Bookbinding for the Mental or Nervous Convalescent

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William Dunton.  Occupation Therapy: A Manual for Nurses  (Philadelphia and London: W.B. Saunders and Co., 1918), 156.

8 Replies to “Bookbinding for the Mental or Nervous Convalescent”

  1. While not necessarily mental or nervous, I recall one or two of the smaller British manuals I have mentioning that bookbinding was a suitable craft for disabled veterans of the Great War and similar. The projects within were often desk sets and file organizers, things most manuals no longer describe and many binders today would find challenging if only because unfamiliar.

    I’ll have a look at home in the next day and find some examples.

  2. I wrote my graduate thesis on using bookbinding in art therapy. Bookbinding, in both process and product, offers amazing therapeutic possibilities. Bummer I didn’t have this resource back when I was doing my research – it would have been a great find.

  3. Jeff and Elissa,
    I would also be very interested to read more about bookbinding as therapy, since I have recently founded a charity that does just that – using bookbinding as therapy for wounded Servicemen. We are training them with a view both to achieving qualifications and to manufacturing items for retail. Trials last year have shown it to be successful in both respects, although the charity is as yet a very modest enterprise. The charity is called “The Wiltshire Barn Project” (a bit of a working title at the moment) registered in UK as number 1149583, and is working hand-in-glove with the Services’ Personnel Recovery Centre at Tedworth House in Wiltshire (managed by Help for Heroes in conjunction with the Services). Website and contact details are being developed right now in order to go live on the net shortly.

    Any studies or comments on bookbinding as therapy would be most interesting and helpful as we seek wider support amongst other Service charities and sponsors.

    Best regards,

    Jonathan Powell
    Trustee, The Wiltshire Barn Project

  4. Just received the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbinderein (1927) and found on page 837 an article by Emil Kloth entitled One-armed Bookbinder. Below and quick and dirty translation/paraphrasing. Original German not PC by today’s standards…

    One-armed Bookbinder
    Ones duty to go beyond sym/empathy with the maimed/physically disabled and to help them into avocations that can provide for them. Mention of homes and workshops to help in this healing process, most with workshops to serve the young and adults. Does make point to mention that none of these are veterans, but those who were maimed such as losing an arm in work related accidents and may still be of school age.

    The Zeitschrift für Krüppelfürsorge, Heft 5/6, 1927 describes in an illustrated article by Dr. Proebster how young people can be prepared for the bookbinding trade. Only one of the apprentices as a fore-arm stump, the others have upper arm stumps. Cited is a Dr. Biesalksi who “says that the best prostheses is the stump,” or the stump still contains a certain amount of strength and mobility and facilitates the use of prosthetic devices. However, prosthetic devices are limb replacements, not replacements for limbs. [Depiction of prosthetics being used for bookbinding].

    12 further illustrations depict one-armed individuals sewing, round and backing using German press with “press nut,” laying on gold for edge gilding, covering a spine, paring leather, and tooling.

    One graduate of the program is satisfactorily working full-time in a Berlin bindery, and another completed his apprenticeship early with very good notes. His examination pieces were 2 ¼-leather bindings. The author also notes a well-known guild master who lost his left arm to a steam press but was able to continue working and now owns his own bindery with 20 employees. “Much can be achieved with a strong/resolute will.”

    Now we come to the usual “but…” It is wrong to say that based on these experiences/reports that binding is a trade suitable for cripples. However, Dr. Proebster does just that by citing a passage from Paul Kersten’s Der Buchbinderlehrling, 2nd ed, pg 44 that states that “frail people are completely unsuited [for the bookbinding trade] because one needs strong arm and leg muscles for making gilt edges or embossing [working the machinery], and further notes that the success of the Oscar-Helene-Home prove that Kersten’s attitude is wrong. Even in trades it not just the muscles but also the will that determine success…. We must acknowledge that those with physical limitations but otherwise sound minds will want/need to become contributing members of society via the trades, something we must encourage and facilitate.

    It seems to me, however, that Dr. Proebster overreached to a greater degree than Paul Kersten because what Kersten wrote is undoubtedly true in that his is a reaction to the still held view that the [bookbinding] trade is good enough for the physically and mentally weak individuals. This has nothing to do with animosity towards amputees. Dr. Proebster is correct in stating that society is required to help those less fortunate, but is cannot demand that one trade alone take this task upon itself – every trade should do this…

    Emil Kloth (Ist Secretary of the International Bookbinders’ Union 1907-20,

    I have requested the article from Zeitschrift für Krüppelfürsorge via inter-library loan…

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