Isabel del Okes – Book Bound in the Carolingian Style

This book is of the Carolingian style. This style is considered the first with supported stitch binding and was the common binding from late 8th century C.E. to the end of the 12th century C.E. (Szirmai, p. 100). It should be noted that there are no sudden start or stop dates for when particular bindings can be found. Innovations often started in one area and made their way across Europe. Szirmai studied approximately 150 bindings (around which 130 are considered to be original). This is a pitifully small fraction of the book produced in the monastic scriptoria of Europe (Szirmai, p. 100). If not lost to the ravages of time, many books were rebound in late period and their Carolingian characteristics were lost. So there is still a lot not known about these bindings.

In his studies of Carolingian bindings, Szirmai found the following traits were common among the bindings (Szirmai, passim):

  • Double support cords of vegetable fiber (very few leather tongs)
  • Herringbone sewing pattern
  • Supports threaded through side of cover board
  • Thick cover boards with little shaping
  • Text block flush with cover boards
  • Endbands sewn through a leather tab which then is sewn to a matching tab on the cover
  • Pastedowns under turndowns
  • Flat spine

This book was bound with 20 8.5in x 5.5in quires of Domtar/Cougar Signatures 70 lb Text Paper; 3/32, 4-ply linen cord for the support cords; 25/3, unwaxed white linen thread approximately 0.50 mm thick conditioned with bees’ wax for the sewing thread; 18/3 unwaxed black linen thread conditioned with bees’ wax to sew the endbands and spine tabs; 3/8in thick quarter sawn white oak boards for the book boards; vegetable tanned goat leather (pre-dyed white) approximately 0.65mm thick for the spine tabs, cover, and closing strap; 14 gauge brass wire for clasp; brass nails (1.2x12mm) for the closing pin; wheat paste to attach leather, secure support cords onto book boards, and to attach the closing strap; and wooden toothpicks as wedges to help secure support cords onto book boards. I also used black Angelus Leather Paint to create the belt motif on the cover.

Please see my documentation link for more information on this binding and my research sources.


Binding Process Pictures, including finished binding pictures:

3 thoughts on “Isabel del Okes – Book Bound in the Carolingian Style

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  1. Oh wow, I’m glad I clicked through to the process pictures. That book is a lot more substantial than I originally thought! It looks amazing, and the process document helped me understand what parts of the book correspond to the features in your list. This is really cool!

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