A Bookbinding is not a Picture Frame

“In point of fact, a stack of printed or handwritten sheets of paper does not become a book until it is bound. For this reason the binding cannot be seen apart from the book and differs therefore from the picture frame, with which it is sometimes compared but in which there is seldom any structural parallel with painting.” Jan Storm van Leeuwen [1]

Thinking of a book’s binding as something independent from “the book” as an entirety is a serious misconception. This raises some practical concerns:  if a book has been disbound, and perhaps remains disbound for the purposes of display, is it no longer a book? Does it now belong in a special category of the book; a disbound book? [2]   Much descriptive terminology adds similar qualifiers; an unbound book, a rebound book, etc…. A work of art remains a work of art if it is in its frame or not.  A textblock cannot just be taken out of its binding without radically altering its ontological status as a book.

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[1] Jan Storm van Leeuwen. Dutch Decorated Bookbinding in the Eighteenth Century, Volume 1: General Historical Introduction. Den Haag: Hes & De Graff, 2006. p. 41.

[2] The extreme of this might be the leaf book, a new book made  to highlight a single leaf from another book. There are a number of excellent essays, including one by a lawyer/ leaf book collector who considers ethics and international law in the catalog to the exhibition Disbound and Dispersed: The Leaf Book Considered. Chicago: The Caxton Club, 2005.

Book Jack

Many forms of book wedges are available for the reading room, ranging from the familiar Clarkson foam, wood ones, as well as some newer ideas from the At the Bench blog.  There are also many options for the safe display of books.  A third need — to secure books partially open while undergoing treatment and examination — seems to have been ignored, or commonly jerry rigged with weights and pressing boards as the need arises.

I developed the in-situ book conservation fixture to securely hold a textblock open while performing page repairs, working under magnification, media consolidation, etc. It is large and heavy, and can easily accommodate parchment textblocks.

The book jack is small, lightweight, and designed for use on the workbench. It quickly and easily adjusts from 15 to 60 degrees, locks securely into place by a built in handle, and provides a more rigid support than foam. This fixture that holds the book, or boards, open in a wide variety of positions to reduce strain while performing treatments.   The small size permits it to be used inside a book to work on board edges and corners. It can also be used to support a textblock upright when rebacking or humidifying warped vellum boards, although additional weights may be necessary to stabilize it.  I use this fixture constantly, from initial examination throughout the treatment.

The natural, translucent .25 inch thick polypropylene platens are lined with an easily replaceable .0625 inch thick closed cell polyethylene foam ( aka. Volara). The adjustment mechanism is 6061 T6 aluminum and a comfort grip handle, which has a lower profile than the platens at any angle, so that relatively large books can be supported.

Item#  BJ-1 $125.00 for one, or $225.00 pair

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