Boudoir Libraries, 1855- 2011

New-York Quarterly, Vol. 4, Issue 1-2, 1855 (p. 4).

I was interested to find that ‘instant libraries’ go back at least to 1855. The Strand Bookstore, here in NYC  is still doing it, selling books by the foot, and lists Steven Spielberg (surprising) and Ralph Lauren Polo (not so surprising) as clients. At least in 1855 there was a pretense that the content of the books mattered a bit (“the best authors”) whereas in 2011 it is just the appearance (“antique leather books”) that matters, although the Strand does offer subject specific books by the foot for intellectually discerning decorators.  Inflation alert: Currently, Neiman Marcus has a 250 volume instant library for $125,000 in their ‘Christmas Book’, and a Boing Boing article about this Hideous Bespoke Library with Pre-Selected Books: $125,000.

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

Upcoming Events In June

If you are in the New England area, consider attending the Book Arts Supply Market.

Book Arts Supply Market
June 7th, 2009
Arlington Center for the Arts
41 Foster Street
Arlington, MA

I will be there with a full range of tools for sale, including the infamous bargain box, which is quite full right now.

I also have prototypes of some new tools I am working on, for example, a portable, collapsible sewing frame that only weighs 1 lb, 12.4 oz (804 grams) including 5 Al sewing keys.  It is 11 3/8″ (290 mm) between the uprights and packs flat at only 1 1/8″ (30 mm).  Rubber feet keep it from sliding around on the workbench.

portable sewing frame

Also I have a reproduction of the boxed set of knives I made for Abraham Karastovsky, which I wrote about earlier and were featured in the book “Homicide in Hardcover.”

ak knives

Please stop by and say hello!




I will be presenting the following talk in NYC on Sunday, June 21 at 3:00.  Please feel free to repost and contact me if there are any questions.  I also have a half sheet flyer I can email anyone who would like to post it.  I envision this talk as a type of outreach, since it contains information about book history and conservation.    It should be a lot of fun.




 Sunday, June 21 at 3:00 pm at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, NYC.

 The Free Skool at the University of Trash announce an Jeffrey S.  Peachey’s presentation titled “The Obsolete Man and the Obsolete Book?” The University of Trash is an experiment in alternative architecture, urbanism, and pedagogy taking place in SculptureCenter’s main space. Throughout the summer there will be a mix of workshops, screenings, and presentations focusing on grass roots, self-organized urbanism, DIY architecture and the evolving aesthetics and politics of public space.

Peachey will screen an original Twilight Zone, “The Obsolete Man”, present a short lecture, then lead a discussion based on some of the issues it raises. Peachey is the owner of a New York City-based studio for the conservation of books.  Because of his experience in examining and treating a wide variety of historic book structures, he is especially interested in how humans have interacted with the physical form of the book over the past 1,600 years, the importance of non-texual information and how the book has acquired such symbolic power.  The images of books in this episode form a locus for a variety of issues—authority, freedom, history, truth, the state, individuality, identity and conformity—that are explored in a classic Serlingesque manner.

 “I am nothing more than a reminder to you that you cannot destroy truth by burning pages.” Romney Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) declares when the Chancellor (Fritz Weaver) pronounces him obsolete, and then condemns him to death.  Wordsworth, a secret librarian, lives in a room not only surrounded by books, but virtually built out them.  Considering aspects of book conservation, Peachey will deliver a short lecture touching on some of the ideas explored in the film, looking at how books are displayed in Wordsworth’s apartment, commenting on the various book structures portrayed and linking these to themes presented in the episode. Models of several historic book structures will available for handling. Then some more general observations on the value of non-textual elements of books will be made, along with the challenges of conserving these elements.

 This will be followed by an open discussion.  Possible topics include questions about the supposed death of the codex; the importance of non-textual elements in books; books as physical expressions of authority; books as moving, portable hand held sculpture; books as democratic instruments; the display of books as externalized knowledge; hand interaction in reading; and most importantly, how closely is our culture inexorably linked with the history of the book.

 This event is free, and there is a $5 suggested donation to the museum.

 Jeff Peachey:


The University of Trash:

 Attendees are encouraged to preview the entire Twilight Zone episode at:


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