Smart bookbindings - a lot of them
This morning I visited the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and it was an overwhelming experience. The library was founded in 1572 by Duke Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and it is a rare example of a 16th-century library that survived fully intact. Walking through the library I encountered a big bronze door. When I opened it I suddenly stood eye to eye with something unexpected: vast bookcases stretching from floor to ceiling filled with thousands of bookbindings from the 15th to 17th centuries.
As you would expect, many have fragments of medieval manuscripts and early printed books pasted in and on them, to provide support (last pic). However, this collection is special for another reason. The duke himself wrote on each book what it contained. To find writing on the back of an early-modern book is not unusual, but the duke was a thorough man and went a little overboard, as you can see. The backs not only contain very long title descriptions, but also numbers. In fact, duke August is rumored to have invented the system where book numbers have a decimal point. If book nr. 23 contains physics, the next book he purchased with the same topic would receive nr. 23.1 - think Library of Congress. These are not just old, but also smart bookbindings, which carry history on their backs.