500th Blog Post. A Look Back at the First One: Philosophy of Conservation

Eleven years ago when I started this blog. I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would become, I just wanted some kind of presence on the web. Over time it has become a place to investigate book history, advertise my book conservation business, examine some of my tool collection, promote my workshops, dip my toes into the philosophy of craft, and announce new bookbinding tools.

Two years ago, the tools moved to  Peachey Tools.  I use instagram for more image based sharing. The board slotting machine has a following among book conservators, my book conservation and tool businesses keep chugging along, and I do a fair amount of teaching.

Looking over my posts, they keep returning to four main topics: tools, books, craft, and conservation.

An unintended benefit of sustained blogging is how it feeds longer term writing projects: sometimes by immediate gratification, sometimes by regular practice, and sometimes by feedback from readers. Tom Conroy in particular deserves a thank you for his 52 comments, many of which contain new information, and several which exceed the word count of the original post!

Below is my first blog post — a mini-manifesto, really — my philosophy of conservation. Those who know me may be surprised I’m not as pessimistic concerning the future of book conservation as I was in 2008. The quality and sensitivity of book conservation has increased in the past 11 years, at least from what I see of it, and  book conservation education continues to evolve with change as society and the uses and values of books change. But there is still much work to do. Onward!


Philosophy of Conservation (originally published  17 April 2008)

It was almost 100 years ago that Douglas Cockerell wrote, “Generally speaking, it is desirable that the characteristics of an old book should be preserved… It is far more pleasant to see an old book in a patched contemporary binding, than smug and tidy in the most immaculate modern cover.”   Today, I am disheartened to find what little has changed; rows and rows of rebound or insensitively rebacked volumes, giving no hint of their original nature.  All to often, books and the information they contain are needlessly  destroyed by inappropriate or outdated techniques.

As microfilming, photocopying, and digital methods of storing and transmitting conceptual information become more and more prevalent, I feel the intrinsic aspects of books and paper artifacts: their physical construction, material content, aesthetics, and tactile qualities, are irreplaceable and will prove to be the most valuable.  These are the aspects I preserve for future generations.


Bookbinding and the Care of Books Lyons and Burford,  p. 306

Checklist of Writings by Thomas Harrison

Tom Conroy has sent me this checklist of Thomas Harrison writings. Tom Conroy is a book restorer, fine binder, binding historian, and toolmaker living in Berkeley, California. He occasionally comments on this blog; they are always worth reading, and I would like to publicly thank him for his generosity in sharing his expertise.


Tom Conroy

The following list includes all of Thomas Harrison’s writings which are known to me. Some years ago I took an opportunity to run through most of a file of PAPER AND PRINT looking for more articles by Harrison, but found only the non-instructional articles listed here.

“On Planning A Geometrical Design.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.I No.23 (1909) p. 354-356.

“On Planning A Geometrical Design. The Back.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.I No.24 (1909) p. 371-373.

[Note: I have no access to BBTJ  Vol.II Nos.1-5, for 1910, but presume that Harrison’s series continued in them.]

“The Principals of Design as applied to book decoration.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No.6 (1911) p. 88-90.

“The Principals of Design as applied to book decoration.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No.7 (1911) p. 104-105.

“The Geometrical Element In Design.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No.9 (1912) p. 133-135.

“The Organic Element In Design.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No.10 (1912) p. 154-156.

“The Organic Element In Design.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No.11 (1912) p. 163-165.

“Artistic Tendancies of Modern Book Decoration.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No.12 (1912) p. 180-182. [A report of a slide lecture by Harrison, and taking the place of his usual contribution to BBTJ, though written in the third person and apparently not by Harrison himself.]

“The Organic Element In Design.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No.13 (1912) p. 196-198.

“The Organic Element In Design.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No. 14 (1912) p.213-215.

“The Historic Element In Design.” BOOKBINDING TRADES JOURNAL Vol.II No. 15 (1912) p.235-237.

THE BOOKBINDING CRAFT AND INDUSTRY. “Pitman’s Common Commodities and Industries Series.” London: Pitman, n.d. [1926.]. 2nd ed. n.d. [1930]. [Some years ago I collated my copy of the second edition against a copy of the first, and found no substantial changes except one changed plate and the addition of a ten-page Appendix on “Fire Hazards of Prnting and Binding Wroks” by Robert Taylor, F.C.I.I.]

“Modern Book Decoration.” CRAFT LECTURES OF THE STATIONERS’ COMPANY, “Second Lecture of the Seventh Session, delivered 1928, p. 41-61. [Important. Known to me only in a photocopy.]

“The Care of Books.” THE BOOK-COLLECTORS’ QUARTERLY No. III (June-August 1931) p. 1-14.

“What to Look for in a Modern Binding.” THE BOOK-COLLECTORS’ QUARTERLY No. XIII (January-March 1934) p. 31-41.

“Book Review: The Art of the French Book from early manuscript to the present time. Edited by Andre Lejard.” PAPER & PRINT (Summer 1947) p. 104,106,108.

“A method of Binding A Book in one section.” PAPER & PRINT (Summer 1947) p. 122, 124, 126. [Reprinted in “Fragments of Bookbinding Technique.”]

“A Case for the Single-Section Book.” BOOKBINDING AND BOOK PRODUCTION (October 1947) p. 50-51. [Reprinted from the above item in PAPER & PRINT.]

“Vellum for Letterpress Printing.” PAPER & PRINT (Autumn 1947) p. 182, 184, 186. [Reprinted in “Fragments of Bookbinding Technique.”]

“Making a Moulded, Fire Resisting, Pull-Off Case for very valuable books.” PAPER & PRINT (Winter, 1947) p. 266, 268, 270. [Reprinted in “Fragments of Bookbinding Technique.”]

“The Solander Book Box Portfolio and its affinities.” PAPER & PRINT (Spring 1948) p. 26, 30. [Reprinted in “Fragments of Bookbinding Technique.”]

FRAGMENTS OF BOOKBINDING TECHNIQUE. London?: n.p., n.d. [Pamphlet of [6], 7-31, [32] p. containing the four Paper & Print instructional articles. I have seen what are clearly several different printings. Mine has blue thick paper covers and says “Printed by Walter Pearce & Co., London & Brentford” on p. [32].]

“Early European and Persian Bindings: An Analytical Comparison.” PAPER & PRINT (Summer 1948) p. 130, 132, 134.

“French Mass Production Case Bindings.” Exhibition review. PAPER & PRINT (Autumn 1948) p. 246, 248.

BOOKBINDING FOR PRINTERS. “A*T*P*A*S Handbooks for Teachers No. 2.” London: Association of Teachers of Printing and Allied Subjects, 1949. [Pamphlet of ii, 16, iii-[iv] p.]

CONSTRUCTION IN BOOKBINDING. London: London School of Printing, n.d. [Disappointing pamphlet of [2], 7, [3] p., mostly about sewing. The London School of Printing had that name from 1922 to 1949.]

“Contemporary Bindings: a commentary.” PENROSE ANNUAL 44 (1950) p. 71-74 & 4 plates.

Added 23 Feb. 2013

I found another one, Tom.

“A Persian Binding of the Fifteenth Century” in The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 44, No. 250 (Jan., 1924), pp. 31-32+34-35.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/862065 .

%d bloggers like this: