As a bibliophile school teacher, a strong fondness for the world of academia and learning continues to resonate in my heart as each academic year goes fleeting by. This love has propelled me to take every opportunity that I can to engage in a learning atmosphere, even during my summer breaks. This summer I decided to attend a five-day intensive course to enhance my knowledge about rare books at the London Rare Books School. (LRBS) I am delighted to report that the experience was phenomenal, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants a firsthand interaction with world renowned experts on rare books.
The London Rare Books School, LRBS, is in its 50th year of running the program which I attended. It is part of the University of London’s educational system, and is basically a series of 5-day courses taught in the University’s Senate House Library by renowned scholars and researchers related to the Institute’s Center for manuscript and Print studies, which are partly modelled after the Virginia Rare Book School.
The event ran for 2 weeks. The first week ran June 25th – June 29th, and the second week ran July 2nd -July 6th. Each week of the program offered 6 very interesting courses, and admission was on a first come first served basis, which meant that it was mandatory to register quite early to ensure a place in class. There were 6 interesting courses scheduled for each week ranging from old antiquarian and history of the book topics, to gender selections concentrating on modern editions and children’s books:
Week 1: June 25th till June 29th 2012
- The book in the Ancient World
- Children’s Books, 1470-1980
- European Bookbinding.
- A History of Maps and Mapping
- An Introduction to Bibliography
- The Medieval Book
Week 2: July 2nd till July 6th 2012
- The Early Modern Book in England. Arnold Hunt and Giles Mandelbrote
- The History & Practice of Hand Press Printing, 1450-1830. David Chambers
- The History of Writing, a wider view. Alan Cole
- An Introduction to Illustration and its Technologies. Rowan Watson and Paul Goldman
- Modern First Editions; Dealing, Collecting and the Market. Rick Gekoski
- Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600. Michelle Brown
Each one of the courses stressed the materiality of the book, and they provided the opportunity for maximum attention and knowledge since each class is restricted to just 12 students. This gave me the opportunity to interact with the teacher and ensure maximum return of time invested in attending the class. Furthermore, these courses are hands-on, as library treasures are provided appropriately to exemplify the content of the teaching. For example, a late-fifteenth century Italian manuscript acquired by Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence from the Phillipps Collection, and a copy of Pietro Paolo Vergerio’s educational treatise ‘De Ingenuis Moribus ac Liberalibus Adolescentiae Studiis Liber’, were brought in the “Ancient World” course. The “History of Maps and Mapping” was brought to life with the Mercator Atlas of Europe – a composite atlas containing the only known manuscript maps with annotations in Mercator’s own hand.
Some of the highlights for me were learning about the relationship between maps and their users, especially in the context of biblical exegesis from Late Antiquity to the Reformation; Nicholas Pickwoad demonstrated how important ordinary books are for showing binding techniques of different periods in different countries; and Angus O’Neill gave a technical, quantitative analysis on the precise measurements of rarity and collectability.
The cost per week for the courses was £600, and it included lunch and coffee and tea throughout the week. For the additional cost of £150 to correct my 5,000 word essay, I received postgraduate credit for these courses. Additionally, there was timetabled ‘library time’ to explore the rich resources of the University’s Senate House Library; one of the UK’s major research libraries. The evening program included a book history lecture, and receptions hosted by major London antiquarian booksellers.
For those who are in Europe or for those who want to get the European exposure and educational experience on rare books, attending any of the courses is highly recommended. More details about the London Rare Books School curriculum can be obtained at the school’s website.