I began researching the history and practice of bookbinding in Ethiopia four years ago when a colleague showed me an Ethiopian codex from her collection. I was immediately taken by the distinctive quality of the materials and workmanship, which were unlike any other historical binding that I had ever seen. I gradually located a small, but informative, amount of the dispersed scholarly literature on the subject, but was disappointed by the lack of comprehensiveness and technical detail. With that, I set out to write the essay I had originally wished to find. Through communications with other researchers; firsthand examination of a number of manuscripts from Harvard, Princeton, and Brown; and the translation of an important text on the subject from Amharic to English, I was able to gather many important details that have never be presented in an English-language publication. It is my hope that this research will help to bring new interest and clarity to the centuries-old traditions of Ethiopian bookbinding.
Bill Hanscom is a special collections conservation technician for Harvard Library at the Weissman Preservation Center in Cambridge, MA; coordinator and adjunct instructor for the Book Arts BFA program at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA; and an independent workshop instructor. He has taught workshops for North Bennet Street School, the Guild of Bookworkers, Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and UMass Amherst Libraries. He is a 2008 graduate of the Book Arts/Printmaking MFA program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His essay, "An Introduction to Ethiopian Bookbinding Tradition," will be published in 2017 by The Legacy Press as part of the Suave Mechanicals series on the history of bookbinding. He resides in Manchester, MA.