Category Archives: history of book repair

Tying the Future to a Thread

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J. Howard Atkins, Tying the Future to a Thread. Medford, Mass: Oversewing Machine Co. of America, Inc., 1968. Front Cover. Middleton Z 269.5 .A8 1968. http://library.rit.edu/cary/

What appears to be a 1970’s post-apocalyptic novel concerning the dangers nuclear stockpiling is actually about a far more dangerous situation. OVERSEWING!

A gem from the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, Bernard C. Middleton Collection, Rochester Institute of Technology.

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Could pass for an artist book installation. J. Howard Atkins, Tying the Future to a Thread. Medford, Mass: Oversewing Machine Co. of America, Inc., 1968. p. 18. Middleton Z 269.5 .A8 1968. http://library.rit.edu/cary/

But seriously, friends don’t let friends oversew.

Can Anyone Identify This Binder’s Stamp “REPAIRED BY……”

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Binder’s Stamp. Private Collection.

This partially effaced stamp is unusual, in that it says repaired by, rather than bound by. But who repaired this book? “REPAIRED BY DE xxxxxxHSY” or maybe “REPAIRED BY DAVID  xxxxHSY”? The letters are .5mm high, and it is positioned in the bottom left corner of the front board pastedown.

retroReveal, which can sometimes aid in legibility of fragmentary marks didn’t help in this case.

Robert Milevski, author of “A Primer on Signed BIndings”, was not familiar with it. He did send a useful overall typology of binders stamps, however:

In research done in Princeton University Library about 15 years ago (before many 19th c books were transferred from the open stacks to offsite storage), my recording methods were necessarily primitive and thumbnail (because I had to get through half a million books rather quickly), lacking in detail, usually, other than a call number, binder’s name, and type of mark. When I went back to these records and books (a couple of years later after their going offsite), I ignored anything not obviously English. Some of the bindings represented by these ignored minimal records probably had some interesting stamped signatures, similar to yours. (A sad thing, however, is that in that interim, some of the books, because of condition, had been rebound, thereby losing their binder’s signature history.)

I did look at my main spreadsheet of English signed bindings (3600 records at present, with more than 1000 yet unrecorded) and found a couple categories of mark other than ‘bound by’ but nothing like your mark. These others include: 1. just the last name of the binder; 2. last name of binder and location; 3. name of binder, address and designation as binder, usually in a two or three-story stamp. Of course, there is 4., the category of ‘bound by x for y’, usually a department store. And 5., ‘bound by x, successor to y.’ And 6., name of binder with a month and year, or more fully, 7., name, address and year. And 8., there is also the rare upside down stamp, usually only the surname, probably from getting the front and rear boards mixed up. That’s all I can say.

Generally, before modern art conservation principals began to be applied to books in the mid-twentieth century, most restorations and repairs attempted to be as invisible as possible.  So why try and point it out by stamping the book? And then why did someone else try to crudely scrape it away?

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Added 8 August 2016

Below is an image of the stamp Maria Fredericks mentions in the comments.

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Specifications for Library and School Book Binding

Dear Chairman of the A.L.A. Committee on Bookbinding,

For the next version of  General Specifications for Library and School Book Binding  I propose mentioning that when binding pamphlets, do not to cover the text with Gaylord pamphlet binder tape. If it is necessary to use an adhesive pamphlet binder, I also feel it might be a good idea to recommend using one that is the proper size, to avoid excessive trimming to the margins.  And if the margins must be trimmed, I suggest including a bit of practical advice in how to cut a straight line with a pair of scissors. I am more than willing to discuss these matters in greater depth, at your convenience, and apologize for this very belated response, but books last a very long time even if mistreated, so I trust this information may still be pertinant.

Warmest Regards,

Jeff Peachey

The Shift From Mechanical to Adhesive and Beyond

19th-c

                                          Clark, Adam.  Christian Theology. New York: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837.

I always enjoy examining these 19th C. (or early 20th C.) book repairs where the board is sewn to the spine.  This example is fairly crude, but some can actually function fairly well.  This book is in my collection– I will preserve it as evidence of the history of book repair.  We might find this repair laughable, but it is fairly easily reversed, there is no glue to remove and it kept the boards from getting lost.  When the holes in the spine are staggered through a number of signatures, these repairs hold up fairly well, and if the paper drapes well and the spine is fairly flat, as in this example, all of the text is easily readable.  

 

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This example is missing the title page and first 14 pages, but I think it is some kind of  Catholic devotional book. It is bound in typical early to mid 19th C. style and is quite small– 84 x 57 x 34 mm.   Of course, I am not advocating this as a type of repair a conservator would do today, but to me it represents a 19th C. common sense approach to the most common failure in book structure– detached boards.  This type of repair, fairly common in the US, might have served as impetus for joint tacketing or a literal “sewn-boards” binding. The upper board and lower board are sewn differently, the lower board like the previous example, but in the case of the upper board, the stitch runs into the edge of the board, which results in a decent opening.  The brown thread which matches the calf covering is doubled like sewing thread is.  Could this this have been done by a woman, and the previous “heavy duty” example done by a man?   

board-edge-drilling 

I have hypothesized elsewhere that there might be some kind of connection between early board attachments such as in the Book or Armagh, Romanesque lacing paths, and board slotting. The spine edge of a book board is a very tempting entry point in establishing mechanical attachment.  The strength, and relative noninvasiveness of board edge attachments make it an appealing treatment option, alleviating  the need for disruptive lifting of covering materials.  I have been experimenting with a new jig, pictured above, which holds a foredom drill at a precise angle, and has a depth stop, to accurately drill with wire gage drill bits, in order to drill a hole exactly the size of the thread used to reattach the board.  

 

                                            Advertisement from  Science and Mechanics, Vol. XVII, No. 6, 1946, p. 38.

By the mid 20th C., detached boards and other types of damage are more commonly fixed by tapes and adhesives, as the advertisement above suggests.   Unfortunately, I think I have seen this used on books. It ends up looking like a thick, completely inflexible amber mass of goop.  I think this glue is the kind I used to use as a kid when assembling plastic or balsa wood models.  The cap of this tube is unusual- it looks like a twisted loop of wire, perhaps used to pierce the top when opening?  Often the spine edge of the detached board is glued to the flyleaf to “fix” a detached board.

By the early 21st C.,in the general public, most ideas of repairing an object mechanically are gone, and most ideas of repairing an object by using adhesives are gone.  In fact, the idea of repair is almost gone.  We simply buy a new one, unless the book has some kind of exceptional value.  

The idea of a world where nothing is worn, nothing is fixed and everything is new frightens me.  How would one conserve an ebook reader? I’m sure books will exist for a very long time, but more as symbolic representations of learning and knowledge, not primarily as a source for  accessing a text.  This is why these primitive, vernacular repairs are so important for understanding a previous culture’s relationship to the books they used, treasured, repaired and read.