Mainz, Germany, home of the Gutenberg Museum, which also houses the Bookbinding Museum. Here is a photo of the museum building:

and one of a book-shaped sculpture made of stone. There were several book-related sculptures at the entrance to the museum.

I spent some happy hours wandering through the exhibits, and a nice, long chat with the resident bookbinder, who sported a magnificent 1400s-style long beard, and was most friendly and helpful. Gutenberg invented the art of the printed book in Europe in the 1450s, and two of his first books, Gutenberg Bibles, were on display. I wasn't allowed to take photos of them, but here is another book at the museum, a sort of printing manual, I think:

Lastly, we visited Frankfurt, Germany, where I didn't see any medieval books, but did get to sample some sausages:

And then I came home, tired but happy, with a couple of books on bookbinding that I bought at the Gutenberg Museum. Now, I just have to get my husband to translate them from German into English. Should be interesting...

[NOTE: if you know of any other great bookbinding/book arts places to visit in Germany and/or Austria, please do share them in the comments. Book arts - obsessed people like myself would love to know about them!]


Garland said...

What a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for sharing as many photos as you could. As a "lurker", I've been reading your blog for a long time and decided Ii should tell you how much I enjoy it.

moonandhare said...

Thanks, Garland--nice to hear from you! :)

B├╝chertiger said...

That sounds like an interesting trip, and I am happy that you liked it here in Germany :-)
My in-laws live in Mainz, btw. You remind me that I really should go and visit the Gutenberg Museum.

Have you read "Baudolino" by Umberto Ecco? It's a good book, one of my favorites. I mention it because it's where I first read about the headless creatures you saw in Vienna. The idea seems to have been around for a while, from Wikipedia I deduct that it is a Roman invention. Have a look here:

Good luck with reading you books! And nice to have you back in the blogosphere.
Greetings from the other side of the big pond!

moonandhare said...

No, I haven't read "Baudolino"--I'll have to check it out. Germany was great--you are so lucky to have so many excellent bookbinding resources! :)

suzanne cabrera said...

Oh wow...sounds like an incredible trip!

Louise said...

What a fabulous trip, thanks for the great pictures and I love the big book sculpture. I wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your inspiring blog- so much so that i would like to honour you with a Creative Blogger award


moonandhare said...

Thanks, Louise! Nice of you to think of me for this award.

Maud Bailey said...

wow, wonderful trip around the world!
Good inspiration for your bookbinding!


kanishk said...
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