Thought that only Kindles and other ereader devices could fit multiple books into one form factor? Think again. Courtesy of Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian at Leiden University in The Netherlands, a much-publicized report on a late 16th-century so-called dos-à-dos (back-to-back) book which actually includes six titles in a single binding. “They are all devotional texts printed in Germany during the 1550s and 1570s (including Martin Luther’s Der kleine Catechismus) and each one is closed with its own tiny clasp,” notes Kwakkel.


The original volume itself comes from the Rogge Library in Strängnäs, held under the auspices of the National Library of Sweden, which hosts a full picture archive on it. “This variation of a dos-à-dos binding format allows the resulting volume to be opened in six different ways,” explains the Library. “Each of the six books in this binding can thus be read separately.”

The value of a book like this for devotional purposes should be obvious: Once one catechism or other devotion was finished, the reader could move straight on to the next. The 16th century apparently saw the advent of dos-à-dos format, with the New Testament and Psalter often being bound together. Given the importance of the Word itself in the late Renaissance and Reformation period, ingenious solutions like this are no surprise. But still hugely attractive.

Kwakkel took the opportunity of all the attention to publicize some of his other finds, including a selection of other dos-à-dos tworks. All are available on his site, and well worth a look.



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