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Preserving the oldest library in Christendom: the Saint Catherine's Monastery Library Project on Mount Sinai

Miræus lectures; Thursday 1 December 2011
Nicholas Pickwoad (University of the Arts, London; Ligatus Research Centre)

In 1996, the Saint Catherine Foundation was established to raise money to ensure the preservation of the fabled library of this famous monastery, and from 1998 Professor Pickwoad has been the leader of the conservation project set up to plan and execute this work. Working with books preserved in many cases for more than 1000 years in this arid desert location has necessitated a revision of much that is considered normal practice in library conservation, as has the survival of the largest single collection of Byzantine and Greek-style bindings in the world. The fact that the collection is also contained within the walls of a sixth-century Unesco World Heritage Site imposes further demands and limitations on the project. This presentation will describe the location, the library and the plans for its future preservation.


Professor Nicholas Pickwoad has a doctorate from Oxford University in English Literature. He trained in bookbinding and book conservation with Roger Powell, and ran his own workshop from 1977 to 1989. He has been Adviser on book conservation to the National Trust of Great Britain since 1978, and was editor of the Paper Conservator. He taught book conservation at Columbia University Library School in New York from 1989 to 1992 and was Chief Conservator in the Harvard University Library from 1992 to 1995. He is now project leader of the St Catherine’s Monastery Library Project based at the University of the Arts, London and is director of the Ligatus Research Centre, which is dedicated to the history of bookbinding. He gave the 2008 Panizzi Lectures at the British Library, was awarded the 2009 Plowden medal for Conservation and is a Fellow of the IIC and of the Society of Antiquaries and a Council Member of the Bibliographical Society of Great Britain. He also teaches courses in the UK, Europe and America on the history of European bookbinding in the era of the hand printing press, and has published widely on the subject.

Free entrance

Hendrik Conscienceplein 4

B-2000 Antwerpen


The Miræus Lectures are an initiative of the Flanders Book Historical Society and are supported by the Antwerp Bibliophile Society, the Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience and the Instituut voor de Studie van de Letterkunde in de Nederlanden of the University of Antwerp