Upcoming Lecture at Syracuse University Library

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***NOTE: This lecture and the workshop have been canceled due to the storm.

I will post the new dates once they are determined, likely spring 2013.***

On Thursday, November 1, I will be giving the 2012 Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation lecture at Syracuse University Library in Syracuse, NY.

Each time I present Reconstructing Diderot: Eighteenth Century French Bookbinding, I spend some time incorporating new research and tweaking it for the intended audience. This version is well suited for a more general educated audience, without specialized book knowledge. Recently, I’ve compared the working methods of eighteenth century bookbinders with the industrialization of the nineteenth. I’ve also been interested in looking at bookbindings as products of technology (rather than art or bibliography) as a methodology. In some senses, I am continuing a Diderotian approach by closely examining and emphasizing the tools and equipment that bookbinders used.

On Friday, November 2, there is a one-day workshop based on this lecture, which is full and there is a waiting list.

The lecture is free and open to the public, and will be held in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons in Bird Library at 3 p.m. with reception to follow. Directions to the Library are at: <http://library.syr.edu/about/visit/liblocation>.

A Bit of Decoration

Straightedge from Diderot’s Encycopedie, Plate VI, Fig. 12.

Reproduction in quarter sawn beech.

It is often astounding to me how much a small flourish of decoration, in this case an ogee, can give an object a sense of elegance.  I speculated about this before, in a post about decoration on a Turkish bone folder. The decoration is pure in this case; I can think of no functional reason for it.  There are, of course, several functional differences between a wood and metal straightedge that could affect how we work, such as the lightness, thickness, slight dimensional variability and non-marring qualities of wood. The material differences are important: we touch and handle wood differently than metal. Using different, or reproduction tools also jars us out of our usual, ingrained work habits. Before I made this tool, the last time I used a wooden ruler was in grade school, and it had a thin brass or tin edge.  But if there is no functional difference, say between the ‘plain’ wooden ruler also depicted (Fig. 13) and this one, does the decoration change the way we use the tool–and ultimately the work we do with it?

Upcoming Lecture at Rare Book School, University of Virginia

Reconstructing Diderot: Eighteenth Century French Bookbinding

Monday, June 4, 5:30

 Auditorium of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Rare Book School

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

This is an image driven (150+), fast-paced, terse overview of the research I have been doing on eighteenth century French bookbinding. The extensive documentation concerning eighteenth century French bookbinding, as found in Diderot, Dudin, and other sources, form a unique starting point in the examination of the larger questions associated with the history of craft and material culture, the transmission of textual information, and, of course, the history of bookbinding. Book structures of the late eighteenth century stand at the cusp of one of the most radical transformations since the invention of the multi-section codex: by the mid nineteenth century, the machine made cloth case binding begins to dominate book structures. In this talk, I will illustrate the historical context of how these books were made and compare this with physical evidence of books from this time. Particular attention will be given to the tools and techniques used to produce these bindings.

This lecture is free and open to the public.