Five Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas for Bookbinders and Conservators, 2018

Peachey branded microfiber towel. $5.00. My first foray into merch! A stylish and practical way to show your support for Peachey Tools. This is a heavy duty, professional grade microfiber towel: 16 x 16 inches, 300+ gsm, 4-thread edge stitching, .1-.2 denier microfibers,  80% Polyester/ 20% Polyamide blend. Perfect for cleaning your knife and microfinishing film during sharpening, the floor, your cutting mat, and even removing excess grease from your nose. The dye sublimation printed logo seems durable on my sample, but it is not possible to have a super dense image on the three dimensional microfiber surface. The fibers fluff up over time: the towel in the image above was washed seven times. The great thing about microfibers is that they trap everything. The terrible thing about microfibers is that they trap everything, so the towel will turn grey over time, likely obscuring the logo anyway. But you will still know it is there! What could be a nicer gift for all your staff members, as well as a gentle reminder to keep things clean? They should be in stock December 11 at Peachey Tools.

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Seal Skin Thimble. You can cut the strap a bit more to fit larger fingers.

Seal Skin Thimble.  $5.00.  A fantastic tool. Much more comfortable than a metal thimble. I purchased this one in an antique store in Adamstown, Pennsylvania, then a quick google search confirmed it is a traditional Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic craft object. The images of them are remarkably consistent, almost identical. For example, they all have a length of thread holding the crimping in place at the tip, and a clever slit that functions as a finger attachment. The seal skin is rawhide (?), stiff enough to resist a needle head puncture, and the fur is a comforting joy to stroke if your sewing is not going well. It also makes a great finger puppet, though this can be a warning sign you have been working alone a bit too long. Available from Quilted Raven Alaska.

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Londonderry Linen Lacing Thread. Wonderfully soft and not tightly twisted, just like older threads.

Londonderry Lacing Linen Thread, Size 4.  $7.00.  I love this thread. Seriously. I can sew *almost* everything with it. it is perfect for joint tacketing or sewing extensions during board reattachment. Since it is loosely plied, it is easy to flatten it out inside a gathering to minimize swell. Check out this naturally packed sewing.  A loaded stick also helps to control sewing. The soft thickness of this thread gently supports weak or brittle paper. Mary Uthuppuru, proprietor of Colophon Book Arts Supply, is a wonderful, kind, knowledgeable supplier, a true pleasure to do business with. Available in from Colophon Book Arts Supply.

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Shop Knife. I’ve used this one for a number of years and altered the handle for comfort.

Shop Knife Style “F”. $13.84. This is a knife that I use dull. It is a perfect size and shape right out of the box for cleaning spines and other general scraping tasks. Where it really excels is for marking binders board for boxmaking: the tip is just the right angle, and a knife mark is much more accurate than even a .3mm mechanical pencil. It is easy to carve the handle a bit to make it more comfortable, especially where the blade transitions to the handle. Available from McMaster-Carr.

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Delrin Hera. $40.00.  I know what you are thinking. $40? Inexpensive? Please allow me to explain. This tool is so useful that you will end up using it constantly. For example, it is great to gently pry some material for lifting, lift a page to turn it, insert adhesive under a detaching fragment, hold down something for photography, score tissue before dry tearing, and so on. You might like it so much you will keep it with you even when you are not working. Seriously, I use this tool at least an hour a day when doing conservation work. Therefore if you use it an hour a day, for 300 days a year, for 30 years, it only costs 4 thousandths of a cent per hour. Inexpensive or dirt cheap?!  Available from Peachey Tools.

 

A Very Long Tool Roll. And Fantastic Students at The Conservation of Leather Bookbindings Workshop, Emory University.

A very, very, very long tool.

Soyeon Choi, aka. Cat Lady, brought the longest tool roll I’ve ever seen to The Conservation of Leather Bindings Workshop last week at Emory University. It is over 42 inches long and has 16 pockets, each of them stuffed full. Soyeon made it out of cotton fabric. Yet it was not large enough to house all her travel tools, so she brought an additional smaller red one, which is partially visible in the image above. It is always fun to geek out over the tools everyone brings.

In contrast, a “large” tool roll from Highland Hardware of Atlanta is a modest 21 inches in length. It was great to finally visit Highland, BTW, and I bought a gorgeous Auriou hand-cut woodworking rasp there.

Kim Norman, Head of Conservation, and the consummate Emory Conservation Lab crew made this workshop fly. But the best thing about it were the students. Because everyone came with substantial experience in bookbinding, and brought different books with different problems, the discussions were amazing, thoughtful, informative, and filled with practical information. Everyone benifited from thinking about the books others brought, as well as working on their own.

Plans are already in the works to repeat this workshop, which will be announced here.

At the end of week long workshops, I ask the students to vote for a class member who they feel deserves a prize, and explain why. Soyeon Choi won overwhelmingly, for asking pertinent questions, and she added a pair of small bone folders designed for making headcaps to her already overstuffed tool roll.

Payne, Pots, and Bills

Portrait of Roger Payne.  Source: Recent Antiquarian Acquisitions, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. A huge version of this is image is available at: https://lewiswalpole.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/rogerus-payne-2/

I suppose most bookbinders are familiar with this depiction of Roger Payne.  I first encountered it as Plate 59 in Edith Diehl’s Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique, which was the second book on bookbinding I read in 1988. The scene is often referred to as a “dingy garret”,  though to be fair, many slightly later depictions of binderies, ca. 1830’s, are in a similar state, with cracked plaster, dirty looking walls, etc….

There is something appealing about the scene, a locus of honest, if impecunious, craft. His timid, almost mouselike  glance conveys an earnestness. He seems weak, leaning on a book in press to support his thin frame. The press tub itself is so dinky I can’t imagine using it to back a book — how would the press itself stay stable on it? The book on the press is also in an  odd position. It is difficult to believe a binder would press down on the spine like this, when the book is only supported by the foreedge boards. There are other oddities. Why are there books lying on the floor? Why is he wearing slippers and torn pants? Should we chalk it up to the artistic imagination of the artist who drew him?

And what are in the three pots that have spoons or brush handles sticking out of them? Are they barley broth pots as one theory advances, which he was supposedly fond of? Or are they glue pots?  The one in the brightly burning fire would likely be too hot and ruin the glue. The one on the mantle might be a good temperature to actually use. Could the one in the window be kept cool for storage? Or, again, are we back to speculating about an artist’s imagination.

We do have actual evidence of Payne and his work, found in the books he bound, and his invoices, written in his own hand, and very detailed for the time.

Handwritten bill from Roger Payne, The Morgan Library and Museum. # MA 3889.

There is a collection of 35 of them bound together at the Morgan Library and Museum. Accession Number: MA 3889, Unfortunately, they are separated from the books that he bound.  What a loss! There are a number of Payne’s bindings in the Morgan’s collection.

While they do not reveal the mystery of his pots, they do reveal a kind and conscientious bookbinder, as in the above bill.  He mentions reducing the price by one days work because he wasn’t happy with the quality of the result.

His bindings are beautiful, with his often lauded tooling, carefully handled straight grain morocco, and often exceedingly thin boards that are invariably dead flat even today. He is still a role model!