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UAL Research Online

Islamic bookbinding and its influence in Greek post-Byzantine bindings.

Boudalis, Giorgios (2004) Islamic bookbinding and its influence in Greek post-Byzantine bindings. Vivlioamphiastis, 2. pp. 55-118. ISSN 9608758815

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Boudalis, Giorgios

The fall of the Byzantine Empire triggered changes in all fields of arts and crafts. Bookbinding was no exception. A good example of this process is the change of the style in the illustrations of specific liturgical books inspired by Islamic prototypes. Further evidence of that change in style is identified in this paper. Decorated books bound under Islamic influence were normally small and slim as Islamic bookbinding structures are much lighter and flexible. This style was therefore not suitable for large books as they make use of pasteboards instead of the omnipresent wooden board of the Byzantine bookbinding tradition.

Three distinct groups of bindings from the Saint Catherine Monastery in Sinai, Egypt and the Iviron Monastery in Mount Athos, Greece were examined. The first group included 13 bindings made for Christian-Orthodox books between the late 15th and the early 18th century in Cairo and Istanbul. The second includes 8 bindings made on Mount Athos in the first half of the 17th century, while the third group comprises 6 bindings made on Athos between 1600-1613 by the monk Serafim.

Full technical and decoration data of all 27 bindings are provided in tables and there is extensive photographic and graphic documentation. Attention is also paid to the content of the manuscripts, as this factor plays a significant role to the understanding of the Islamic influences.

The bindings made in the Athos monastery represent interesting examples of how monk bookbinders managed to assimilate the advantages of Islamic bookbindings, adapt Islamic decorative motifs to the Christian milieu and improve on certain weaknesses – for example by strengthening sewing structures and reinforcing the connection between the boards and the text-blocks.

This article falls into the wider research area of historic bookbinding and is a study on the influence of various Islamic bookbinding techniques on post-Byzantine bindings. It explores the conditions under which this influence occurred as well as its manifestations based on two major collections of Byzantine and post-Byzantine bookbindings, those of the St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, Egypt and the Iviron monastery in Mount Athos, Greece.

The libraries of these monasteries are two of the most important Byzantine libraries with world-famous collections. Both monastic communities have a long history in the Christian Orthodox world but are geographically affiliated with very different social environments, trade routes and sources of income. The paper explores how this difference has affected the conscious and unconscious resistance into the incorporation of features from the Islamic binding tradition into the post-Byzantine one.
Apart from the study of social and religious events, this paper mainly draws its arguments from the detailed examination of a) 13 genuine Islamic bindings found on Greek Orthodox religious books indicating work of Muslim binders and b) other bindings which were made in the Mount Athos monastic community by Christian monks who adapted Islamic technical and decorative features in their own tradition producing the so-called Greek-Islamic style of bookbinding.

Official Website: http://www.eie.gr/nhrf/institutes/ibr/bookbinding/bbsoc-pub-en.html
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Date: 1 January 2004
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2009 22:53
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2010 15:48
Item ID: 1563
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1563

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