A Very Long Tool Roll. And Fantastic Students at The Conservation of Leather Bookbindings Workshop, Emory University.

A very, very, very long tool.

Soyeon Choi, aka. Cat Lady, brought the longest tool roll I’ve ever seen to The Conservation of Leather Bindings Workshop last week at Emory University. It is over 42 inches long and has 16 pockets, each of them stuffed full. Soyeon made it out of cotton fabric. Yet it was not large enough to house all her travel tools, so she brought an additional smaller red one, which is partially visible in the image above. It is always fun to geek out over the tools everyone brings.

In contrast, a “large” tool roll from Highland Hardware of Atlanta is a modest 21 inches in length. It was great to finally visit Highland, BTW, and I bought a gorgeous Auriou hand-cut woodworking rasp there.

Kim Norman, Head of Conservation, and the consummate Emory Conservation Lab crew made this workshop fly. But the best thing about it were the students. Because everyone came with substantial experience in bookbinding, and brought different books with different problems, the discussions were amazing, thoughtful, informative, and filled with practical information. Everyone benifited from thinking about the books others brought, as well as working on their own.

Plans are already in the works to repeat this workshop, which will be announced here.

At the end of week long workshops, I ask the students to vote for a class member who they feel deserves a prize, and explain why. Soyeon Choi won overwhelmingly, for asking pertinent questions, and she added a pair of small bone folders designed for making headcaps to her already overstuffed tool roll.

Payne, Pots, and Bills

Portrait of Roger Payne.  Source: Recent Antiquarian Acquisitions, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. A huge version of this is image is available at: https://lewiswalpole.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/rogerus-payne-2/

I suppose most bookbinders are familiar with this depiction of Roger Payne.  I first encountered it as Plate 59 in Edith Diehl’s Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique, which was the second book on bookbinding I read in 1988. The scene is often referred to as a “dingy garret”,  though to be fair, many slightly later depictions of binderies, ca. 1830’s, are in a similar state, with cracked plaster, dirty looking walls, etc….

There is something appealing about the scene, a locus of honest, if impecunious, craft. His timid, almost mouselike  glance conveys an earnestness. He seems weak, leaning on a book in press to support his thin frame. The press tub itself is so dinky I can’t imagine using it to back a book — how would the press itself stay stable on it? The book on the press is also in an  odd position. It is difficult to believe a binder would press down on the spine like this, when the book is only supported by the foreedge boards. There are other oddities. Why are there books lying on the floor? Why is he wearing slippers and torn pants? Should we chalk it up to the artistic imagination of the artist who drew him?

And what are in the three pots that have spoons or brush handles sticking out of them? Are they barley broth pots as one theory advances, which he was supposedly fond of? Or are they glue pots?  The one in the brightly burning fire would likely be too hot and ruin the glue. The one on the mantle might be a good temperature to actually use. Could the one in the window be kept cool for storage? Or, again, are we back to speculating about an artist’s imagination.

We do have actual evidence of Payne and his work, found in the books he bound, and his invoices, written in his own hand, and very detailed for the time.

Handwritten bill from Roger Payne, The Morgan Library and Museum. # MA 3889.

There is a collection of 35 of them bound together at the Morgan Library and Museum. Accession Number: MA 3889, Unfortunately, they are separated from the books that he bound.  What a loss! There are a number of Payne’s bindings in the Morgan’s collection.

While they do not reveal the mystery of his pots, they do reveal a kind and conscientious bookbinder, as in the above bill.  He mentions reducing the price by one days work because he wasn’t happy with the quality of the result.

His bindings are beautiful, with his often lauded tooling, carefully handled straight grain morocco, and often exceedingly thin boards that are invariably dead flat even today. He is still a role model!

Two Awesome Looking New Books From The Legacy Press. Tim Barrett’s European Papermaking and Pablo Alvarez’s Translation of Paredes’ Printing Manual.

Cathy Baker, owner of The Legacy Press, will drop two new books very soon, Tim Barrett’s European Papermaking, and Pablo Alvarez’s translation of Paredes’ Printing Manual, which is the earliest European printing manual. I can’t wait to get both of them! Pre-order here.

Cover of Tim Barrett’s new book. In the background, at the top, are marbles trapped in a wood groove. It lets the papermakers quickly hang and remove a sheet when it is drying. Clever!

European Hand Papermaking: Traditions, Tools, and Techniques

Timothy D. Barrett

In this important and long-awaited book, Timothy Barrett, internationally known authority in hand papermaking and Director of the University of Iowa Center for the Book, offers the first comprehensive “how-to” book about traditional European hand papermaking since Dard Hunter’s renowned reference, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft.

This book, which includes an appendix on mould and deckle construction by Timothy Moore, is aimed at a variety of audiences: artisans and craftspeople wishing to make paper or to manufacture papermaking tools and equipment, paper and book conservators seeking detailed information about paper-production techniques, and other readers with a desire to understand the intricacies of the craft. European Hand Papermakingis the companion volume to Barrett’s Japanese Papermaking – Traditions, Tools and Techniques. The first 500 hardcover copies include paper specimens.

352 pages • 394 illustrations • hardcover • paper specimens • 2018

ISBN 9781940965116 • $65.00

 

Alonso Víctor de Paredes’ Institution, and Origin of the Art of Printing, and General Rules for Compositors [Madrid: ca. 1680]

Edited and translated by Pablo Alvarez

with a foreword by DonW.Cruickshank

Pablo Alvarez offers the first complete English translation of Alonso Víctor de Paredes’ Institucion, y origen del arte de la imprenta, y reglas generales para los componedores [Institution, and Origin of the Art of Printing, and General Rules for Compositors].

This 96-page printing manual – set and printed by Paredes himself – was issued in Madrid around 1680. It opens with an introductory digression on the origin of writing and printing, followed by ten technical chapters on each of the tasks that are necessary to print a book, including a detailed description of the different kinds of type sizes and their use, the rules of orthography and punctuation, the setting of numeric systems, imposition, casting off, the printing of university dissertations, and the correction of proofs. Some of the chapters are of unique relevance for the understanding of early printing in Europe. Chapter 8, for example, is the first recorded, comprehensive account of the practice of printing by forms/formes.

Alvarez’ transcription, translation, and notes greatly facilitate access to this important historical work, which is in fact the earliest known printing manual published in Europe – Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises was published in 1683 – and an extraordinary rarity: there are only two extant copies in the world. The book also features a foreword by Don W. Cruickshank and full reproductions of the copies held in rare-book collections at the Providence Public Library and at the University of Valencia, Spain.

Dr. Alvarez is Curator at the Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library.

466 pages • 212 color illustrations • cloth, sewn • 2018

ISBN 9781940965109 • $100.00

Upcoming Public Lecture at Emory University, Atlanta. The Conservation of Dante’s La Commedia

Please join us at Emory University for this event, free and open to the public—

The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia:  an illustrated talk by Jeffrey S. Peachey
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
4:00pm Talk and Q&A
5:00pm Reception

Jones Room
Robert W. Woodruff Library
540 Asbury Circle  Atlanta, GA 30322

Registration available here:  http://emorylib.info/peachey
Please feel free to share this information with others.

Don’t Wash … Scour!

Last summer I recorded my investigations into replicating early 19th century book cloth  using XSL pigments. One difficulty was achieving an even coloring, and several commenters indicated I should scour the fabric, rather than just wash it. Finally, I had a little time to try this, and although I haven’t had a chance to do more dying, tests with wheat starch paste have been astounding.

Note all the yellowish junk that came out of the muslin: oils, waxes, and pectic substances.

I boiled 1.5 yards of Springs Creative 45″ unbleached muslin (133 x 72 thread count, .007″ thick, $4.00 a yard) for two hours in a stainless steel pot, using 1 tablespoon of soda ash per 6 cups of water. Since it smells a bit, it is advisable to have a externally vented exhaust hood.  A long stirring stick is necessary, as are rubber gloves.

Keep a close eye on the boiling muslin. I used large pieces of cloth, for future use as covering material. As the water boils, hot areas form bubbles under folded and wrinkled areas. Then when you stir, they get released and the pot bubbles over, or worse, spills on you. I stirred the pot every 15 minutes so that all cloth surfaces were exposed to the scouring, and adjusted the temperature as necessary to keep an even boil.

The scouring raised the pH of the cloth from around 5 to 7, though this was measured with testing strips and is likely not super accurate. Soda ash is around 10 or 11 pH. The scouring removed oils, waxes, and pectic substances. The cotton fibers swelled and softened during the process.

Muslin samples pasted onto Mohawk Superfine. Left: Scoured. Middle: Washed. Right: Untreated. Note the superior adhesion of the scoured sample, skinning the paper during a pull test.

The difference in adhesion between the scoured, washed, and untreated samples is remarkable. All were pasted with Aytex P wheat starch paste onto a piece of Mohawk Superfine, with the same weight during drying.  I testing the adhesive strength by pulling the fabric away from the paper at 180 degrees. The scoured sample delaminated the paper, while the washed sample (hot water, a tiny bit of Seventh Generation Free and Clear detergent, industrial washing machine) and untreated sample released without affecting the surface of the paper. I tried this two more times, and the results were the same. In a separate test using EVA all the samples delaminated the paper.  I’d like to get a push-pull gauge to quantify the adhesion a bit more rigorously. Of course, there may be circumstances where a weaker adhesion is desirable.

But for most book conservation applications — spine linings, board slotting flanges, hinges, sewn stuck-on endbands, covering material — strong adhesion is desirable.

 

Heat Treated Tonkin Bamboo Hera Blanks for Sale

Tonkin Bamboo. Note the large areas of black power fibers. Compare this to the endgrain of a chopstick.

Hera are small Japanese tools useful for a variety of scraping, lifting, and delaminating tasks. They are common in paper conservation. Tonkin is a dense, flexible and strong type of bamboo that handmade fishing rods are made from. More about Tonkin.  Heat treating increases the elasticity of the bamboo.

Even so, hera with very thin and flexible tips can wear and can crack, so they need to be maintained by sanding, carving, reducing the width, or even shortening.  Once you have the skills to make a hera, they are easy to maintain. If you want to keep things simple, shape it with your Olfa knife, sand it with 220 grit, then finish it with 600 grit.  More tips on shaping bamboo.

These blanks are roughly 6 inches long, and 1/4 – 3/8 inch wide.  If you want to make two narrow hera, you could split a wider blank.  Just ask me for the widest one I have. Making your own tools to the exact size and shape you need is rewarding and satisfying.

Purchase heat treated Tonkin hera blanks here, only $10.00/ each!

Top, bottom, and side views of a typical blank.

A finished hera. This is not difficult to do, but takes a bit of time.

An Ornate 17th Century Bookbinding Press

Bookbinder’s Stretcher [sic]. Possibly French, Walnut, 1670-1700. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This is the most ornate finishing (?) press I’ve ever seen, as well as being one of the earliest dated ones. It is inaccurately described by the V&A as a book stretcher in the catalog, because in the early images (above and below) the tightening nuts were on the wrong side of the cheek. Usually tightening nuts like these are found on German or Netherlandish presses.

It would be nice to have a book stretcher on occasion, though.  Need to turn an octavo into a quarto?  No problem!  But was this really a book press, or a press intended for some other purpose? The 29 inch long cheeks are very, very thin in profile, and I imagine would deflect quite a bit even with just hand tightening.

Bookbinder’s Stretcher [sic]. Possibly French, Walnut, 1670-1700. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A later image shows the press assembled correctly, but it is still described as a book stretcher. Almost every non-functional inch of this remarkable press is covered with relief carvings. The tightening nuts are especially elegant.  It is made from walnut, a wood traditionally used for press boards in 18th century France.

Bookbinder’s Stretcher [sic] assembled correctly. Possibly French, Walnut, 1670-1700. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Many 17th century and earlier European woodworking tools, like planes, are encrusted with carving. Hand tools have became minimally decorated since the 20th century, all form deriving from efficient manufacture and use. The decorative deep carving must have taken a lot of extra time. Did the maker or consumer provide the agency? Was this a presentation piece, not intended to be used?  It seems to show very little wear, atypical of most presses. Or did the maker just want to make a beautiful tool? Do beautiful tools inspire binders to make beautiful books?

*****

Hats off to the V&A has a very progressive large image use policy.  You can download them instantly, share them widely, and even use them for publication. There are almost 750,000 searchable images on the V&A site. Let’s hope all institutions free their images.

V&A large image use form. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London