A two image gif: a model of an 18th century French binding and a real 18th century French Binding
Conservators often make models of bindings in order to understand how materials, structures, and techniques interact. Models are different from a facsimile or pastiche bindings: they are not intended to look like an old binding, but are made as closely as possible to replicate an historic structure. Making models helps conservators understand subtleties and procedures of construction, and aids in determining what physical evidence is essential to preserve. While acknowledging a model’s new materials, conservators can also use them as a mock-up to test treatment options.
The model above was made by following the technical descriptions in Diderot, Dudin, and Gauffencourt. (1) How does this gif inform our understanding of the relationship between the model and historic binding? How can the lacuna between them be interpreted? In this gif, the model simultaneously bursts out of the historic binding as the binding disappears into the model, possibly analogous to our conceptual understanding of the two.
1. Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert Encylopedié ou Dictionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, Paris, 1751-1780; René Martin Dudin L’Art du Relieur-Doreur de Livres, Paris: Saillant & Nyon, 1772; Jean-Vincent Capronnier de Gauffecourt Traité de la Relieure des Livres (originally 1737) trans. by Claude Benaiteau, Austin: W. Thomas Taylor, 1987.
Added 17 Sept 2014:
Next week, on September 12 and 13, 2014, I will be participating in a symposium sponsored by the Yale Program in the History of the Book. Registration for the symposium is full; however, Kathryn James’s lecture, “Time in Place” is open to the public. It is great that academics are becoming interested in the book as a material object; I suspect there will be some fascinating discussions.
A class present from “Historic Book Structures for Conservators” students.
At the end of an exhausting and exhilarating five weeks of teaching “Historic Book Structures for Conservators” in Boston, the students demonstrated what they had learned by making this binding for me.
The folding is uneven. Some of the pages have the imprint of the bottom of a shoe. The book is sewn on three recessed tapes, sometimes bypass, sometimes all-along, sometimes two-on, and sometimes three-on. There are very large weird knots in the sewing thread and untrimmed sewing thread where the joins are. At points the thread misses the gutter by an inch. The spine is lined with blue painters tape. One edge is partially trimmed. Several sections are out of alignment by half an inch. The back half of the book is case bound, though the turn-ins are on top of the end sheet. The spine piece is missing. The front of the book is laced on with tapes that begin on the inside of the board. Some corners of the board are exposed, some turned in without trimming. All of the squares vary wildly, with the front board smaller than the text block. The entire book is skewed. The pastepaper covering material is not properly adhered, with large areas popping away, and there are some extremely odd cuts in it. There is a small piece of triangular leather on the spine that seems inspired by a “Tomorrow’s Past” binding we discussed in class. The lower board, not visible in the image above, contains numerous handwritten inscriptions: “Peachey” within a circular object that appears to be a peach. The title on the spine, not visible in the image above, is made with glitter and reads “NBSS 2014″ as it the “JP” initials on the front cover, off center.
It was great to have a class who were sophisticated enough to realize that doing everything wrong can be a measure of how much they learned. Bravo!
The voice-over at the beginning of The Seven Year Itch informs us that the Manhattan Indians had a custom where “Every July, when the heat became unbearable, they [the husbands] would send their wives and children away.” This continues into the 1950’s, and is the reason that Richard Sherman (played by Tom Ewell) happens to be living alone for the summer and meets “The Girl” (played by Marilyn Monroe).
But times have changed. Now, it seems husbands, wives, children—everyone?—vacates Manhattan for the summer, myself included. So my book conservation and tool business will be on hiatus until September 1, 2014. I will be teaching in Boston, working on some new tool ideas, then on a brief vacation.
Please email if you want to schedule something for the fall. Stay cool!
This month marks my 25th year of bookbinding and book conservation. The great thing is that I still love looking at, thinking about, and working on old books.
I first noticed what I call “naturally packed sewing” on an early 16th century quarto. Usually, a pack sewn book has extra windings around the cords to fill them in even with the thickness of the signatures. I believe it was Peter Frack who first described pack sewing, which he called “arch sewing”. For naturally packed sewing, if the sewing thread is fairly soft, and the signatures relatively thin, the paper pretty thin, the book can be sewn packed without additional windings. Here, there are 39 signatures and 39 windings around the double cords. This image is larger than life size.
The paper is 60lb. Mohawk Vellum Soft White from New York Central Art Supply. Folded down to quarto, 2 folios, 4 leaves, 8 pages.
The cord and thread are from Colophon Book Arts Supply. The cord is Garniture Linen Cord, the thread Londonderry Linen, Ash Grey, 18/3.
Peter Franck. A Lost Link in the Technique of Bookbinding and how I Found It. Gaylordsville, Conn: n.p., 1941.
I finally got the footage from the commercial I made in LA last year, and wrote about here. I think it looks great, and even though the details are wrong, the total impression is very appealing and accurate.