A Night of Ancient Books

I went to a talk on the evolution of publishing from The Dark Ages to The Digital Age tonight and it was just amazing. I couldn’t hope to repeat everything that was talked about but some of my favourite snippets were that though the printing press was historically a male dominated environment, book binding was considered a women’s occupation because of the sewing etc. In fact Oxford University Press when it first started didn’t used to bind its books, they were compiled loose leaf.

Oh and one of Elizabeth I’s hobbies was book binding. She had a bit of a thing for binding her books in blue velvet. Very chic.

The man who gave the first part of the talk brought a load of interesting books from the OUP archive for us to look around. I actually got to touch a handwritten music book from some point in the 14th-15th century.

An ancient book

The even older book used to make it

That is insanely old. And the cover itself was made from older books which had been cannibalized for the purpose. There was a finger sized prayer-book, a bejewelled volume of Shakespeare from the early part of the last century and an incredibly rare book (only two were published) of St John’s Gospel printed for a woman who had a degenerative eye disease which left her only able to read gold print on bottle green paper. Amazing.

The pictures are a little blurry, but I blame my excited jitters. I was literally all trembly when I saw them.

3 thoughts on “A Night of Ancient Books

  1. orange

    How fantastic! My mother and grandfather both were very into bookbinding for a while so it’s always been on my radar — you’re right that I would have loved this! The gold print on green paper is just fascinating, what a brilliant anecdote 😀

    1. Siobhan Post author

      I’m glad you like it! Let me know if you’re ever in Oxford and I’ll give you a tour of some of the bookish sites.


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