Tag Archives: bookbinding

Upcoming Public Lecture at Emory University, Atlanta. The Conservation of Dante’s La Commedia

Please join us at Emory University for this event, free and open to the public—

The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia:  an illustrated talk by Jeffrey S. Peachey
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
4:00pm Talk and Q&A
5:00pm Reception

Jones Room
Robert W. Woodruff Library
540 Asbury Circle  Atlanta, GA 30322

Registration available here:  http://emorylib.info/peachey
Please feel free to share this information with others.

An Ornate 17th Century Bookbinding Press

Bookbinder’s Stretcher [sic]. Possibly French, Walnut, 1670-1700. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This is the most ornate finishing (?) press I’ve ever seen, as well as being one of the earliest dated ones. It is inaccurately described by the V&A as a book stretcher in the catalog, because in the early images (above and below) the tightening nuts were on the wrong side of the cheek. Usually tightening nuts like these are found on German or Netherlandish presses.

It would be nice to have a book stretcher on occasion, though.  Need to turn an octavo into a quarto?  No problem!  But was this really a book press, or a press intended for some other purpose? The 29 inch long cheeks are very, very thin in profile, and I imagine would deflect quite a bit even with just hand tightening.

Bookbinder’s Stretcher [sic]. Possibly French, Walnut, 1670-1700. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A later image shows the press assembled correctly, but it is still described as a book stretcher. Almost every non-functional inch of this remarkable press is covered with relief carvings. The tightening nuts are especially elegant.  It is made from walnut, a wood traditionally used for press boards in 18th century France.

Bookbinder’s Stretcher [sic] assembled correctly. Possibly French, Walnut, 1670-1700. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Many 17th century and earlier European woodworking tools, like planes, are encrusted with carving. Hand tools have became minimally decorated since the 20th century, all form deriving from efficient manufacture and use. The decorative deep carving must have taken a lot of extra time. Did the maker or consumer provide the agency? Was this a presentation piece, not intended to be used?  It seems to show very little wear, atypical of most presses. Or did the maker just want to make a beautiful tool? Do beautiful tools inspire binders to make beautiful books?

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Hats off to the V&A has a very progressive large image use policy.  You can download them instantly, share them widely, and even use them for publication. There are almost 750,000 searchable images on the V&A site. Let’s hope all institutions free their images.

V&A large image use form. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

August Eickhoff French Style Paring Knives

A pair of August Eickhoff french style paring knives, made in New York, 19th century.

A side benefit of my regrinding and knife sharpening service is that I get to see some interesting antique knives. These August Eickhoff knives are beautifully made, have a wonderful balance, a lovely patina, and given the amount of distal taper (both on the blade and the tang) must have been forged. Eickhoff also made round knives (aka. head knives) for leatherworkers which occasionally show up for sale today. In the late 19th century, Eickhoff was located at 381 Broome St, NYC, making scissors, woodworking tools, and resharpening knives. He served on the NY Board of Education, and advertised his wares in a Teachers College Educational Monograph. It may be time to make a few reproduction Eickhoff knives.

The New Glue Pot from Lee Valley is Excellent. Gelatin and Paste for Lining Spines

Lee Valley Glue Pot

Lee Valley, perhaps the most innovative large woodworking tool company, recently introduced a one ounce cast stainless steel double boiler glue pot, which is perfectly sized for book conservators.

It works great with gelatin in conservation work or with hide glues for historic models. The heavy cast steel double boiler gives a very gentle and even heat.  It is based on a Landers, Frary & Clark glue pot from the 1870’s. There is an image of the original, which was cast iron, in Stephen Shepherd’s hide glue book. (1)

The cup-warmer is cheaply made, but it only costs a dollar when purchased with the gluepot. If the interior of the pot was finished a little smoother to make cleaning easier, it would be perfect. A steal at $35.00.

Arthur Green described his investigations using gelatin on the spines of books in the blog post, “Revisiting Animal Glue: Gluing-up with Gelatin” Traditionally bound books used animal glue on the spines, and paste for the covering and paste-downs: there must have been a reason. He tested starch paste and gelatin separately, and primarily for adhesion.

I find the real magic happens when gelatin and paste are used in sequential layers, or mixed together. Dudin, in the 18th century, described the “marriage” that happens between animal glue and paste. (2) A mix gives the book better resistance to torquing than paste alone, makes it feel more solid, and gives a more secure — yet still easily reversible — bond with a Japanese tissue for the first spine lining in conservation work.

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  1. Stephen A. Shepherd. Hide Glue: Historical and Practical Applications (Salt Lake CIty: Full Chisel, 2009)
  2. R.M. Dudin. The Art of the Bookbinder and Gilder, Trans. by Richard Macintyre Atkinson (Leeds: The Elmete Press, 1977)

General Thread Mills Advertisment

Book Production Magazine, May, 1960, p. 19

Upcoming Lecture: The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia

 

The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia

Jeffrey S. Peachey, Independent Book Conservator, New York City

3:00 p.m.  Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Rare Books and Special Collections

102 Hesburgh Library

University of Notre Dame

South Bend, Indiana 

 

 

The conservation treatment of the Hesburgh Libraries’ important copy of Dante’s La Commedia (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) will be detailed in this profusely illustrated lecture. Its deteriorated and damaging 20thcentury binding structure will be described, as will considerations and decisions leading to its resewing and rebinding in a historically sympathetic alum tawed goatskin conservation binding. Evidence uncovered during treatment, which suggests the Inferno and Purgatorio cantiche may have circulated separately at one point, will be explored. Differences between historic 15th century binding practices and modern conservation binding techniques will be highlighted, as will the sometimes problematic differences between historic and modern materials. An overview of aesthetic considerations for conservation rebinding will conclude the lecture. Bibliophiles, conservators, librarians, Italian scholars, and anyone curious about the physical structure of books will find this lecture of interest.

All are welcome to attend.

What is a Conservation Binding?

The term “conservation binding” gets thrown around a lot. It certainly sounds different than just rebinding a book. But what does it really mean?

It is unknown who coined the term, and a google ngram search shows its use beginning in the 1960s, and peaking in the 1980s. It wouldn’t surprise me if it actually started in the 1950s in England. The 1980s were the peak of rebinding in book conservation, which resulted in many treatments that we would now consider too invasive. But the ethos then was to treat a book so that it would last 500 years. Of course, the correlation between the use of the term and making a conservation binding is not known.

Source: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=conservation+binding&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1900&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cconservation%20binding%3B%2Cc0

The trouble is, it doesn’t have any agreed upon meaning, similar to the even more ubiquitous term “archival”. All the usual suspects for bookbinding terminology — Language of Bindings, Carter, Etherington, The Multilingual Bookbinding and Conservation Dictionary — don’t have an entry for conservation binding. In practice, it can simply mean a binding done by a conservator. And anyone can call themselves a conservator. Or it can often mean a reversible layer of paste and Japanese tissue on the spine of a fine binding. Or it can imply the use of durable and modern conversationally accepted materials (i.e. linen, handmade paper, tawed skin) incorporated into a binding, with minimal attention paid to decoration and finishing.

So here is my first stab at a definition:

A conservation binding is a rebinding that is structurally similar and aesthetically sympathetic to the time the text was printed. It is durable, easily reversible, non-damaging and alters the original binding materials as little as possible. It does not fool someone into thinking it is an original binding, though it is harmonious with actual historic bindings.