Delving into Sammelbände: a workshop at Utrecht University Library

On 13 and 14 June 2022, the Sammelband 15-16 network held a workshop at Utrecht University Library. Organised by Bart Jaski (Early and rare printed works, Utrecht University library), Katell Lavéant (Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Utrecht University) and Malcolm Walsby (Centre Gabriel Naudé, Enssib), this meeting had a different set-up than previous meetings. Instead of giving papers on their own case studies, researchers and librarians coming from Cyprus, England, France, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands, were invited to study a selection of Sammelbände during thematic sessions. Thanks to the access given by the library to its very rich collections, they could study a great diversity of cases to better understand material characteristics of early modern Sammelbände.

Curator Bart Jaski had made a large selection of Sammelbände kept at Utrecht University Library, which was founded with private collections that were donated to the city and have therefore been kept for a great part in their original, sixteenth-century state, or carefully restored.

The first day started with a general presentation of the history of the Utrecht University library collections and was followed by sessions on provenances, and on maculatures and bindings. Working in groups, the participants studied selections of volumes to reconstruct the links between them thanks to provenances of early modern Utrecht collectors such as those of Hubert and Arnoud van Buchell, and Evert van de Poll. They also analysed fragments of medieval manuscripts from Utrecht churches that were reused to decorate and reinforce the bindings of sixteenth-century volumes of printed books, which offered points of discussion for the analysis of the bindings and their structure. The last session of Monday 13 June was a “Speed-dating with Sammelbände”. The participants had ten minutes to pair up and study a Sammelband and then present it to the rest of the group, to underline its material and thematic specificities. For some participants, it was love at first sight; for others, the date turned out to be more problematic.

This first day was a great way to engage with many cases of Sammelbände, and to exchange knowledge and discuss methods to study the materiality of these objects.

On Tuesday 14 June, Malcolm Walsby presented key criteria to define whether a volume can be considered as a Sammelband, according to the framework and objectives of the research project, with a specific attention given to borderline cases. A session was devoted to the challenges of digitising Sammelbände. Coen van der Stappen and Janet Slob (Utrecht University library) presented the first results of a vast campaign of digitisation of the Sammelbände from the Hubert van Buchell collection, and their methods to select items and produce usable metadata.

Digitising the collections at Utrecht University Library

A list of the digitised items is available on the UBU website and is regularly updated. Ann-Marie Hansen (Trinity College Dublin) presented the on-going project of cataloguing of the Fagel collection, and the plans currently made to digitise the vast cluster of Dutch pamphlets comprised in this collection.

The workshop was concluded with a project meeting. All the participants agreed this type of workshop was crucial to train their skills and develop interdisciplinary methods in analysing Sammelbände. Next to conferences with papers and presentations, the network will continue to organise such hands-on workshops in heritage collections in 2023 in France, Italy and Spain: we invite those interested in learning to work with Sammelbände to get in touch.


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