Homicide In Hardcover

Homicide in Hardcover ” is a new bibliophile murder mystery by Kate Carlisle.  The blurb on the back reads, “Brooklyn Wainwright is a skilled surgeon.  Sure, her patients might smell like mold and have spines made of leather, but no ailing book is going to die on her watch.”  Kate Carlisle has done our profession a huge favor by communicating to the general public some of the exciting things conservators do.  Of course there are many little inaccuracies, but it is a little too easy and unfair to nitpick about things that only those on the inside of conservation know. The most important point is that this book serves to raise our public profile in a reasonably accurate way; it even discusses minimal intervention and the importance of written and photographic documentation.

Amazingly this book also includes a reference to Peachey knives!  The protagonist, Brooklyn, and her arch-enemy, Minka, are sneaking around Abraham’s (a master restorer) studio fighting over who gets these knives, after he was found dead in a pool of blood.

“I’m just looking,” I said, and picked up a polished wood box with the initials “AK” engraved on the top.

Abraham’s personalized set of Peachey knives.

“I have dibs on those, ” she (Minka) said.  “Get your ditry meat hooks off them.”

I shook my head at her.  “You’re a pathetic thief.”

“Those are mine.”

“No, these belong to Abraham.”

She lunged for the box and I whipped my hand away.

“You’re such a bitch!”

“That may be true,” I said.  “But these still don’t belong to you.”

“He can’t use them and I found them first.”

My eyes widened.  I couldn’t help it. Her lack of a moral compass never failed to shock me.  “That dosen’t mean they belong to you..”

“God, I hate you,” she said through clenched teeth.  She swept the rest of her booty to her chest and stomped out. Then she turned back and glared at me. “I hope you die.”

“Back atcha,” I yelled after her.” (pp. 75-76)

I plan to make a set of these knives, in a polished wood box with the initals “AK” engraved on top.  Would this be considered theoretical product placement?  A real knife is the basis for a fictional one,  then the fictional knife is transformed into a real knife? 

This isn’t the kind of book I usually read, but I enjoyed it.  The  descriptions of bookbinders at work were realistic and there are a number of laugh out loud scenes.  And this book seems to resonate with the public:  “I always assumed that book-binding and restoration would be a dull, dry subject but the historical facts and bits of trivia sprinkled throughout this book were so fascinating that instead of being bored I found myself wanting to know more.”  “Who’d have thought book restoration could be so exciting?”   “Who knew leather and vellum could be so captivating?”  

 

Thanks to Marieka Kaye (and her open minded literary taste!) for bringing this to my attention.

The Shift From Mechanical to Adhesive and Beyond

19th-c

                                          Clark, Adam.  Christian Theology. New York: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837.

I always enjoy examining these 19th C. (or early 20th C.) book repairs where the board is sewn to the spine.  This example is fairly crude, but some can actually function fairly well.  This book is in my collection– I will preserve it as evidence of the history of book repair.  We might find this repair laughable, but it is fairly easily reversed, there is no glue to remove and it kept the boards from getting lost.  When the holes in the spine are staggered through a number of signatures, these repairs hold up fairly well, and if the paper drapes well and the spine is fairly flat, as in this example, all of the text is easily readable.  

 

sewn-board

 

sewn-board-2

 

This example is missing the title page and first 14 pages, but I think it is some kind of  Catholic devotional book. It is bound in typical early to mid 19th C. style and is quite small– 84 x 57 x 34 mm.   Of course, I am not advocating this as a type of repair a conservator would do today, but to me it represents a 19th C. common sense approach to the most common failure in book structure– detached boards.  This type of repair, fairly common in the US, might have served as impetus for joint tacketing or a literal “sewn-boards” binding. The upper board and lower board are sewn differently, the lower board like the previous example, but in the case of the upper board, the stitch runs into the edge of the board, which results in a decent opening.  The brown thread which matches the calf covering is doubled like sewing thread is.  Could this this have been done by a woman, and the previous “heavy duty” example done by a man?   

board-edge-drilling 

I have hypothesized elsewhere that there might be some kind of connection between early board attachments such as in the Book or Armagh, Romanesque lacing paths, and board slotting. The spine edge of a book board is a very tempting entry point in establishing mechanical attachment.  The strength, and relative noninvasiveness of board edge attachments make it an appealing treatment option, alleviating  the need for disruptive lifting of covering materials.  I have been experimenting with a new jig, pictured above, which holds a foredom drill at a precise angle, and has a depth stop, to accurately drill with wire gage drill bits, in order to drill a hole exactly the size of the thread used to reattach the board.  

 

                                            Advertisement from  Science and Mechanics, Vol. XVII, No. 6, 1946, p. 38.

By the mid 20th C., detached boards and other types of damage are more commonly fixed by tapes and adhesives, as the advertisement above suggests.   Unfortunately, I think I have seen this used on books. It ends up looking like a thick, completely inflexible amber mass of goop.  I think this glue is the kind I used to use as a kid when assembling plastic or balsa wood models.  The cap of this tube is unusual- it looks like a twisted loop of wire, perhaps used to pierce the top when opening?  Often the spine edge of the detached board is glued to the flyleaf to “fix” a detached board.

By the early 21st C.,in the general public, most ideas of repairing an object mechanically are gone, and most ideas of repairing an object by using adhesives are gone.  In fact, the idea of repair is almost gone.  We simply buy a new one, unless the book has some kind of exceptional value.  

The idea of a world where nothing is worn, nothing is fixed and everything is new frightens me.  How would one conserve an ebook reader? I’m sure books will exist for a very long time, but more as symbolic representations of learning and knowledge, not primarily as a source for  accessing a text.  This is why these primitive, vernacular repairs are so important for understanding a previous culture’s relationship to the books they used, treasured, repaired and read.

 

Bindery on Wheels

This is from Popular Mechanics, January 1933.  I guess we can take some comfort that in the depths of the Great Depression, this Iowa binder still had work!  The sewing frame has no lay cords, it looks like he is oversewing the pages and the job backer looks to be homemade, as the entire bindery is.  I wonder if he also slept in the truck.  I think it would be fun to be able to change the location of my studio at will, although I doubt I could work in a 7 x 12 foot space.

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