To a Bookbinder. A Nineteenth Century Valentine

Everybody’s Valentine Writer. New Castle on Tyne: Printed and Published by R. Walker, ca. 1850 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/before-the-valentine-card

To a Bookbinder:

Of all the great knaves, and of all the great fools

That ever yet handled a bookbinder’s tools;

Of all the big boobies that ere met my view–

Thou lank-haired and crooked-backed ninny, ’tis thou

Oh, well may the maidens all giggle and laugh.

To see such a carcase well bound up in calf,

Oh! Believe me, for ever and ever you’ll whine, 

Ere you press to pour chops a gay young Valentine.

Everybody’s Valentine Writer was a nineteenth century self-help book of sorts, to assist smitten romantics overcome stressful Valentine’s Day writer’s block. Some of the messages were quite targeted, even tailored to those in specific trades like bookbinding. There is another mid-nineteenth century valentine about a bookbinder with a wild image that I wrote about a few years ago. Both of these “vinegar valentines” share a common theme: bookbinders are undesirable foolish losers. Happy Valentine’s day, my dearest bookbinder colleagues!

Thanks to John Townsend for sending me to this Valentine!

FREE ONLINE EVENT: Cary Summer Research Fellowship Roundtable, December 15, 12-1 ET

Image courtesy The Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT, 2020.

If the idea of spending a month at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection of Rochester Institute of Technology — home to the incomparable Bernard C. Middleton Collection of Books on Bookbinding — quickens your pulse and makes your hands sweat, first you should wash your hands before even thinking about handling these rare materials.

Then, you should find out more about a fellowship opportunity during this upcoming roundtable discussion. I’ll briefly discuss Edward Walker’s The Art of Book-Binding…, 1850.

Each summer, the Cary Graphic Arts Collection hosts a scholar for a one-month summer research fellowship. Join us to learn more about this unique research opportunity as applications are due on January 15th. Curator Steven Galbraith will provide information and join former Cary Fellows Dori Griffin, Jeff Peachey, Shani Avni, and Robert Gordon-Fogelson for a casual discussion, who will share some of their experiences and exciting discoveries.

December 15, 2020, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET. Zoom

Register here at least 24 hours in advance. Open to all.

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!