Are you leather curious? Interested in larger issues of hand craft? Then you will enjoy this zoom presentation on the craft of hand paring leather. Both practical and theoretical aspects of hand and tool interaction will be explored. Leather is a three dimensional material, and selectively reducing the thickness is essential for making a well functioning binding.
I will begin by showing some historic examples of leather paring, then to demonstrate the process of paring vegetable tanned leather using just one knife. Have a seat, make yourself comfortable, grab your beverage of choice and a snack, then enjoy watching the relaxing progress of gradually paring leather. While working, I will attempt to narrate — like a homunculi in my head — some of the complex decisions that go on in this process. As the leather gets thinner and thinner, excitement will mount: will I ruin the skin by tearing it? Towards the end of the demo, there will be time for Q&A and comments from the audience.
This presentation is based on my recent article, On Tool Embodiment, and I encourage everyone to read it beforehand.
Jeff Peachey: The Craft of Hand-Paring Leather. Sponsored by the American Bookbinder’s Museum. Saturday November 12, 4pm EST. Zoom. Attendees will have access to a recording after the event.
I’m very pleased to see my article, “On Tool Embodiment” published in the online Journal Decorating Dissidence. I’ve been refining these ideas for a while now, since I began exploring them in the inaugural issue of The Bonefolder back in 2004.
Using leather paring as an example, I explore some of the complexities and often subconscious hand actions that allow us to pare leather. If you are a beginning bookbinder who is interested in paring leather, this article contains some valuable practical tips. If you are an experienced binder, you will likely find some similarities to your own experiences, and perhaps some contradictory ones! If you are interested in craft or technology in general, embodiment is common in all tool use.
Decorating Dissidence is a thoughtful, inclusive, craft-positive online journal. Their mission is succinctly summed up on their homepage:
“The decorative is political. Craft is powerful. We host workshops, curate exhibitions and facilitate discussions on the topics of decorative art. We trace the lineage of modernist making legacies to the contemporary and bring to light stories of marginalized makers.” https://decoratingdissidence.com
The theme of Issue 15 is Tools, Use and Mastery. There are many articles of interest to anyone with involved in craft. Issue 14 focuses on Craft and Education, another rich important, and complex topic. It’s worth poking around through the archives, too. Enjoy “On Tool Embodiment”
Thanks to the rock star book artist Miriam Schaer for bring this journal to my attention!
Though this is not the first photograph of books, which according to Larry J Schaff of the Talbot Catalogue Raisonne is Talbot’s “Bookcase” in Lacock Abbey, 26 November 1839, or the first photograph in a book, which was Anna Atkins’ Photographs of British Algae from 1843, I’m pretty sure it is the first photograph of books to appear in a book.
The books were from Talbot’s own working library when he was a student at Cambridge University. He arranged them outside, photographing them in the sunlight; even so, the exposure took 10 minutes. Book titles include: The Philosophical Magazine, Miscellanies of Science, Botanische Schriften, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, Philological Essays, Poetae Minores Graeci, and Lanzi’s Storia Pittorica dell’Italia and more. Unfortunately, Schaff mentions that this personal library was largely dispersed in the mid-20th century.
I think this is also the first photographic shelfie, a 21st century term for a curated intellectual self-portrait using books or other objects on bookshelves.
Note the co-existence of many binding structures: extra boards bindings (left, top shelf), boards bindings (bottom, middle, spine torn near head and creases along spine) cloth case bindings with a natural hollow and paper labels (inferring from the smooth, uncreased spine), wrappered periodicals(?) with printed titles; and a large number of traditional leather bound books.
This is around the time period we will be examining in detail in my upcoming Early Nineteenth Century Bookbinding workshop. It’s exciting to have contemporary photographic evidence to add to the context of these books. If 19th c. photographs and books interests you, Carol Armstrong’s Scenes in a Library: Reading the Photograph in the Book, 1843 – 1875. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 1998 is also recommended.