Libri viatici – University of Copenhagen

Jacek Tomaszewski: Libri viatici: Protection and usage of portable books in medieval Poland

This paper will discuss the historical and cultural context of a particular type of the manuscript generally called by the Latin term Libri Viatici. This term was mainly used in the middle ages to describe different types of liturgical books that were helpful in religious practices during travels and missions, also called girdle books.

Similar leather chemise book bindings are present all over Europe, in the area under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, from Spain to the eastern borders of Poland, presumably through the influence of mendicant orders.This type of binding includes different types of textile and leather covers, which were used to protect the primary cover of the book, thus giving it a secondary cover

In this paper I will present the results of the research of archival, iconographic sources, and the study of manuscript bindings in libraries in Poland.  There exists now only one example of girdle book in Poland, which is already described in literature, in addition there are a few manuscripts which show signs of the presence of an additional wrapper, which probably were used as girdle books.

I will discuss the production of girdle books in Poland based on existing examples and on numerous examples represented in iconographic sources. I will also talk about  the construction of functional wrappers, in addition to presenting some interesting information about over 40 examples of leather overcover bindings existing in library collections in Poland.