An Investigation of Seventeenth Century English Bookbinding Tools in Randle Holme’s  “Academy of Armory” to be presented at The Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence 2021 Online Conference October 9

I’m making great progress on my bookbinding tool presentation. But I need a longer title….

Randle Holme’s 1688 Academy of Armory contains the only known images of seventeenth century English bookbinding tools. It has been almost forgotten in bookbinding literature, and wasn’t included in Pollard and Potter’s standard reference, Early Bookbinding Manuals: An Annotated List of Technical Accounts of Bookbinding to 1840. Holme describes six essential tools: a folder, a beating hammer, a needle, a sewing frame, a lying press, and a plough. The relationship between actual books of the time and the tools used to make them will be explored in this presentation. A demonstration of reproduction folding sticks — and a discussion of the difficulties in deciphering extant evidence of them — will end the session.

It only costs $79 to attend the entire conference. This includes the opening reception for the WILD/LIFE exhibition, Peter Verheyen on fish-skin in bookbinding, Karen Hanmer on an even more simplified binding, Radha Pandey on Indo-Islamic papermaking, and a roundtable discussion on exhibiting books. I hope to see some familiar faces there, in little squares.

Register here for this online event!

If you can’t attend the conference, or are thirsting for more information concerning Randle Holme and 17th c. bookbinding tools, an article will soon be published in The New Bookbinder 41.

New Tool for Sale: The Kaschtoir

If you have never heard of a kaschtoir, you are not alone. The term is a portmanteau coined by Peter Verheyen. The kaschtoir is a backing tool; a combination of a German kaschiereisen and a French frottoir. More about the kaschiereisen here, and more about the frottoir here. This tool combines the most useful aspects of each.

A stainless steel Kashtoir

The kaschiereisen end has small teeth, which help to move the sewn, rounded bookblock into to a backed position. The froittoir end has a gentle smooth curve, which also can help move a bookblock into position, in addition to smoothing out irregularities and trueing raised bands. Two for the price of one!

If you are tired of deforming your spine into double folds with a hammer, or deforming your fingers hand manipulating your spine into shape, this may be the tool for you. Fits comfortably in one or two hands. The stainless steel is safe for contact even with historic bookblocks. The edges are very comfortably rounded, and the froittoir end is polished to make clean up easy.

I reproduced the gentle curve on the Frottoir from examples in my historic collection. This tool is not a die meant to exactly shape a spine to its curvature. A gentle curve is much more useful for a range of round spine shapes, smoothing irregularities, smushing sewing threads, etc… . The teeth can be cleaned of adhesive with a stiff brush. This tool is quite heavy, and the weight allows you to easily persuade even hard modern paper into the shape you desire with little effort.

304 stainless steel. Approximately 6 x 2 x .5 inch (15 x 5 x 1.25cm). Weighs about 1 lb. 5 oz (600 grams).

Order your Kaschtoir here!

When did Guillotines for Bookbinding Start?

1834 Patent Model of a “Paper Trimmer”. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/patent-models-graphic-arts?page=1

Here is another gem from the Smithsonian Graphic Arts Model Collection, a very early — though not the first — guillotine for books or paper. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the US Patent Office in 1836, so this model is the only remaining record. Visually, it looks much more like the neck cutting variety rather than ones for book or paper cutting. The massive blade operates by gravity rather than a lever or flywheel; again, like the non-book styles. Similar to all the early guillotines is that the blade operates straight up and down.

It’s always a dangerous game to cite the earliest book you have seen that contains this or that evidence, since it often gets superseded. Nevertheless, the earliest book I have seen that contains incontrovertible guillotine marks (thanks to a very damaged blade) is this Harper’s publisher’s cloth binding from 1834 of “The Works of Mrs. Sherwood”. The machine had a clamp and operated straight up and down. The curvature to the marks resulted from tightly clamping and distorting the unbeaten bookblock when cutting, a feature which the patent model above lacks, and when it is released it springs back into its resting shape.

If you have earlier evidence let me know!