An Unusual Bookbinder’s Roll for Dictionary Tabs

Bookbinder’s Roll. J. Marks maker mark.
There are 12 letters on the roll. Note the “A” has been repaired or replaced.

A few years ago, I picked up this roll, and I am still not completely sure what it was for.  I’m pretty sure is for tooling cut out leather thumb tabs, which would then be glued to the book.

It contains the letter sequence “A – C – E – G – I – L – N – P – R – T – W – Y” The makers mark is “J. MARKS”.  Tom Conroy’s Bookbinders’ Finishing Tool Makers places this English company between 1868 – 1901. He also mentions there are no marks known, so this will be an entry for the revised and enlarged edition. No marks for J. Marks! Tom would love it, since he also wrote a book of humorous bookbinding verse. If you enjoy reading this blog, you will love both of his books.

The letters were hand cut on the double yoked wheel, which must have taken incredible skill so that they ended up essentially even in height.  The “A” was repaired or replaced at some point, and soldered into place. All the letters are quite worn.

The dealer I purchased this from cleaned it up and polished it, more than I would have liked. Cleaning is irreversible!

Conservation Tools at the 2019 AIC Annual Meeting, May 14 – 18, 2019.

Some tools popular with book and paper conservators.

I’ll be attending the annual AIC (American Institute of Conservation) meeting at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.  If you are interested in taking a look at any of the conservation and bookbinding tools I make, please let me know and I’ll bring some examples.  I will be there May 14 — 18.

Some items popular with book and paper conservators include: the modified 151 spokeshave for paring leather (top), 2-inch triangle and bookbinder’s pliers (middle), and (l – r) A2 leather Swiss style knife, 8 inch Delrin lifter, Delrin folder, Delrin hera, and the set of lifting knives.

Contact me to arrange a meeting, or look for me at a low stakes Blackjack table.

Bookbinder’s Pliers

The Bookbinder’s Pliers. It securely holds commonly used bookbinding needles.

When sewing books or endbands, it is sometimes helpful to grip the needle with a pliers in order to position it or increase leverage. Standard pliers do not grip a needle securely, and the jaws are the wrong shape for these types of manipulations. Precise needle control is also essential in book conservation, for in-situ resewing of loose signatures, endband reinforcement, and various types of board reattachment. If you have ever had to pierce a parchment spine lining, you will likely understand the purpose of these pliers immediately. These pliers are also great for removing staples.

The Bookbinder’s Pliers. Fits needle sizes from 24 gauge (.020″) to 12 gauge (.104″) The massive 12 gauge needle on the right is an antique John James, labeled bookbinders needle. Possibly it was intended for sawn-in cords?

The Bookbinder’s Pliers have a small groove cut near the tip, which securely grip needle sizes from 24 to 12 gauge. (.020″ – .104″)  Note that 18 and 15 gauge needles are most common in bookbinding, though conservators may need smaller sizes for specialized tasks.

The Bookbinder’s Pliers holding a 24 gauge needle. Tip: always sew with needles that have eyes the same size as the shaft to prevent an excessively large hole in the paper.

The jaws are ground to .375″, which is wide enough to leverage and guide the needle through stubborn materials, but narrow enough to get close to the work. All edges of the pliers are rounded to prevent potential damage to the book and the user.

The Bookbinder’s Pliers fitting comfortably in the hand.

Made of stainless steel, this precision tool fits comfortably in the hand. The pliers have a box joint to apply even pressure. About 4.5″ long. You will wonder how you ever worked without these.

Purchase your Bookbinder’s Pliers here.