Facsimile Stationers Binding
Meanwhile, I was exploring the idea of rebinding the Brut back into a stationers binding. Reusing the original cover was out of the question as the leather and overall condition were too far degraded. So I made a facsimile text-block by cutting paper to the exact size of the manuscript and tinting it to resemble parchment. I then made quires and sewed them onto leather supports; I attached the quires to a tooled leather cover with the appropriate stitching of the overbands. Finally, I fashioned toggles (instead of a clasp) for the closure. Upon completion of the facsimile, however, it seemed clear that this binding would probably not be the best option. It seemed as though I was trying to make the Brut fit back into something it no longer belonged to and the curator agreed.
Although the facsimile binding was abandoned for conservation purposes, I remain fascinated by it as 3D scholarship. It reminds us that old books were once new. It reminds us that handcrafted technology is still new (see Wilcox for further examples of this lesson). I am curious about the ways in which the view of the facsimile alongside the surviving historic cover and the current cover will inspire conversations with students. I think that we will all learn something new about both medieval and electronic artifacts through Deborah’s literally “digital” invention.2
2. In a wonderful, yet frustrating, twist of archival irony, the facsimile book is currently missing. It had not been assigned a shelf mark nor included in the design of the manuscript box. So for now, we will have to make do with the digital photograph and our imaginations.