Title: Books in Exhibitions. History and Adventures in Display
Authors: Watteeuw, Lieve
Issue Date: Apr-2013
Publisher: ICOM-CC
Host Document: pages:12
Conference: Paper Conservation: Decisions & Compromises. ICOM-CC Graphic Documents Working Group Interim Meeting location:Vienna date:2013
Abstract: Exhibitions and display of books and documents on shelves is revealed from the early Middle Ages on in paintings and illuminations, depicting studiolos, scriptoria, libraries, palaces and church interiors, dressed with book standards. The display of books referred to wealth, devotion and erudition.
After the Ancien Regime, more particular in the second part of the 19th century, medieval and early modern books were displayed to legitimate the national past. Exhibitions or the more or less permanent display of old books and manuscripts in showcases became fashionable in several European cities and main libraries. Furthermore, the presentation of archival and library material was connected with the growing concept of leisure time and tourism. World Exhibitions and Exhibitions of Medieval Art were popular platforms for display of documents in a historical context. One of the highlights was certainly the collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the prestigious exhibition of fine medieval art in Brussels in 1880. This major exhibition included a large number of medieval manuscripts and incunabula from all over Europe and proved to have considerable public appeal. Already in 1860 there was a growing interest, especially in England, in travelling to the Continent to see actual medieval relics, a trend that the development of the railways had made possible.
On the other hand the interest and display of century old books encouraged the restoration and the rebinding policy. The Exhibitions of Industry were the best possible forum for the specialized workshops to present their pastiche bindings on historical material. In Paris, in addition to Gruel, there were other names famous for imitations, such as Trausz, Charles Capé and Thibaron-Joly. It was not only Parisian bibliophiles who came to them but also and especially American collectors, such as the industrial magnate Henry Walters (1848-1931), who bought scores of rebound manuscripts.
For public collections, there was another challenge. After the Sankt-Gallen conference in 1898 one of the solutions proposed to protect original material was the making of reproductions. The starting point was the idea that the original would be handled less and thus would be better conserved. Photographic reproduction, it was argued, allowed the user to view and study a manuscript as much and for as long as he pleased, without any risk to the original. In this scope, facsimiles were additional used in exhibition display, as in the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.
This lecture will present the context and evolution of display of historical documents in public places, as historical, didactical or artistic items, and the preparation, restoration, rebinding and care performed by the custodians to protect them before, during and after display.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa-p
Appears in Collections:Faculty of Arts - miscellaneous
Art History, Leuven

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