Philipp Heil (Dombibliothek Hildesheim) probing beneath the surface

Philipp Heil (Hildesheim) explores the significance of the depth of wormholes in the leather-covered boards of the late medieval prayer-book Dombibliothek Hildesheim Ms J 29. The prayer-book was written in 1478 by the Cistercian nun Winheid von Winsen in the Abbey of Medingen and has a binding which bears all the hallmarks of a contemporary workshop: the binding stamps are identical with that of other North German monastic volumes bound in the region of Lüneburg, the way the clasps are fitted is congruent with the practice of binding parchment manuscripts – and yet: the boards are clunky, the stitching on the back is not found on 15th but rather on 19th century volumes, the pages have been (slightly) trimmed and the hemp thread used for the binding and visible in the gutter of the gatherings and at the hinges where the leather is torn looks suspiciously coarse and sturdier than could be expected of a heavily used 15th century binding. Could that be a re-binding job done in the 19th century? Philipp Heil uses a needle to get to the bottom of the mystery of the wormholes – and finds that the worm who bit the leather did not gnaw at the boards, proving them to be later additions, cleverly squeezed into the older leather.

Part of the filming in preparation for the #PolonskyGerman collaboration between the Bodleian Library Oxford and the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. Recorded on 21 December 2018. Filmed by Jasmin Leckelt. Director of the Library: PD Dr. Monika Suchan. @dombib_hi

The Wonders of a Wormhole

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