If you owned a psalter handwritten in France in the middle of the 12th century, or a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, the famous early illustrated history of the world, printed in 1493, what would you do with them? Chances are you would enjoy looking at the images and feeling the wonderful paper or vellum that was used in their production, and you would keep them in a safe place. You probably would not cut them up, but that is exactly what has happened to many early manuscripts and books.
The late Otto F. Ege, Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Art, and a lecturer on History of the Book, at the now-defunct library school at Case Western Reserve University, is one of the more infamous people who did, in fact, disbind books and manuscripts. He took individual pages from many types of books from different centuries and created folios to demonstrate how the book developed over the ages. Changes in book hands and different styles of illustration are well documented. Many of the leaves are lushly illustrated with borders, initial letters, or other decorative elements. Some have illuminations with gold which shines as brightly today as it did 600 years ago when it was applied.
Cleveland Public Library owns four of the collections created by Mr. Ege. They include samples from six centuries of both handwritten and early printed material. Books of hours, Bibles, histories, philosophy, and the Nuremberg Chronicle are all represented.
Also, in the Special Collections Department is a collection of various secular and religious manuscript or printed leaves from works such as, a leaf from the Holy Koran in Arabic; a leaf from Poems of Nidhami, Persian, 1584; a leaf from a Latin Bible printed by Nicholas Jenson, Venice, 1476; a leaf from Aldine Greek Bible, printed by Aldine Press, Venice, 1518; and a leaf from Estatutos Generales De Barcelona, Spanish, brought to Mexico by Pedro Ocharte, 1585. Some leaves have illumination, illustration, or marginal notes. See the "Collection of medieval and early modern manuscript leaves" to view any of these specimens.
These collections are available for you to look at in Special Collections on the 3rd floor of Main Library.