Large-scale comparative and transnational conversations about book technologies encounter a major challenge: how do we share vocabulary and schemas for understanding very different book objects, and define our terms in an inclusive but also clear and transparent way?
The Ligatus Project has taken major steps towards creating a shared vocabulary for premodern bookbinding, through their Language of Bindings thesaurus for European codices and their annual summer school. From them, we are adopting such terms as "left" and "right" for book boards and covers, in cases where "front" and "back" or "upper"/"lower" presuppose a direction of reading.
We are working with Karin Scheper to integrate her work on Islamicate book forms, building upon her project with Paul Hepworth, on Arabic, Turkish, and Persian codicological terminology. With collaborators, including Eyob Derillo of the British Library, we are beginning to do similar work with Ethiopian manuscript terminology. Together with our November 2019 workshop on "Forms of the Book in East Asia and Environs," at Princeton University's Firestone Library, these efforts are laying the groundwork for a truly global vocabulary and conceptual framework for the history of the book.