Past conferences

2018: Bookbinding as cultural heritage



After printing

Bookbinding as cultural heritage

The annual conference of the AEPM was hosted by the Imprenta Municipal. Artes del libro, Madrid, Spain, 24-26 May 2018.

See the photo album of the event in our Flickr gallery.

Bookbinding is a vital part of the publishing process. Without it typeset texts and printed sheets could not be turned into books to be read. Most bookbindings serve more or less utilitarian purposes. Others are considered to be of artistic value and so to be worthy of display. Historical bindings are also of considerable interest and are regularly exhibited in museums and libraries.

Books – whether finely-bound of for everyday use – are not the only bookbinding artefacts to have historical or artistic value. Other objects related to bookbinding are also very important because they can help us to understand more fully the history of written and print culture. The machines and tools used by bookbinders in their workshops are of particular interest, as are gilding tools which offer fine examples of artistic engraving. Many aspects of the non-material heritage of bookbinding, such as technological change, techniques and skills, are also of great interest.

The conference will consider a broad range of aspects of the material and non-material heritage of bookbinding and its place in printing museums:

  • historical aspects of bookbinding: research concerning the artefacts and techniques of craft and industrial bookbinding,
  • contemporary bookbinding: practical research about new techniques and developments; the role of museums in contemporary bookbinding,
  • conservation techniques and issues: preserving and restoring bookbindings in museum collections,
  • the materials and tools of bookbinding,
  • practical workshops and other forms of mediation as means of preserving and transmitting of craft skills and non-material heritage to future generations,
  • the role of the workshop in museums: for public demonstrations, as an archive, and for bibliographical conservation and restauration.



All events take place at the Imprenta Municipal unless otherwise stated.

Simultaneous translation will be available for English, French and Spanish.


Thursday 24 May 2018

10.00 – 19.00

Arrival of participants, registration and informal visit

At the Imprenta Municipal.



Welcome speech by the Mayor of Madrid

and by the AEPM Chair, Alan Marshall.



Pascal Fulacher
Director of the Atelier du livre d’art et de l’estampe et du patrimoine de Imprimerie nationale, France.
Editor-in-chief of two cultural magazines, Art & métiers du livre (1985-2001), and Plume, magazine du patrimoine écrit (2007-2015), Pascal Fulacher also directed the publishing house Art & métiers du livre / éditions (1994 -2001), then curated two museums dedicated to the written heritage in Paris and Brussels (2003-2015). He is also the author and co-author of several books including: Papiers et moulins des origines à nos jours (Art & métiers du livre / éditions, 1989 and 1997), Six siècles d’art du livre, de l’incunable au livre d’artiste (Citadelles & Mazenod, 2012), Jean Cocteau le magnifique. Les miroirs d’un poète (Gallimard, 2013). He defended a doctoral thesis in 2004 (Sorbonne University, Paris) on the aesthetics of the book in the twentieth century, in which are traced the different aesthetic trends of typography, illustration and binding. In 2016 he was appointed director of the Atelier du livre d’art et de l’estampe et du patrimoine de l’Imprimerie Nationale.

Is contemporary bookbinding a fully-fledged art form?

It was in the 1970s that institutions in France became seriously interested in contemporary artistic bookbinding. The Bibliothèque nationale (national library) opened the way in 1977 and was followed in the early 1990s by the Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris (City of Paris historical library) which gave further impetus to the movement. Many other libraries and museums also began ordering works from bookbinding artists from a variety of backgrounds. All of this raised many questions: what to bind? And for what reasons? What criteria should be applied when choosing a bookbinder? And for what kind of binding? To what extent can the binder be oriented technically and aesthetically? What is the cost of a creative binding? How should such bindings be preserved and exhibited among other books and collectibles? Pascal Fulacher will attempt to answer these various questions with a view to clarifying the status of contemporary art binding within heritage collections.



Reception: informal discussions and drinks



Friday 25 May

Morning Session


Elke Van Herck
Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Belgium.

After graduating with a Masters degree in restoration-conservation, with a specialisation in paper and books, followed by internships with The British Library (London) and Trinity College (Dublin), Elke Van Herck settled partially as an independent restorer. Since 2000 she has been working as a restorer-conservator for the City of Antwerp’s developing collection care service, looking after prints, drawings, paper and books for all the City’s museums, including the Museum Plantin-Moretus. She is a member of various consultative committees and has given several courses in the care of paper and book-collections.

Collection care during the transformation of the Plantin-Moretus’s permanent exhibition and actions taken during the historical collections move to a new location

In 2016, the Museum Plantin-Moretus of Antwerp undertook two mayor changes, both of which focused on improving the preservation of its rich historical collections of paper and rare books. The first, and most visible project was the transformation of its permanent exhibition. Actions were undertaken to improve the climate conditions in the historical building. Decisions were taken as to how valuable books should be put on display. Is it necessary to present all the major works continuously? For how long a period can historical books be reasonably displayed? In addition, various conservation treatments were carried out. In this case we had to consider what kind of treatment would best benefit the books given the broad selection of historical works in the exhibition, the deadlines that had to be met, and the number of people (staff members and volunteers) available to carry out such work. In parallel with the transformation of the permanent exhibition, the collections of old prints, drawings, rare books and historical archives were to be moved to a new location. In this case the principal objective was that the books, would be conserved under better conditions in the new depot and would be better protected in the future. A register system, both digital and visual, was developed to record the condition of the book collections to be moved to the new building. Packaging and box making were major factors in this system. In a transit zone, a working process included several conservation and packaging operations so that the books, when entering the new building, were clean, in better condition and would be better preserved for the future.



José Bermejo
Imprenta Municipal – Artes del Libro, Madrid, Spain.

José Bermejo graduated in modern and contemporary history at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in 1986. From 1986 to 1992 he set up the training project and plans for the Bookbinding School at the Imprenta Artesanal in Madrid of which he was appointed director in 1990. He initiated several publishing and exhibition projects, guiding the organisation to become an established centre for printing heritage which, in 2011, became the Imprenta Municipal-Artes del Libro museum which he directed until 2016. He is now the head of Madrid City Council’s Department of Museums.

Hs is the author of several works about printing and bookbinding history, notably the Enciclopedia de la encuadernación (Ollero y Ramos, 1999) and Las artes gráficas y la fabricación del libro, en Historia de la edición en España 1939 – 1975 (Marcial Pons, 2015) among others.

Professional workshops and cultural dissemination workshops. Why in a museum?

Printing and book museums usually display historical artefacts and offer a discourse about these items and the evolution over time of the different techniques involved. Such features, which we can define as being material, are not sufficient for a complete understanding of the graphic arts, written culture and the book as cultural phenomena. Museums’ missions are the conservation of collections, research, documentation and cultural dissemination as a mean for increasing of people’s knowledge about such subjects. Some aspects of cultural and historic heritage are not, however, represented by material artefacts. The techniques and skills of the graphic arts and bookbinding have changed over time with the result that some practices have been lost that are particularly important to a full understanding of this heritage.

Techniques, skills and working methods are the non-material heritage whose preservation, documentation, research and diffusion are tasks which museums must also undertake. This is the role of workshops in museums, whether they be aimed at professionals or at amateurs. This talk will analyse the issues involved with particular reference to the Imprenta Municipal.



Coffee break



Maria Luisa López-Vidriero
Royal Library, Madrid, Spain.
María Luisa López-Vidriero has been Director of Madrid’s Royal Library since 1991. She previously trained and acquired experience as a historian of the book and reading at Salamanca University Library, Complutense University Library and the rare books and reference department of the National Library of Madrid.

Arachne’s cell. Royal bindings on the web

Madrid Royal Library’s bookbindings database is the result of an accurate understanding of the role which bindings play as an interpretative element of the royal bibliographical collection. It is a research tool woven to a precise pattern: the idea of a private royal library as a means of representation and as part of the State which, in consecutive reigns, has played a changing symbolic role and has expressed different aesthetic ideas. In the Royal Library, each book is an unique element because of the binding that is an essential part of it and that gives it its singularity. Aracne’s cell addresses this conceptual starting point for the construction of the Library’s bindings database.



Katharina Mähler
Herzog August Library, Wolffenbüttel, Germany.

Katharina Mähler is a master bookbinder and book and paper conservator and worked as prepress technician in the era of photo-typesetting. She is now deputy head of conservation at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, where she has worked since 1993, after having been employed in Bern, Switzerland. She deals with a great variety of objects in the library’s collections including medieval manuscripts, printed books of the early modern period as well as contemporary artist’s books and graphic art. In the context of her task as a conservator she is especially interested in the history and structure of bookbindings and decorated paper techniques.

Two perspectives on bookbindings in a rare books collection: protective elements in need of protection

The Herzog August Library – founded in 1572 – is one of the oldest libraries in the world to have survived to the present day without sustaining any losses to its famous collections. The library can look back on a peaceful history of over four hundred years of book collecting to which many individuals have contributed, both members of the ducal family and the librarians and scholars in their employ.

The library thus constitutes an authentic and undiminished segment of culture memory which allows the printed works and manuscripts housed there to be viewed and read in their historical context. In particular book archaeologists have the opportunity to study books in their contemporary bindings thus gaining insights into the book market in former times, the migration of books throughout Europe or the social status of the owners.

The paper will give an overview of the remarkable bindings of the library’s collections dating from the Middle Ages which still today function as a protective feature of books – sometimes decorative, sometimes modest. The focus will be on different binding structures and the challenges they present for conservation treatment. In addition, collections’ care will be examined from the perspective of bindings throughout the long history of the library.





Afternoon session


Rosita Nenno
Offenbach, Germany

Rosita Nenno studied of art history, Islamic art and French literature in Saarbrücken and Paris. After a freelance contract at the MAM – Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris she has, for 28, years been responsible for the European collections of the German Leathermuseum in Offenbach. Base in Frankfurt, she is currently a freelance curator and is pursuing research in the field of fashion and industry, design, and marketing strategies in the 1920s and 1930s. She is a member of the board of ICOM ICDAD, and a member of netzwerk mode textil and the Verband Deutscher Kunsthistoriker.

Ignatz Wiemeler and his ingenious bookbindings. A highlight in the collection of the Klingspor Museum Offenbach (1920s and 1930s)

In 1921, Ignatz Wiemeler began teaching at the Technische Lehranstalten Offenbach where he met Karl Klingspor, a great bibliophile and owner of the type foundry Gebr. Klingspor. Influenced by his cooperation with the designer-typographer Rudolf Koch and Ernst Engel, Wiemeler created more than a hundred bookbindings for Karl Klingspor who, over a period of thirty years was his most important commissioner and collector of his work. The influences of the Offenbach years are traceable in Wiemeler’s layouts/designs even after he moved to Leipzig in 1925. Presenting the collections of the Klingspor Museum Offenbach, the paper focusses on the composition of Wiemeler’s bookbindings.



Aitor Quiney
National Library of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain.

Aitor Quiney Urbieta is doctor in the History of Art (Barcelona University), and graduate in Humanities (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) with a master’s degree in restoration and conservation (Catalunya University). Is a conservator at the National Library of Catalunya and hes been doing research on the Catalonian book since 2001, with special emphasis on historic and artistic bookbinding and the book as an art object. He has curated various exhibitions: Emili Brugalla, enquadernador (2001), Hermenegildo Miralles, arts gràfiques i enquadernació (2005), awarded with the Recuperació i recerca de la Memòria Històrica  de Arts Gràfiques a Catalunya’s prize,  Col·leccions privades, llibres singulars (2005), Emili i Santiago Brugalla, el seu llegat patrimonial (2009), L’exlibrisme a Catalunya al voltant del 1900 and Encuadernación y Bibliofilia en la Associació de Bibliòfils de Barcelona (2015). His professional work is oriented towards research into the arts in Catalunya and the Canary Islands from the last years of the 19th century to the historic avant-garde movements, and art after the Spanish Civil War.

The collection of finishing tools from Brugalla’s workshop in the collection of National Library of Catalunya. A model for artistic bookbinding heritage conservation.

When, in 2008, the National Library of Catalunya bought the equipment from Brugalla’s workshop it became one of the most important libraries in Europe in the field of conservation of artistic bookbinding heritage. Emilio and Santiago Brugalla’s workshop was the most important in artistic bookbinding in Spain and ran from 1931 to 2007. With its purchase the National Library of Catalunya improved its collection in the field with more than 5,000 finishing tools: handtools, rules, roulettes and blocks and all the workshop’s equipment. The acquisition also included patterns and sketches for artistic bookbindings; an important collection of books on the subject; 500 books bound by the workshop; the workshop’s archives including documents, letters, photographs and writings of Emilio Brugalla who wrote several books about bookbinding. This lecture will talk about cataloguing and conservation of the Brugalla’s collection with a special focus on finishing tools and the bookbinding collection of the Catalonian Library.



Stefan Soltek
Klingspor Museum, Offenbach, Germany

Dr. Stefan Soltek, born 1956 in Cologne, Germany, studied history of art at Cologne and Bonn Universities. His dissertation about a medieval baptismal font brought him to the study of the art of the book in early times. After a volunteer-internship at the Landesmuseum Kassel he became curator of the Linel collection for bookarts and graphic design at the museum of applied arts in Frankfurt. Since 2002 he has been in charge of the Klingspor Museum in Offenbach. Most of his publications lie in the field of book arts and graphic design.

The outside starts inside: the artist’s intention for the book’s appearance

The Klingspor Museum holds a book collection which ranges from 1900 to the present day. ‎Though the Museum has not actually specialised in bookbinding, its collection offers a broad panorama of the evolution of the value ‎accorded to the binding of books and the designing of covers. Stefan Soltek’s talk gives examples of different attitudes to how a book should look on the outside, highlighting artists who have given condsiderable attention to how they bound their books. Rather than decorating the book, their aim has been to integrate the binding into the message of the artwork itself. Examples are also taken from Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main.









Saturday 26 May



Annual general meeting of the AEPM

AEPM members only.




For non-members.



Coffee break




Short communications, news from museums and closing discussion

Various speakers, organisations and subjects including:





Guided tour of the historic district of Madrid

The Imprenta Municipal – Artes del Libro, in collaboration with the Tourist Office of Madrid are organising two free guided tours of the historic district of the City for delegates. One will take place on the Saturday early evening at 18:00. The other on the Sunday morning at 11:00.

One visit will be in English, the other in French according to the number and availability of participants. So if you would like to take part please let us know in advance at in order to facilitate the organisation.


Tuesday 29 May


Guided tour of the Real Bibloteca (Spanish Royal Library)

For those who intend to stay on in Madrid for a few days after the event, Maria Luisa López Vidriero will lead a guided tour of the Real Biblioteca.

Maria Luisa López Vidriero is the director of the Real Biblioteca and will also be speaking at the conference. If you are interested in taking part in the tour, please sign up when you register on arrival at the Imprenta Municipal for the conference.