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The aim of this course is to equip participants with the skills necessary to identify and date English bindings on historical books of the handpress period. Every historic binding tells a story, not only around when it was made or repaired, but also around the choices and motives of owners. What are the key questions to ask, and what knowledge is needed in order to answer them? This course puts practical guidance on recognising bindings into that investigative framework. It will focus mainly on English bindings, but with reference to and comparison with binding work across Europe more widely. The course is aimed at anyone with an interest in historical books or who works regularly with them: librarians and curators; students and teachers of bibliography, book history, and library science; book collectors and dealers; and general enthusiasts. 

The course is run in collaboration with Shrewsbury School and will be held at the School’s historic Taylor Library. This remarkable and rare survival of a historic school library contains over 8000 volumes, with a wide range of binding examples from all periods, many in fine and unspoilt condition; it was much used by the binding historian Basil Oldham as the base for his work.

Course participants will have the opportunity to discover the riches of this collection, whose books will be used to illustrate the teaching.

Directions on how to get to the school.  

Dates and times
  • Wednesday 10 April: 14.00-17.30
  • Thursday 11 April: 09.30-17.00 (followed by an opportunity to view items in the Taylor Library)
  • Friday 12 April: 09.30-15.30  

The course will consist of nine classes of 90 minutes spread across two-and-half days. 

There will be an optional tour of the school grounds after the final class on Wednesday 10 April and a dinner in the school dining room on the evening of Thursday 11 April. In addition, there will be an optional tour of the library at Attingham Park, a nearby National Trust property, on Saturday 13 April. 

Provisional course programme.

Course fees
  • Standard Rate: £450
  • Concession* Rate: £350


The course fee includes the provision of lunch on the second and third days, tea and coffee breaks, and a dinner on the evening of Thursday 11 April. 

Participants are responsible for arranging their own accommodation. For a list of recommended places to stay as well as other information about the town and surrounding area click here

Dr David Pearson
is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the School of Advanced Study(Opens in new window), University of London. He retired from a long professional career in libraries and archives in 2017 and has since concentrated on work as a book historian. His English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800 and other publications on binding and book ownership are well known as standard reference works in their fields. He has taught courses on bookbinding and book provenance for many years at the Rare Book Schools in London, Virginia and Sydney and is a regular tutor on the MA History of the Book programme in the Institute of English Studies. 

Bookings will close on the 1 April 2024.