The scientists’ and collectors’ interest in the old, precious book- bindings is rapidly growing all over the world. Therefore, professional studies in this field are requested. Unfortunately, Polish studies according to tegumentology (knowledge about bindings) are not highly developed according to, predominantly, cataloguing of the collections of book- bindings of Polish libraries and museums.


The above mentioned status quo effectively suppresses any progress of research. The reason of this state is that the old bookbindings stored in the storerooms of various institutions are not widely accessible. Moreover, they are dispersed among various collections in Poland and abroad. Therefore, it becomes necessary to make the bindings available to specialists and enthusiasts via the Internet.


To meet the growing demand for this form of providing access to historical collections, the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences has presented a concept of creating an electronic database of bindings owed by the institution. The aim of the originators of this idea is to popularize the Library’s most precious collections of bookbindings and also to create a generally accessible material for specialized studies.


The collections of the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences, containing incunabula and old prints, are not very rich (they contain over 15 thousand volumes). Many of them have relatively modern or non-artistic bindings. The greatest part of our collections constitutes of Polish bindings. From the research point of view, this makes our collections especially attractive, even globally. Therefore, the Polish bookbinding with its history and formal and stylish specificity may become widely known. This is very important, as it seems to be marginalized in the international discourse of scholars and collectors. In fact, the Polish bookbinding of the late Middle Ages and of the Renaissance contains many fascinating artistic phenomena, like, for example, an original decoration of bindings from Cracow deriving from the end of the 15th  and the beginning of the 16th centuries and the Cracow bindings representing the Italian decorative style, which was popular in the last quarter of the 15th century until the second half of the 16th century.

Except the Polish bindings, the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences possesses foreign bindings, deriving mainly from Central Europe (Silesia, Germany, etc.). Moreover, there are bookbindings from Western and Eastern Europe – gothic and modern. On some of them there are bookplates of famous aristocratic families, including papal bookplates.


Among the books from the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences, published between the 15th and the 18th centuries, best described are the 16th - century Polish and foreign publications. This refers both to the bibliographic data, provenance and the bindings protecting the volumes. Therefore, in the first place, we are going to present bookbindings deriving from that period. Their descriptions are based on the Katalog starych druków Biblioteki Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk. Polonica XVI wieku, prepared by Elżbieta Stelmaszczyk (Poznań 1991)[ “The Catalogue of the Old Prints of the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences. Polonica of the 16th Century”].


The database contains only artistic bindings. The criterion of being artistic has been the type of decoration placed on a book’s spine and on a book’s cover, or at least on one of these items, made by a bookbinder or – rarely - by another artist. This refers both to the bindings made of precious materials (mainly of leather) and also to semi-leather and parchment bindings. In some cases, bindings made of different, less precious materials, like canvas or cardboard, are also considered to be pieces of art – if their surface has been enriched with decorative motifs.

The conventionally settled date of 1800, being the caesura of the old prints’ period, was determined by several factors. The main reason is the fact that in the 19th century there started mass production of books and, which follows, of their bindings too, which diminished their artistic value:

In order to facilitate the use of the database, the following formula of cataloguing records has been introduced:


1.  The catalogue number of the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences.

2.  Bibliographic data (the author’s name, the title, the place and date of publication).

3.  Provenance.

4.  The date of creation of the binding.

5.  The country where binding was created.

6.  The place of the binding creation.

7.  The name of the author or the artist who made the binding.

8.  The material of the binding.


nstead of a descriptions of decorations placed on bindings and of the tools and themes used, there are presented detailed photographs of the monuments. They depict:

1)    The front cover.

2)    The back cover.

3)    The spine.


Because the copies of bindings’ decorations drawn with pencil are very useful (or, in many cases, even indispensable), the database also contains scans of all decorative items stamped on the bindings. To facilitate comparative analyses, each scan contains a millimeter scale.


Considering researchers who study the relationships between bookbinding and papermaking, except the photos of bookbindings and the scans of decorative components there are presented photographs of watermarks (disambiguations).


Pragmatically, these watermarks make it possible to determine the place and the time of creating of a binding.


The photographs and scans are supposed to provide detailed analysis of compositions and of separate components of the bindings’ decorations. Together with bibliographic data and the information about the provenance and paper they shall enable scholars interdisciplinary historical research.


Everyone wishing to see the original bindings is welcomed to the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences (detailed information on our website: Scholars willing to publish photographs or scans of better quality than the ones on the website are kindly asked to contact us using the e-mail addresses below: