Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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girdle book

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Girdle book. Breviarum, manuscript on paper, written in Southern Germany, probably in the monastery of Kastl, near Nürnberg, in the year 1454. Spencer Collection MS 39, New York Public Library (10.4 cm. by 7.5 cm.)

A book which has an extra protective covering of soft leather made in such a manner that the book can be hung from the girdle or habit cord of a cleric and swung upward for reading while still attached to the girdle or cord. Doeskin and deerskin were frequently employed for this type of binding, which was used in the middle ages and early Renaissance, especially in Germany. Devotional books or didactic works, or professional reference books, e.g., law books, were most often bound in this manner, and the bindings were almost quite unpretentious. Very elegant bindings, however, were produced in velvet and brocade, to protect illuminated prayer books. Few intact girdle books have survived, as the overlapping leather was usually cut off for reuse when the need for protection had passed. Also called "utilitarian protective bindings." (156 , 183 , 347 )




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