Upcoming 2014 Workshops and The Treatment of a Nuremberg Chronicle

April 26, 2014. Delaware Valley Chapter of the Guild of Bookworkers. Philadelphia.  One day Sharpening/ Knifemaking workshop.

July 14 – August 15, 2014. Historic Book Structures for Conservators. Boston. This five-week class meets Monday – Friday each week at the Bookbinding Department of North Bennet Street School. Field trips are scheduled for some Fridays, and other Fridays will be open lab days. The course is designed to further develop basic bookbinding bench skills and to explore historic book structures in the context of the conservation of books as historic artifacts. Readings, research on book structures and bookbinding history, and creating models of historic structures are the basis of the course. Class presentations, short essays, a midterm and possible online publishing are required. The course is for students who are serious about bookbinding history and who are interested in further exploring conservation of books as cultural heritage. Class size is limited. Admission to the class is determined by application. Application requirements include a personal statement on the role of the class in your work, a portfolio of three-dimensional studio work that exhibits fine detail, and a recommendation (from a professional in the conservation or preservation field if possible). Students will need to supply their own hand tools. For workshop registration contact North Bennet Street School.

I’m already getting excited about this class.  Since it is five weeks long, we will be able to dive in deep. Additionally, it will be a joy to teach at the bookbinding department of North Bennett Street School, which I feel is one of the best equipped bookbinding teaching facilities in the world. The syllabus is not set in stone yet, but is largely based what Chela Metzger did for the past two years. The class will move backwards through book history from now to the beginning of print. A 20th century library binding, boards binding, a half leather binding, late 18th century French binding, a limp vellum structure, early 17th c. English trade binding and a late gothic German wood boards tawed structure are all likely canidates. This class will be taught at a graduate level, and I would love to have participants with a range of backgrounds: pre-program, grad students, technicians with professional ambitions, and mid-career conservators who want to get their hands off the keyboard and back into some books.


Lou Di Gennaro, Special Collections Conservator in the Barbara Goldsmith Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory at New York University’s Bobst Library has an informative blog post titled “Mending Split Wooden Boards on a 16th Century Binding of the Nuremberg Chronicle”.

I consulted with Lou on the project, and the treatment we designed was based a paper Alexis Hagadorn and I wrote, “The Use of Parchment to Reinforce Split Wooden Bookboards, with Preliminary Observations into the Effects of RH Cycling on these Repairs”,  Journal of the Institute of Conservation 33 (2010) pp. 41- 63.

Lou’s post:

“Much has already been written about the Liber Chronicarum better known to English speakers as the Nuremberg Chronicle. A simple Google search will bring up a myriad of information about the book’s history, production and distribution, as well as many images of the beautiful woodcuts. Printed in 1493, the Nuremberg Chronicle is a history of the world beginning with the Book of Genesis and continuing through biblical and Roman history to the early 1490s, detailing a number of important western cities. The book was one of the most heavily illustrated of its time and one of the first to successfully integrate illustrations….” Read the rest

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Image courtesy Barbara Goldsmith Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory, Bobst Library, New York University.

15th Century Marquetry Depicting Wooden Boarded Bindings

wood marketry

Marquetry is cool. 15th century representations of books are very cool. Wooden boarded bindings are very, very cool. But marquetry from the 15th century , depicting wooden boarded books?  Very, very, very  cool.

There are from the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Pisa, Italy, and date between 1485-1493. The reader seems to be smiling and intently engaged with the book, which is echoed  visually in the folds of his cloth shirt radiating, indeed engulfing, the width of the open pages. The amount of throwup on the text seems extreme to me; perhaps it was artistic convention, or perhaps I’m used to handling books from this time period that the spine linings have deteriorated. I almost think there are other, chained books, hanging under the lectern.

The page edges on the volume below, on the right, are lovely, although the craftsman seemed to reverse the curve of the textblock.  The intentional wedge shape to the book (in order to make the clasps function, and depicted with the clasps unfastened) is clearly visible.  It almost looks like the endband in laced into the board.  The book under it  might be unfinished– the page edges seem cruder, and don’t depict one of the clasp catch plates. But is does seem to show a quarter leather covering- notice how the grain of the wood changes at the join.

Historic representations of books are a valuable source of information about how books were made, read and stored.

And they are very cool.

wood marketry2

Board Slotting as a Structure for Artist’s Books

Although board slotting was originally developed as a strong, minimally invasive method of conserving books, I’ve wanted to try it on an artist’s book for a while.  Slotting seemed a great way to firmly attach wooden or alternative material without visually interfering with cover.  Accra Shepp created this artist book titled “Atlas”, in an edition of 12.  It was a perfect candidate for board slotting- the boards were an oversize (18 x 12″) medium density fiberboard, covered with a gorgeous burl veneer that deserved to be unobscured by covering material or interior linings.

A number of the NYC bookarts community worked on this project– Paul Wong, of Dieu Donne  Papermill, made the paper, Edward Fausty printed the collotypes, Earl Kallemeyn printed the polymer plates,  Dikko Faust of Purgatory Pie Press printed the metal type and letterpress and even the leaves came from the NY Botanical Garden.











There were some technical challenges- the entire book weighed 5.25 lbs, there were many fragile plants imbedded in the paper and the book included a final signature made up of a single folio!   In keeping with the overall meaning of the book, the artist wanted a simple, unobtrusive, elegant method of binding this book that used natural materials. We decided slotting was the best method of accomplishing this goal, in conjunction with a non-adhesive modified longstich spine.  In keeping with the natural and open nature of this text, I slotted completely through the ends of the board, hoping it to become a decorative element reflecting its visual honesty.

 The binding had to be very flexible, with lots of throw-up and minimal page drape to keep the tissue paper collage elements and actual plant materials from unduly flexing. The spine is a Japanese linen bookcloth that was laminated with PVA to a piece of Strathmore 400.   This not only stiffened the cloth, helping to control the opening and lessen the text block from torsion, but it prevented the sewing holes from opening up excessively and the interior white lining visually lessened the impact of the slight gaps between the signatures.  It was sewn longstich with Best Blake 18/6 unbleached linen thread. The  relatively loose twist in the thread allowed it to be flattened and firmly consolidated in the spine folds, adding a pleasant feeling solidity to this non-adhesive structure.  There were only 5 signatures, and numerous collage elements, so the extra swell helped to keep the boards relatively parallel.  The technical information on how a board slotting machine was modified to accommodate these oversize boards is at the board slotting blog.

It might be possible to devise some kind of endband for this structure, somehow incorporating the slot at the end of the boards, and I’m interested in trying it with alternative materials, such as plexy or metal.  Even the hinge in the slot could be made non-adhesive with some type of treenail, pegging or sewn attachment.  

This structure seems useful when a flat opening, cost effective, non-adhesive, unobtrusive binding style is desired.  I could imagine it being useful on a variety of artist books. To my knowledge, this is the first time board slotting has been used in making a new artist’s book.  



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