Date of Award
School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Florence, Italy is a hub for art and literature. These two disciplines come together in the tradition of bookbinding, which is alive and well in Florence. A city that appreciates its own rich culture, Florence maintains many traditional practices and crafts, such as bookbinding and metalworking. The Florentines preserve more than just practices, though. The numerous museums in Florence work to physically protect and store pieces of art, artifacts, and documents. All of this preservation was challenged in 1966, with the flood of Florence’s Arno River. The flood destroyed countless manuscripts, books, and pieces of art. With this devastation, a new age of restoration was born.
Though in many ways, Italian bookbinding shares a history similar to that of the rest of Western Europe, Italy has developed its own characteristics and traditions in the bookbinding trade of the past and the present. Similarly, paper restoration practices in Italy are much like that of the rest of the world, but that may not be true without Florence. The 1966 flood of the Arno River changed the practices of paper restoration from a craft to a science, which is now studied and discussed globally and not secretly passed from master to apprentice as before the flood.
My goal in creating this thesis project was to explore traditional Italian bookbinding and restoration by considering the impact of the 1966 flood, including restoration techniques that emerged. I chose to do so in a traditional, hand-bound format, a process I was first exposed to in a University of South Carolina Honors College course, and a process that I continued to explore in Florence. Having spent a semester studying abroad in Florence, I wanted to include specific aspects of my time abroad in my book, including materials purchased, techniques learned, and interviews performed while still in Florence.
The final products of this project are a book and a paper. The 112-page hand-bound book, with content created by hand, serves as an artistic representation of the goals of this project. While there is factual information included in the content of the book, it serves more as a physical manifestation and summary of the topics covered than as an academic text. The 25-page paper, which details the history of Italian bookbinding and restoration and describes and catalogues the process of creating the book serves as the academic aspect of this project.
In completing this project, my belief that traditional techniques are alive and well in Florence was confirmed. I spoke with artisans who prove that. I also learned how one event, like a flood can change the course of history, and even of a seemingly unrelated history. While natural disasters have some obvious effects like infrastructural damage, there are less often considered effects as well, like damage to art and culture.
Purcell, Emily Erin, "Florentine bookbinding and restoration" (2016). Senior Theses. 62.