Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle: A Conservator Reviews the Long History of Binding Waste

Streaming Media

Document Type



Spring 4-4-2024


Brodsky Series, Library Conservation, Alexis Hagadorn, manuscript waste, binding waste, preservation, library science




Joan ’67, G’68 Brodsky, William J. ’65, G’ 68


The annual Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation is endowed through a generous gift by William J. ’65, G’ 68 and Joan ’67, G’68 Brodsky of Chicago. Beginning in 2004, the endowment has been used to sponsor programs featuring prominent library conservators that promote and advance knowledge of library conservation theory, practice, and application among wide audiences, both on campus and in the region.


Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | Archival Science | Art and Materials Conservation | Art Education | Book and Paper | Library and Information Science | Medieval Studies


Alexis Hagadorn, Head of Conservation for the Columbia University Libraries, presented at the Syracuse University Libraries’ annual Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation. The hybrid lecture, titled “Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle: A Conservator Reviews the Long History of Binding Waste,” was held on April 4, 2024, from 3:30-5:00pm in Bird Library's Peter Graham Scholarly Commons and on Zoom.

This talk considers the long history of reused paper and parchment in bookbindings. Many of the earliest surviving examples of bookbindings make use of discarded manuscript fragments as structural components. Other ancient bindings have been lost to us precisely because the texts they were discovered to contain were considered more important than the book in its binding. Both the reuse of materials and the destruction of bindings to remove these printed and manuscript fragments have continued into the modern era. The lecture presents illuminating case studies of binding waste and describes alternatives to disassembly that allow both the textual fragment and its host book to be studied and preserved.

Alexis Hagadorn is the Head of Conservation for the Columbia University Libraries, where she has worked as a rare books conservator since 1997. She received an A.B. from Barnard College, and an M.S. and Advanced Certificate in Conservation from the Columbia School of Library Service, spending a final placement year in the Conservation Laboratory of Trinity College Dublin under the direction of Anthony Cains. She worked as a rare books conservator at Yale University, also serving as the first head of Collection Care in its Library. In her role within the Columbia University Libraries, she leads a team of conservators and technical staff who treat and care for all of the physical collections, and she frequently consults on questions of material identification and analysis. She lectures on medieval manuscripts at Columbia and is currently chair of the University Seminar in Material Texts. Outside of Columbia, she serves on the visiting faculty of the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, and the Pratt School of Information, where she lectures on library conservation, parchment making, and the history of bookbinding.