When did Guillotines for Bookbinding Start?

1834 Patent Model of a “Paper Trimmer”. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/patent-models-graphic-arts?page=1

Here is another gem from the Smithsonian Graphic Arts Model Collection, a very early — though not the first — guillotine for books or paper. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the US Patent Office in 1836, so this model is the only remaining record. Visually, it looks much more like the neck cutting variety rather than ones for book or paper cutting. The massive blade operates by gravity rather than a lever or flywheel; again, like the non-book styles. Similar to all the early guillotines is that the blade operates straight up and down.

It’s always a dangerous game to cite the earliest book you have seen that contains this or that evidence, since it often gets superseded. Nevertheless, the earliest book I have seen that contains incontrovertible guillotine marks (thanks to a very damaged blade) is this Harper’s publisher’s cloth binding from 1834 of “The Works of Mrs. Sherwood”. The machine had a clamp and operated straight up and down. The curvature to the marks resulted from tightly clamping and distorting the unbeaten bookblock when cutting, a feature which the patent model above lacks, and when it is released it springs back into its resting shape.

If you have earlier evidence let me know!

A Very Cool Patent Model Press

Patent Model Press. Source: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_998708

One of the best ideas for a standing press I’ve seen. The adjustable bottom platen solves a lot of problems for modern binders and conservators, that often are working on only one book at a time. It would alleviate the need to add heavy wood packing materials, and the lower platen could be positioned at a comfortable work height.

According to the patent description, “This patent model demonstrates an invention for a bookbinders standing press which was granted patent number 30243. The press has a platen, or upper follower, lowered in the usual way by an iron screw, and a bed, or lower follower, that was raised by a rack and pinion.” Patent date 2 October 1860, Pelletreau, Maltby K.

The ratchet would allow for tremendous pressure with short swings of the press pin, and were not uncommon for heavy duty presses in the 19th century.

Were any ever made? If so, I want one!

There are around 400 printing and binding patent models in the Smithsonian’s Graphic Arts Collection.



Copy Press Mounted on a Safe

Last week, I blogged about a scene from a movie depicting a copy press on top of a safe, and wondered if it was a way they were actually used in offices.  Darryn Schneider of DAS Bookbinding in Australia sent me this wonderful image he found from the State Library of Victoria. Bingo! Well, at least there is one documented example….

Copy press on top of a safe. Interior of  a railway office, ca. 1901-1940.  State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/38847