A Bibliographical Alphabet

Due to the current situation, we are all working from home, so we are unable to show you new images from our collections. However, we are keen to maintain our online presence, so do follow us on Twitter and enjoy looking back at previous blog posts. We are also available by email – epbooks@tcd.ie – but obviously there is a limit as to what research we can do to answer your enquiries. We will do our best, of course!

Bibliography, in the sense of the history and description of books, uses a number of words which are not common in everyday life, so we thought some of our followers might find this A-Z useful. Words in italics are further explained under their initial letter. Continue reading

The Fascination of Fore-edges

parts of bookIn the original College library, books were placed on the shelves with the fore-edges facing outwards. This was normal practice in libraries for much of the sixteenth century for two reasons. One is that writing or printing the title and author’s name on the spine was not common until the 17th century and therefore the ‘back’ of the book was purely functional, holding the pages together. The other is that books, like the manuscripts which preceded them, were often held securely by a chain fastened to a metal staple on the fore-edge of the wooden board. (There are a few examples in this blog post of libraries which have retained their books on chains and, of course, there were the magical books in the library at Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.) The chain was long enough to reach both the shelf where the book was stored and a sloping lectern* where it could be read. Continue reading