If the idea of spending a month at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection of Rochester Institute of Technology — home to the incomparable Bernard C. Middleton Collection of Books on Bookbinding — quickens your pulse and makes your hands sweat, first you should wash your hands before even thinking about handling these rare materials.
Then, you should find out more about a fellowship opportunity during this upcoming roundtable discussion. I’ll briefly discuss Edward Walker’s The Art of Book-Binding…, 1850.
Each summer, the Cary Graphic Arts Collection hosts a scholar for a one-month summer research fellowship. Join us to learn more about this unique research opportunity as applications are due on January 15th. Curator Steven Galbraith will provide information and join former Cary Fellows Dori Griffin, Jeff Peachey, Shani Avni, and Robert Gordon-Fogelson for a casual discussion, who will share some of their experiences and exciting discoveries.
One of the best ideas for a standing press I’ve seen. The adjustable bottom platen solves a lot of problems for modern binders and conservators, that often are working on only one book at a time. It would alleviate the need to add heavy wood packing materials, and the lower platen could be positioned at a comfortable work height.
According to the patent description, “This patent model demonstrates an invention for a bookbinders standing press which was granted patent number 30243. The press has a platen, or upper follower, lowered in the usual way by an iron screw, and a bed, or lower follower, that was raised by a rack and pinion.” Patent date 2 October 1860, Pelletreau, Maltby K.
The ratchet would allow for tremendous pressure with short swings of the press pin, and were not uncommon for heavy duty presses in the 19th century.
My 2013 essay, “Beating, Rolling, and Pressing: The Compression of Book Signatures Before Sewing” in Suave Mechanicals, Vol. 1, ended with many questions concerning when bookbinders generally stopped using the rolling machine. Endings are much messier and imprecise than beginnings. We know that the rolling machine was introduced to the trade in 1827. But when did binders stop using it? Many tools and machines in bookbinding are used for centuries.
We know that the use of the rolling machine gradually declined at some point during the nineteenth century. Yet It is still referenced in several 20th century bookbinding manuals, including Zaehnsdorf’s 1903 edition of Bookbinding. Zaehnsdorfhad a deeply personal connection to the machine: his father’s right hand got trapped between the rollers, and even after many months in the hospital, he never regained complete use of it. It had an impact on him, so to speak.
A couple of weeks ago, while looking through the Richard M. Hoe and Company records, 1824-1953 (MS#0599) at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, I read a fascinating typescript, written by Steven D. Tucker, who began working for Hoe in 1834 as an apprentice mechanic. It is filled with recollections of mechanical details of machines, the evolution of the factory, and the types of machines they were making.
In particular, he writes that in 1856, “There was also brought out (sic) a Book rolling or pressing machine, but few of these were ever built, bookbinders seeming to prefer the large embossing press for that purpose.” (43) To me at least, this seems a good indication of the transition time. Hoe thought the rolling press was still in demand, at least enough to warrant the development and manufacture of one, but he was slightly behind the curve, as many binders moved on to using an embossing press to compress signatures before sewing, ending the era of rolling and beginning the era of smashing.