The O’Riva Corner

I found this interesting corner, US Patent # 562,649, issued to John B. O’Riva in 1896.  It is long out of protection, so anyone can make it.  O’Riva states, “The object of this invention is to provide a binding for books which will be strong and durable without necessitating the destruction of the grain in the leather used for the binding.”  It seems intended to be used for bibles with flexible covers. I appreciate O’Rivas sensitivity to preserving the beauty of the grain, which makes me think he came out of an arts and crafts background, rather than from the trade, who favored a very highly polished leather surface which made tooling easier.  

This invention created a very smooth looking corner while preserving the natural grain and covered the puckering of the leather when it was pleated over the rounded edge.  Possibly the leather could be left a bit thicker than a standard rounded corner.  The overlapping layers of flexible board would also add some strength at this critical place.

It would be very interesting to find an example of this corner, I’ve never noticed one. Flexible board bibles like these tended to get carried back and forth to church every Sunday, and even if they were not read a lot, 19th C. ones are not as common as the ubiquitous large, illustrated Victorian Bible, for example. It seems it would be very difficult to enforce this kind of patent, especially if another binder had seen one of these and tried to copy it.  But perhaps the patent was to protect the inventors idea against more large scale publishing house infringement. In this drawing, the grain pattern of the leather makes it seem like some kind of reptile skin, or other exotic such as shagreen.  These types of leather are difficult to turn in neatly, let alone mold around a rounded corner.

 

Given the 1500 year history of the codex structure, to come up with something new, for something as basic as a corner, is genius.  Except for hand held bibles, rounded corners are rather out of fashion these days, as are large squares, but if someone makes one of these, please send me a photo.  I imagine this could also work with cloth, although I haven’t tried it.  The cut edge of cloth along the curve could be vulnerable to wear, fraying and delamination.  It might work better with paper. Hats off to O’Riva!  

Ligatus

Ligatus was launched last night in the UK, and should grow in the next few months.  The site contains a lot of information on the St. Catherine’s Project, and was put together by Nicholas Pickwoad.  The detail of the recording forms is admirable, and the project important.  If you can understand what XML is, please let me know.

Leave it to Beaver

 

I found this stick while I was walking in upstate New York, and was amazed. It is remarkable how close the beaver came to eating all the bark and cambium, without biting too deeply into the sapwood, which are the slightly rougher areas. The marks reminded me of a David Pye bowel– using a hand placed gouge as an example of “workmanship of risk”. But this was teeth/paw/eye corrodination.

This stick is not craft, because craft is a learned human activity. This stick is the left over activity from a meal, the bones of a beaver brunch.   If this stick were used by the animal for some purpose, we might consider it a tool, if shaping enhanced its use.  Could we consider non-purposeful shaping a kind of animal art?

An average sized beaver is about 60 lbs. They can swim underwater for 25 minutes, and eat through a 5 inch diameter willow tree in about 3 minutes. To chew, they hold the stick in their front paws, much like we hold corn on the cob. The stick below was about 2 inches in diameter.  Look at those crisp bites through the endgrain.  

 

I started thinking how many tools I would need to replicate this stick– a somewhat dull chisel to get the bark off, a small gouge for the cross grain slices,  a curved bowel adz to slice the endgrain.  I would most likely have to make a miniature scrub plane to get this high degree of regulation on the surface.  And even with these tools, I doubt I could do such a good job. And it would take me much, much longer. 

I realize that teeth are not tools, and that a beaver is not a craftsman.

But looking at this stick reminds me that the skillful use of simple tools is an efficient, beautiful expression of craft.

 

 

 

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