In 2015 and 2016, conservator and scholar, Julia Miller, donated her extensive collection of bookbinding models to the Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan. The collection contains two collections that were initially donated as separate gifts. Firstly, there is a group of models that formed the basis of the exhibit "Puzzle Me This"; it consists of historical binding fragments inspired by original samples held at the Special Collections Research Center and The Papyrology Collection; it also includes four models of what the books would have looked like when intact.
Secondly, we received an additional gift of a historically broad collection of models replicating ancient and medieval manuscripts in various materials and formats, some of which are held at libraries and museums around the world. They include a variety of Graeco-Roman tablet models, single-and multi-gathering Coptic codices spanning from the 3rd to the 10th century AD, and medieval European, Near Eastern, and Islamic binding models spanning from the 12th to the 17th century. Several of these later models are based on historical bindings of manuscripts in the Special Collections Research Center.
In brief, this extraordinary collection is the fruit of decades of research on the history of bookbinding structures, which culminated in the landmark publication, and the first of a series of subsequent books: Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings (Ann Arbor: The Legacy Press, 2010).
The content of our exhibit is closely indebted to Julia Miller’s years of teaching and research. It includes only a small selection from The Julia Miller Collection of Bookbinding Models, its fundamental purpose being to explore some aspects of the research and teaching potential of these holdings. In the future, researchers engaging with these models will have a unique opportunity to handle and observe closely these fascinating structures, which open a window to a crucial aspect of the history of book production and to how texts were transmitted and read throughout the ages.