Terminology for fragments

When a manuscript came to the end of its own life, it was not always thrown onto the rubbish heap but sometimes was dismembered. There were many uses to which the resulting fragments could be put. There are tales from early modern England of parchment being used to wrap gloves or soap, or even doing service in the privy. The most frequent survivals, however -- and the only types to be found in the Harsnett collection which is the focus of the pilot project -- come from their use in making a new binding for another book.

Parchment was -- in both the Middle Ages and the early modern period -- considered an appropriate material to strengthen the structure of the binding and to protect the pages of the book from damage that could be caused by rubbing against the boards. Parchment was too expensive a material to be prepared specifically for this use and, instead, was recycled from manuscripts or documents that had been discarded. The pieces are to be found at or very near the end of the book but they take various forms and the nomenclature below is intended to signify those differences. It is presented alphabetically.

Binding Strip: the binding could be strengthen by inserting a strip of material, the height of the binding, linking the board to the adjacent pages. These strips could themselves take various forms - they could be only a few millimetres thick, or they could be more substantial; they could be rectangular in shape or some binders preferred them trapezoidal. [Images below of two front strips: Harsnett H.c.8 and Harsnett H.f.15]

Colchester Harsnett H.c.8 front strip
Colchester Harsnett H.f.15 front strip
Colchester Harsnett H.d.9 front flyleaf

Flyleaf: as the name suggests, this is a folio that is free to move, in as much as while it is stuck in the binding at its edge, the whole is not glued to another part of the binding. The leaf is cut to be approximately the same size as the pages of the book (pieces which are smaller than this tend to be described as a binding strip). Sometimes a flyleaf is conjoint with a pastedown. Both flyleaves and pastedowns are forms of endleaf, and the preferred terminology for flyleaves in the Ligatus vocabulary is 'free endleaves' [Image: Harsnett H.d.9 i (recto of front flyleaf)]

Colchester Harsnett I.b.18(1) offset

Offset: this is, strictly speaking, not a fragment at all but a witness to there once having been a fragment. As the term suggests, it is used for the impression left by the ink on the adjacent board or leaf. So, for instance, if a pastedown is lifted, a residue of reversed letter-forms is often visible on the board -- this can be an aid in identifying a pastedown with its former host volume when the shelfmark is not known. In other cases, the fragment may have disappeared and the only evidence remaining is the offset, present like a shadow cast on the paper or wood. An example of this is discussed in a little more detail in the highlights section [Image: Harsnett, I.b.18(1) i]

Colchester Harsnett H.g.17 front pastedown

Pastedown: another self-explanatory term, it is used for an endleaf which is pasted to one of the boards of the binding. Similar to a flyleaf (with which is sometimes conjoint), it tended to be cut to the approximate size of the board. It covers the plain surface of the board and the turn-ins of the leather cover. In many collections (but not with the Harsnett volumes) pastedowns have been removed from their binding and are recognisable by the staining from the leather and often by the heavy rubbing on one side. A pastedown, when removed, may also leave offset on the board. Pastedowns are sometimes known as 'board sheets' [Image: Harsnett H.g.17 i (front pastedown)]

Colchester Harsnett H.a.34 v-viii

Reinforcing piece: these can be the most insubstantial of fragments, small slips employed to serve a related function to that of binding strips. As Oldham defined the term (Blind-Stamped, p. 66) they are the pieces 'on which, for greater strength, the backs of some or all of the sections are often sewn'. He also commented that they are sometimes detectable under the pastedown; in the Harsnett collection, several reinforcing pieces have been raised [Image: Harsnett H.a.34 v-viii (a set of pieces, now raised, at back of volume)]



Colchester Harsnett H.d.44 i

Tab: a tab serves a different purpose from an endleaf, strip or reinforcing piece -- it is not integral to the structure of the binding (and may well be added at a later date), and instead is placed for a reader's convenience. A tab is usually inserted so as to mark the start of a section of text, or to provide an author and title. If the former, they are sometimes called 'leaf tab markers', and if the latter, may be termed 'board tab markers'. It is for the latter use that they are inserted in several books in bindings with the arms of John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1583-1604, which later belonged to Samuel Harsnett. The tabs can be attached to a text-page, a flyleaf or to a board. [Image: Harsnett H.d.44 i].