The Holloway Reading Stand and Dictionary Holder

Chela Metzger recently found this very cool Victorian reading stand during a conservation project and agreed to guest blog about it.  It is almost robotic in its complexity.  There is a link to other trade catalogs digitized by the Winterthur near the bottom of this post and they can be browsed by keyword. Chela is Conservator of Library Collections, Winterthur Museum, Delaware.  Recently, she published a review of Julia Miller’s ‘Books Speak Plain’ in Bonefolder Extras.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

In honor of the long lineage of reading “devices” meant to make everything about reading easier and better, I would like to showcase the late 19th century Holloway reading stand and dictionary table. As the trade catalog’s longer title notes, this reading stand has a “dictionary holder, book rest, lamp stand and writing table”.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

The reading stand company notes that scholars and writers will find the stands of “great convenience”. While I doubt the stand could handle one of the truly behemoth unabridged single volume dictionaries found in the US by 1914.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

I do think the reading stand would adapt well to the laptop environment, and could hold food, drink and a favorite novel at the same time. And, I suppose, a reasonably sized dictionary as well. One reading stand adapted to a reader reclining on a couch is mentioned as a useful tool for the invalid, and for those who like to read while resting. The catalog notes : “Readers and thinkers are not lazy people. Anything that will conserve their physical strength is useful.” Cleary a pre-diet/exercise world statement. And pre carpel-tunnel symdrome.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

Finally, one option is to include a gold bronze chess board with your reading stand. Note that the chess board can also support a dictionary if needed. Clearly our generation is not the first to multi-task.

I came across this wonderful catalog as part of the conservation work for the Winterthur Library’s ongoing Internet Archive project to digitize our extraordinary trade catalog collection. For a glimpse at an ongoing digitization of trade catalogs at the Winterthur library, please see:



NK2265 H74 TC Winterthur Library, Winterthur Delaware

Holloway Co. (Cuyahoga, Ohio)

The Holloway reading stand and dictionary holder: combining a dictionary holder, book rest, lamp stand and writing table

Variant title: Century Dictionary case: made expressly for holding the six volumes of the New Century Dictionary

Buffalo, N.Y.: The Company, [ca. 1892] (Buffalo: Press of Gies & Co.)

Thanks Chela!  Email: cmetzger[at]winterthur[dot]org

Sharpening on a Book on Sharpening

Most bookbindings function as protection for the text contained within.  This, however, is a bookbinding that also functions as a strop. I rebound Ron Hock’s The Perfect Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers in reverse calf in order to make it work as a not-so-fine binding/ strop.  This book is one of the best on sharpening, containing an excellent overall assortment of information.  It is loaded with practical advice, overviews of the various sharpening systems and informative photos.  I recommend it as a textbook to accompany the sharpening workshops I teach.

Anyway, this was the first time I constructed a reverse calf binding– the paring took a bit more time since most of the strength of the leather (hair side) was cut away, and the caps were a bit tricky to form. The book was sewn on 5 quarter inch linen tapes, the edges decorated with Golden Fluid Acrylics chromium oxide green mixed with airbrush medium and Staedtler Karat water-soluble  pencils, and the endbands simply sewn in purple silk over a cord core.  The front cover was coated with a .5 micron chromium oxide honing compound, for preliminary stropping, the back left bare for a final polish.  It will be interesting to see how it looks in a couple of months when the metal particles start to build up.

Perfect Binding

This is a brand new $26.95 hardcover book.  The very first time I opened it, the first 30 pages or so separated from the super and kraft spine lining. I’m quite accustomed to carefully handling delicate structures, so this totally surprised me. As you can see, there is barely a trace of adhesive residue on the super. I can only guess that after the spine was glued up, there was a delay, or a bad batch of glue that applied the super and  spine lining. I hope this is just a production error, or fluke.

Gary Frost , in Paper Book: BookNote #12 wrote, “Ultimately, paper books will persist as long as they exemplify a performance standard that electronic text media must achieve.”  If this book is any indication of the performance standard of currently produced  paper books, the electronic textual future could be nearer than I ever thought possible.

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