Paper Knives

The celluloid paper knife below  is a late 19th or early 20th century and  issued as advertising from the A.N. Kellogg Newspaper Company.  I’m confused about distinctions between paper knives, letter openers, page turners and even bone folders.  Neither Etherington or Glaister define their differences, and a few quick internet searches seem to lead to antique dealers selling Victorian versions.  So here is my first attempt at a definition: a paper knife is a large, special purpose type of bone folder, usually with a distinct handle and sharp blade.  It is often made from wood, bone, ivory or celluloid.  It is shaped to allow the user to rapidly slit paper folds.

The marking on the blade  reads “Proprietors of Kellogg’s lists established 1865″.  Kellogg’s list was a compilation of  ” Family weekly newpapers of a better class”  with price lists for advertising.  The proprietors seem quite savvy with marketing- note the book Google  scanned was donated by the publishers to Harvard College Library in 1897.  The surface of the celluloid contains a grain like structure, presumably in order to resemble bone or horn.  When a new material is introduced, it often contains superficial decoration to make it appear more like the original material, this is called a skeuomorph.  Book structures contain many examples of these as well– artificially grained leather, stuck on endbands, fake raised bands, etc….

 

paper-knife

 

pear-paper-knife

I didn’t want to damage the original, so I made a reasonably accurate reproduction out of Swiss pearwood.  When testing the knife, one feature immediately became apparent due to the gentle curve.  It is possible to use the knife to slit a fold moving towards the left, as illustrated below, or moving it forward with the top edge of the knife. It is not so comfortable for folding, if you are holding the handle, since it is so long and the edges are quite sharp, which also supports my hypothesis that this is a single purpose professional knife, and not a general purpose folder. Whoever used it must have had pre-folded sheets. Given the overall length of 12″, I wondered if it was intended as an in house distribution for the various press rooms that were part of the Kellogg empire.  I am unclear why the end of the handle is so pointed– it seems potentially dangerous– did it have some special purpose, or was it supposed to resemble the end of an horn?  In the original, the handle is chipped at the very tip, possibly it was used to open packages?

Paper knives must have been fairly popular, an introductory text for woodworking has making one as a project, although it looks rather crude and slightly dangerous, with the sharp angles.

10-paper-knife-119

              Schwartz, Everett. Sloyd Educational Trainning Manual . N.P.:Educational Publishing Company, 1893.

The rounded handle on this model seemed more comfortable than the one I made, but there are similarities in the shape of the curve and overall length and width.  If I am recalling my mechanical drawing class from High School correctly, it seems the sharp edge of the knife is only on the top of the drawing, which suggests it would be used by pushing forward. The text, in six succinct sentences, describes the fabrication of this knife.  I’m always impressed by the level of common sense that is presumed in 19th C. and earlier manuals, and by the familiarity with the full range of woodworking tools, from  axe to scraper. Contrast this with a current Utube video tutorial which demonstrates how to apply beeswax to linen thread!

“Have the pupil cut from a 1-2” board a piece 2″ x 11″. With the use of axe, plane, tenon-saw and knife prepare an oblong 9-32″ x 1 9-16″ x 9 1-8″. Place drawing upon one of the sides and with the use of tenon and turning-saws cut to within 1-16″ of the line. Cut with the knife and file up to lines. Round and sharpen edges according to drawing. Finish with file, scraper and sand-paper.” (Schwartz, Project 10)

The coolest paper knife I have found is this patented combo paper knife (C), shears, eraser (D), paper folder (E) and seal (F).  This is supposed to combine all the tools a librarian or clerk normally uses into one, convenient package.  Today, we would likely call the “eraser” a scraper.  I can’t see how the paper folder could be used without grasping the sharp edge of “C”, though the patent says all the functions can be used without interfering with the each other.

scissors

 

A close second is the combined paper knife (c), ink-eraser (a), rubber or pencil eraser (b), twine cutter (D), ruler (C), envelope opener (G), pen-knife (B), newspaper-wrapper opener (H) and hang hole (I). The patent notes the handle (C) can be made of ivory, bone, metal, wood or any other suitable material.

opener

 

Any images of other paper knives, or information on how they were used, or images of them in use would be greatly appreciated.

Montefiascone Project 2009

Yours truly is teaching Week 3, Aug. 10-14.
Flights are fairly reasonable right now....
Hope to see you there!

MONTEFIASCONE PROJECT
SUMMER 2009

Montefiascone is a small medieval walled city about 100 k (80 miles)
north of Rome, on Lake Bolsena. Since 1988 conservators and others
interested in books and their history have come together to work, to
learn and to enjoy this special place. The summer 2009 programme is as
follows:

Week 1:  July 27th-31st
Re-creating the medieval Palette
Through illustrated lectures, participants will examine the story of
colour in medieval times. The class will address the history, geography,
chemistry and iconographic importance, and the actual techniques of
colour manufacture, with special reference to manuscript painting. Using
original recipes, participants will make and paint out the colours. No
previous experience is necessary.
Course tutor: Cheryl Porter

Week 2: August 3rd-7th
Multi-quire, wooden boarded codex from Egypt
The multi-quire, wooden boarded codex from Egypt is a small family of
bindings that structurally predate the familiar sewn through the fold,
laced on wooden board, leather covered binding of later eras. The model
made in this class is based on a reconstruction by Charles Lamacraft,
restorer at the British Museum in the early decades of the 20th c. In
1925, a ceramic jar was uncovered in Egypt containing 5 parchment
codices dating to the 6th c. AD.  Two of the five had bare wood boards,
stamped leather spines and multiple leather slips laced through the
boards (with no connection to the unsupported  sewing) leather wrapping
bands terminating in large, decorated bone slips to secure the bands and
a large decorative bookmarker.
Charles Lamacraft studied these early bindings and published an early
analysis and photographs of them.  He made at least 2 models of the book
structure based on the fairly complete but fragmented pieces of the
bindings.  One was for Chester Beatty, who purchased 3 of the ancient
books, and now resides in the Chester Beatty Library and another for
Prof. Kelsey of the University of Michigan who
purchased the other 2 remaining manuscripts in the jar. Kelsey's model
resides in the Rare Book Room of the University of Michigan Library.
Course tutor: Pamela Spitzmueller

Week 3: August 10th-14th
Late 18th century French Binding Structures
Apart from the French Revolution, one of the most exciting aspects of
late 18th C. French culture is the existence of two full-length
bookbinding manuals. This workshop will focus on reconstructing a
typical full calf French structure of this time period, by comparing and
contrasting the descriptions in these manuals and examining extant
bindings.  In some respects, this structure is the end of 1,200 years of
utilitarian leather binding- 50 years later the cloth case begins to
predominate. Some of the interesting features of this style include:
sewing on thin double cords; edges trimmed with a plough in-boards and
colored; double core endbands, vellum “comb” spine liners and
sprinkled cover decoration. Special emphasis will be placed on using
reproductions of period tools, constructed from Dudin and  Diderot’s
Encylopedie (1751-1780).  Participants will learn to use and maintain a
plough, and become fluent in translating written descriptions of
bookbinding into the construction of a model.  Extensive notations (in
English) on Gauffecourt’s Traite de la Relieure des Livres (1763) and
Dudin’s L’Art du Relieur-doreur de Livres (1772) will be provided.
Basic bookbinding skills are a prerequisite and materials will be
supplied at a nominal cost.
Course tutor: Jeff Peachey

Week 4: August 17th-21st
Ethiopian Bindings Workshop
This five day course is aimed at conservators interested in the history
of the book. The course will give an introduction to the history of
Ethiopian Bindings. Through a series of practical demonstrations and
exercises, participants will gain an understanding of the construction
of an Ethiopian binding within a cultural and historical context.
There will be an introductory lecture on Ethiopian Bindings, placing
them in the context of the history and development of book structures.
This will be followed by practical workshops focusing on:
Preparation of text block and wooden boards.
Sewing the text block and boards.
Endband construction and covering in leather.
Embossing leather with replica tools
The making of a traditional leather carrying pouch with camel skin
Participants will be required to bring some hand tools, a list will be
provided following registration. All materials will be supplied at a
nominal cost. Some knowledge of the history of bookbinding would be
desirable but is not essential.
Tutors: John Mumford / Caroline Checkley-Scott

Cheryl Porter is Manager of Conservation and Preservation at the
Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation and Deputy Director of the Project.  She
has been Director of the Montefiascone Project since its inception in
1988. After graduating from Camberwell College of Arts and Crafts, she
worked with the Paintings Analysis Unit at University College London
analysing the use of pigments in manuscripts. From 1992 to 2007 she
worked as a freelance conservator. She has published many articles
concerning colour in manuscripts and has lectured in the USA, Australia
and throughout Europe. 

Pamela Spitzmueller is Needham Chief Conservator for Special
Collections at the Weissman Preservation Center in the Harvard
University Libraries.  Pam previously headed Rare Book Conservation at
the University of Iowa Libraries, worked as Book Conservator at the
Library of Congress, and the Newberry Library in Chicago.   She
specializes in historical book structures and book sewing techniques,
and incorporates what she learns into conservation treatments of rare
books and creation of one of a kind artists' books. She has taught many
workshops on these topics.

Jeffrey S. Peachey is the owner of a New York City-based studio for the
conservation of books the maker of conservation tools and machines. He
is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation
and chair emeritus of the Conservators In Private Practice. For more
than 15 years, he has specialized in the conservation of books and paper
artifacts for institutions and individuals. A consultant to major
libraries and university collections in the New York City region and
nationally, he has been the recipient of numerous grants to support his
work. A well-known teacher, Peachey also provides conservation-focused
guidance to students in art, archives, and bookbinding programs.  

John Mumford is the currently head of Manuscript Conservation at the
Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation. He was formally Head of Book
Conservation at the British Library.  John served a five year
apprenticeship at the British Museum and subsequently helped establish
the Rare and Early Book Conservation Studio at the British Library. In
1992 he was appointed manager of the Oriental and India Office Book
Conservation Studio, furthering his study of early Oriental and Eastern
binding structures. In 1998 he became manager of the Oriental and
Eastern Book Conservation Studio at the new British Library at St
Pancras. He has taught frequently in Montefiascone and lectured and run
workshops throughout the UK, Argentina, Patmos and many other European
locations.

Caroline Checkley-Scott is currently head of Collection Care at the
John Ryland’s Library. Caroline, studied printing and bookbinding in
Dublin, Ireland. She was appointed trainee book conservator at the
British Library, London in 1991, where she worked at the House of Lords
in the Palace of Westminster, and the Oriental and India Office Library
and Records. Here she specialised in the conservation of early Christian
manuscripts from the Middle East. Caroline was formally head of
Conservation at the Wellcome Library and organised the planning and
design of the new Wellcome Conservation Studios. She is an accredited
member of the Institute of Paper Conservation. She has lectured both
nationally and internationally in Italy, Slovenia, Argentina and
Brazil.

The cost of the classes is: 445 British pounds  ($640 US, 500 Euro) per
week and includes all tuition(which is in English) and (most) materials.
The Montefiascone Project is a not-for-profit organization, and all
extra monies are used to finance the cataloguing and the conservation
and preservation of the collection.
For further information or to register for one week or more, please
contact Cheryl Porter: chezzaporter(at)yahoo(dot)com . More information is on
the website: www.monteproject.com

Board Shear Blade: Up or Down

Perhaps on of the most ingrained and contentious habits of bookbinders and conservators is if the leave the blade of the board shear up or down.  Once you are in the habit of leaving it one way of the other, it is virtually impossible to change.  So if you use a board shear please take a second to fill out the poll below and the results will be immediately calculated.  I realize this is perhaps not the most important topic I could be thinking about, but the new poll option was introduced this week on wordpress, so I guess this is a good example of how technology drives and influences content.

THE ARGUMENT FOR LEAVING THE BLADE UP

I confess I fall into this camp.  I find it much faster, when approaching the board shear to be able to immediately able place the material to be cut under the fence, and slide it into place without having to lift the blade first.  Also, when the blade is up, it sticks out less, so there is less of a chance of running into the handle or counterweight, which is a more common injury than cutting yourself on the blade.

THE ARGUMENT FOR LEAVING THE BLADE DOWN

It is dangerous to leave the blade up for two reasons. First, although the blade has a fairly obtuse angle, it is still possible to cut yourself on it, and it just looks dangerous, this long blade sticking up in the air. Second it is more likely that the counterweight could slide off the end (especially if you haven’t drilled through the bar and inserted a bolt) and the weight of the blade would come crashing down on whatever happens to be under it.