Microfiber. Horsebutt. Bluefin Tuna. Poinsettia.

 

Nothing quite sums up the Holiday season for me like a poinsettia and hunks of raw blue fin tuna. Stressed? Too much to do before the end of the year? Feeling overwhelmed? Me too. I coped yesterday by playing hooky and indulging in arguably the best chirashi deal in Manhattan at Yuba for $15. Yuba was founded by a couple of ex-Masa employees: $15 there would get you exactly 11 grains of rice.

Other coping mechanisms include buying stuff.

 

The Peachey Branded Microfiber Towels are in stock! A great stocking stuffer, or you could even make a stocking out of it. I made to logo by having a steel stamp made from my handwriting, then stamped it onto a piece of horsebutt, then had it dye sublimation printed onto the towel. Genuine Horsebutt Strops are always popular.

To be safe, order soon, although the post office estimates December 17 as the deadline.

Five Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas for Bookbinders and Conservators, 2018

Peachey branded microfiber towel. $5.00. My first foray into merch! A stylish and practical way to show your support for Peachey Tools. This is a heavy duty, professional grade microfiber towel: 16 x 16 inches, 300+ gsm, 4-thread edge stitching, .1-.2 denier microfibers,  80% Polyester/ 20% Polyamide blend. Perfect for cleaning your knife and microfinishing film during sharpening, the floor, your cutting mat, and even removing excess grease from your nose. The dye sublimation printed logo seems durable on my sample, but it is not possible to have a super dense image on the three dimensional microfiber surface. The fibers fluff up over time: the towel in the image above was washed seven times. The great thing about microfibers is that they trap everything. The terrible thing about microfibers is that they trap everything, so the towel will turn grey over time, likely obscuring the logo anyway. But you will still know it is there! What could be a nicer gift for all your staff members, as well as a gentle reminder to keep things clean? They should be in stock December 11 at Peachey Tools.

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Seal Skin Thimble. You can cut the strap a bit more to fit larger fingers.

Seal Skin Thimble.  $5.00.  A fantastic tool. Much more comfortable than a metal thimble. I purchased this one in an antique store in Adamstown, Pennsylvania, then a quick google search confirmed it is a traditional Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic craft object. The images of them are remarkably consistent, almost identical. For example, they all have a length of thread holding the crimping in place at the tip, and a clever slit that functions as a finger attachment. The seal skin is rawhide (?), stiff enough to resist a needle head puncture, and the fur is a comforting joy to stroke if your sewing is not going well. It also makes a great finger puppet, though this can be a warning sign you have been working alone a bit too long. Available from Quilted Raven Alaska.

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Londonderry Linen Lacing Thread. Wonderfully soft and not tightly twisted, just like older threads.

Londonderry Lacing Linen Thread, Size 4.  $7.00.  I love this thread. Seriously. I can sew *almost* everything with it. it is perfect for joint tacketing or sewing extensions during board reattachment. Since it is loosely plied, it is easy to flatten it out inside a gathering to minimize swell. Check out this naturally packed sewing.  A loaded stick also helps to control sewing. The soft thickness of this thread gently supports weak or brittle paper. Mary Uthuppuru, proprietor of Colophon Book Arts Supply, is a wonderful, kind, knowledgeable supplier, a true pleasure to do business with. Available in from Colophon Book Arts Supply.

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Shop Knife. I’ve used this one for a number of years and altered the handle for comfort.

Shop Knife Style “F”. $13.84. This is a knife that I use dull. It is a perfect size and shape right out of the box for cleaning spines and other general scraping tasks. Where it really excels is for marking binders board for boxmaking: the tip is just the right angle, and a knife mark is much more accurate than even a .3mm mechanical pencil. It is easy to carve the handle a bit to make it more comfortable, especially where the blade transitions to the handle. Available from McMaster-Carr.

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Delrin Hera. $40.00.  I know what you are thinking. $40? Inexpensive? Please allow me to explain. This tool is so useful that you will end up using it constantly. For example, it is great to gently pry some material for lifting, lift a page to turn it, insert adhesive under a detaching fragment, hold down something for photography, score tissue before dry tearing, and so on. You might like it so much you will keep it with you even when you are not working. Seriously, I use this tool at least an hour a day when doing conservation work. Therefore if you use it an hour a day, for 300 days a year, for 30 years, it only costs 4 thousandths of a cent per hour. Inexpensive or dirt cheap?!  Available from Peachey Tools.

 

Exhibition Review: Armenia. Art, Objects, Body Parts, and Books

Armenia!“, now on view at the Met, is one of the largest Armenian art shows ever in North America, containing more than 140 works of art, objects, body parts (in reliquaries), and books. It is not only a great art exhibition, but a great show for bibliophiles: roughly half the items on view are books. The show spreads calmly over seven galleries, with no videos or recorded sounds playing, and ample space between the objects. Even though it was packed with viewers the Sunday afternoon I visited, there weren’t lines in front of any particular object. The minimal gallery introductions and short captions reinforced a direct engagement with the objects, rather than reading about them. Interspersing the books with other objects initiated a dialogue between them.

Gospel Book with Gilded-Silver Covers and Embroidered Pouch. J. P. Morgan MS M.621. I’ve never seen another binding that has just one spine strap, like this one. Did it serve as a means of attachment to something else?

The craft similarities between reliquaries and full-metal books were hard to miss. For example, the 17th century gilded silver covers on the Gospel Book above, and the Hand Reliquary of Saint Abulmuse (L.1988.63) have a very similar construction. The stunning covers of both signal their importance as objects of veneration, and at the same time hide their inner contents. The insides of these objects are deeply personal, and almost at odds with the elaborately decorated exterior.  The reliquary houses body parts of someone, the book houses the thoughts of someone. Is there an object that does both?

Expositionitis. n. [ek-spuh-zish-uhn-ahy-tis] : A horrible desease that temporarily blinds museum professionals to the actual objects in an exhibition. Instead, the afflicted spend all their time looking at a crooked frame, an over cut mat, how a particular object was repaired or strapped, prominent shadows, a dust bunny in the corner of a case, etc…  “I didn’t even notice the carved ivory elephant in the corner, my expositionitis was so bad!”

I must have had a mild attack, since I am still thinking about a number of books open to a full 180 degrees, which can cause stress to the binding. A more restricted opening is generally better, and it is still relatively easy to view a two page spread. It also sets a poor precedent for the display of books in such a pre-eminant institution.

Alexander Romance, Sulu Manastir, 1544. Copied and illuminated by Zak’ariay of Gnunik’; d. 1576. John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, UK. Kasemake cradle by Mark Furness.

Mark Furness, Senior Conservator at the University of Manchester, designed and made an interesting cradle. He and Elaine Sheldon have been working for a number of years on museum board cradles cut on a Kasemake boxmaking machine. I like the softness of museum board when making contact with leather. Some might find the aesthetics slightly distracting, though I’m sure this is something that is evolving. Mark also did a great job of strapping: note the zero textblock sag. An advantage is it ships completely flat for easy transport, and assembles without any adhesives. This version is quite strong and easily supports a heavy parchment textblook/ wooden board book easily. These cradles are inexpensive and easy to recycle.

I’m glad to see someone experimenting with something other than acrylic. Acrylic is so hard and flat, it rarely conforms closely with the undulations of hand made book boards and hand pared leather, let alone metal furniture. This can result in the weight of a book being concentrated in a few small areas.

Grakal, Liturgical Book Stand , 1272 with modern additions. History Museum of Armenia, Yerevan (171).

The most interesting cradle, technically a book stand, was this 13th century grakal, a liturgical book stand. Although it is similar to an Islamic rehal, there are important differences. A traditional rehal is cut from a single piece of wood. The grakel was made of two seporate pieces. How they hinge together is also quite different.

A modern rehal, which I purchased in Turkey, 2009. This is one plank that has been partially cut into two.

To make a rehal, holes are drilled, as you can see in the image below. Then a thin sawblade, like a coping or turning saw, is inserted and the joints cut, and the plank cut in two. The ways a book sits in a rehal or grakal are also quite different. A book in a rehal sits in this cut out hinge, which also flattens out, creating a space for the spine. A book in a grakal sits on top of the leather sling, and has a metal rod that the two sides hinge from. Both, however, are lightweight, collapsable, portable, and support a book in use.

Detail of the hinge of a modern rehal, which I purchased in Turkey, 2009. A small saw blade was inserted into the drilled holes to begin the cuts. Making a model of one of these is on my to do list.

Detail of hinge area of the Grakal. Note the seam from the two pieces of wood.

I’m almost certain the top and bottom parts of this grakal are made from separate pieces of wood and glued together. The book rests on a leather top piece which lessens the stress on the hinge. Given the fact it has held up for nine centuries, the construction is more than adequate!

Gospel Book, Monastery of Manuk Surb Nshan, K’ajberunik’, 1386. J. Paul Getty Museum (MS Ludwig II 6).

My favorite piece in the show is this page from a Gospel Book, 1386. On the top are two scribes, and under them are two students burnishing the paper in preparation for writing, with extremely tall burnishers. Stylistically, they look quite similar to smaller, one handed Western glass mullers. The scribe mentions, in the text, he wanted to thank the students  (“his angels”) for this generally thankless, but important task. Paper was burnished to make it smoother for painting and writing on, and more parchment-like in appearance.

The last gallery of the show included a number of highly skilled manuscripts made in the 17th century. It surprised me to see the skilled transmission of craft skills persisting so late into what we in the West consider print culture. One of the primary takeaways from the show was how Armenia does not fit neatly into the Eastern-Western culture divisions many of us still regularly invoke, as well as challenging our notion of when Medieval culture ended.

If you can’t make it to the show, which closes January 13, 2019, the catalog is very informative, with all 143 objects described in text and photographs, and several longer essays. NY TImes review of Armenia!

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.