An ornamental journey

It’s been an age since I’ve been here. I am a bookbinder, but I haven’t had much experience of late, hence nothing much to say. However after a talk with my friend Hannah Brown, I made a few non new year resolutions. Practise. Practise more. So while I would like to participate in more workshops and learn interesting technique, I think at this stage I need to consolidate. So I will practise by making at least five of the same bindings. Saying that I did enter a few experiments in our Guild’s yearly exhibition. Please go visit it at the Civic Library if you are in Canberra, because we are becoming more interesting as the years go by.

The point of this post is to illuminate you further on the things that have been distracting me from binding. Printers’ decorated capitals and other ornaments.

These  are in my Flickr album “Tailpieces”. And to date, these are my best examples of a single ornament used across space and across time. In fact, during the writing of this blog I found yet another example of the same ornament.

It’s like playing “spot the difference”; the same but not quite.

When seen in this light, you have to wonder a few things? Did they buy this pattern from each other? Did they pass it on to each other? Did they duplicate it? Did they buy it from a third party? and on the questions go.

After doing research into the lives of these printers, I have come to realise that the world is indeed a small place. I had thought, erroneously, that people didn’t travel much in the olden days. But at the dawn of printing, news travelled wide and fast. Printers and bookbinders travelled; married the widows of their mentors and their heirs continued their traditions, in new places.

Here is a bit of info about the printers in chronological order:

1577: Johann Feyerabendt is a printer in Frankfurt am Main. Twice married. Related to publisher Sigmund Feyerabend;

1584: Guillaume Rouille publisher and bookseller in Lyon, he apprenticed in Venice as a bookseller with Giolito De Ferrari. He was a printer between 1545 and 1589

1600: Matthaeus Becker, printer at Frankfurt am Main from 1598 to 1602

1605; Sebastien HenricPetri, 1569 to 1627 active printer in Basel, son of Heinrich Petri.

1623: Joannis Gymnich 1570-1634 – and printer bookseller active in Frankfurt am Main and Koln

1627: Johann Saur active printer between 1591 and 1636 in Frankfurt am Main, Marburg and Kassel

1628: Jean de La Riviere

1652: Impensis Societas ecclesiastica active printing workshop in Paris

And as we speak, just today I found the same tailpiece, printed  between 1600 and 1605: 1601 Madrid by the Emprenta Real.

If you look closely they are definitely related but changed in some slight way. Some differences are obvious, some are slight. The main face is different as is the oval underneath it, which may contain initials, a blank or a symbol.Did each printer add something of their own to the block they bought? I thought that perhaps the Germans would be similar and the French would be alike; but that is not necessarily true

As far as I can tell, the 1577 Feyerabendt is the best printed and being the oldest that is perhaps not so surprising. If others are copies, then something gets lost in translation.

Now that I have come back from the London Rare Book Summer School, I understand how these might have been duplicated and sold on. They could be metal replicas of an original woodcut.

I have sat on this blog for long enough. Next week I am off to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where I will be teaching some bookbinding while on holiday. Don’t know what the internet will be like, but I will have tales to tell; so watch this space!

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under bookbinding, education, libraries, museum, printing

Thursday, day of the presses – the wooden press

The practical today was a bit rushed because we were all super keen to get our hands dirty. The day’s lectures consisted of differentiation between wood engraving and wood cutting, plus an introduction to the machine processes of the late 19th century. The following slide is Martin’s, and explains the difference between cutting and engraving very concisely.

IMG_5387

I am sure most of you are here to see the presses. This post is about using a wooden two-pull press.

Let me start with the replica of the wooden press, upon which we printed off  from a replica plate of a page of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Both were made by Alan May, and which you can see on the YouTube documentary: The machine that made us.

I took some short videos of this several parts of the process. You might like to go to my Instagram feed.

We had a replica plate of a page of the Nuremberg Chronicle to play with.

The first thing we did was ink up the plate:

The ink pads are made of deer hide. They are usually soaked overnight to keep them soft. You take the two pads and pound them together before applying ink to the plate.

Once you are satisfied with the inking you lay down the frisket. This is a stencil or shape of the plate’s image that keeps the edges clean. In the photo on right, you can see the shape has been cut out.

When you are ready you lay the paper down, place the timpan on top and push under the platten.  This is a two-pull press because you had to move the press further in if your plate was large. The printing size is determined by the size of the plattern. We used both damp and dry paper to see which gave the best print.

The first few of us forgot that the best place to pull the lever was from the end (left picture). We started pulling from close to the center (right picture). We all forgot our basic high school physics: that the most efficient place from which we should use the force would be the end of the lever.  Even though the plattern is heavy, pulling the lever is not strenuous. Although if you were to pull it 500 times in a day, then you would get tired; it does require the whole body to be in the movement, not just the arms.

Now that I am home, I can show you my impression. Can you see a vertical white line a third in from the right? that is where the plate has split. The middle of the plate has less ink, so in later versions we built up the middle with a couple of layers of paper. It made the impressions better.

Next post will be about using an iron press with a lever to take an impression.

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, conservation, libraries, museum, preservation, printing

Wednesday is time to typecast

Today we are listening to Martin Andrews from Reading University, and Richard Lawrence is also there to guide us through the practical.

IMG_5367

Richard, pensive in the background, Martin holding a stereo.

What can I tell you?

Type metal is an alloy of antimony, tin and lead. This is what the type is made from.

 

However the type punch is made of harder material, usually steel, because it is worked and used to punch an impression on a copper matrix, into which the type metal will be poured.

IMG_5269

There is a clever contraption that was invented in the 1500s to re cast type should you run out of letters.

You open it up and insert the copper matrix. You close it up and pour in the molten typemetal. Hey presto, here’s a letter.

 

IMG_5268

You can see Roberta (left)pouring the molten material in. It takes about a third of a ladle. Mindy, on the right, has opened the mold.

 

What if you want to copy a whole block? You might want to sell your design to others. You can use the dabbing technique. I have a few videos on my Instagram. But it goes along these lines:

  1. Place molten typemetal in a small non-flammable dish
  2. Wait until it is nearly set
  3. dab the wood block in it.

The block should come out intact, and you have a positive from which you can then make many negatives.Hey presto.

IMG_5276

So that’s about a block. What if you want to copy a whole plate? You can set it up in the chase and then take a copy of it with a flong.

Flong – that is a great Scrabble word. A flong is a large sheet composed of several damp pieces of paper, a bit like papier maché. You make an impression of the plate on this flong. After which you pour type metal over it, and you will get a negative from which you can make multiple copies. This saves wear and tear on the original.

You see Martin holding the papier maché flong. The blurry photo is because he was waving it around. Then at the bottom there is the newspaper version with its flong. The cyclinders on the table are the typecast flong used in machine printing (of newspapers).

It is amazing the sorts of things Richard and Martin found just lying out the workshop.

Leave a comment

Filed under education, libraries, museum, printing

Looking at Dürer in the British Museum

Ok, let’s get into something a bit meaty, that has nothing to do with bookbinding and all to do with plates.

At the National Library of Australia we have plates of Dürer’s Little Passion (RBRS 13), which you can view here. It was printed in 1511 and rebound in a non-contempory calf binding, with blind tooling along perimeter.

This is what I saw at the British Museum:

IMG_5301

35 of 36 wood blocks. And we were also shown some corresponding impressions. What deliciousness! Yes, you can handle the book, look at the plates, but when you are confronted with the medium, which may have been engraved by the Master himself and most certainly drawn on by him, then you marvel at the skills that were available in 1511.

My interest in Dürer is this, of course:

IMG_7990

 

We were asked to examine the blocks closely; could we detect different hands in the relief structure of the matrix?

IMG_5304

I took photos of the signatures; I figured that you might be able to tell one worker from another by the way he/she carved the AD. If we look closely are the ADs similarly different?

It’s not every day you get to see the plate and its impression.

That was all I had time to photograph I’m afraid.

I haven’t had the time to properly examine these photos; I am just reporting our day. I feel very privileged to have seen these. However these were seen in a reading room, and if you are going to London, I believe if you make an appointment well before hand, you may be able to experienced these for yourself.

The Print and Drawing reading room, very light but not airy. In the summer bring your own fan.

cheers

 

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, conservation, education, libraries, museum, watermarks

Tuesday is ink day

My well thought out plan in getting to St Brides early fell on its ear when

  1. I got lost leaving my building
  2. Holborn was exit only
  3. it 9.18am and I have to catch 2 buses to Fleet St by 9.30am

You can see what sort of day I thought it might turn into. However, despite it all, I was not very tardy. Here is the entrance to St Brides Institute.

IMG_7882

The printing workshop is filled with historical printing presses and tools, and in many ways their significance is lost on me; I am sure Australian printmakers  Dianne Fogwell and Caren Florence would be far more appreciative than me. Let’s have a little look at what’s inside:

On to today’s topic: a day with Amy Worthen.

The day was dedicated to the histories of engraved plates and of etched plates, giving us the tools and basic understanding to identify and differentiate between the two techniques.

Her enthusiasm was catching and she was very generous with the information she offered. You could tell she had a lot of experience. It just emanated from her.

There was a set reading list to compliment this session. The sessions, though generalised, took us on a well rounded journey.  There were many historical examples on the slides. I didn’t actually take many notes; I will probably explore the readings at some later date. She explained about the different cutting techniques and how the depth of the cut could change to strength of the printed line.  And since we were in St Bride’s printing room, we could see first hand what tools were used.

Which brings us to the hands-on session in the afternoon.  Amy demonstrated how to hold the burin, and how to cut a line on a copper plate. “It’s like cutting butter” she said.

Seeing the ease with which she made her marks in the plate, and little swirls of copper that grew from her cuts, one would swear it was indeed as soft as butter.

Well, let me tell you that a copper plate is not as soft as butter. We all had a hand at making lines, and the hardest part for each of us was to maintain the correct posture; we needed to us our bodies, not have our wrists or shoulders at strange angles. She helped each one of us. However, just as in tango or bookbinding learning, once you have the acquired muscle memory, the copper plate would be nothing but butter.

Our main aim for the day was to print an etched plate. Mindy had come from the US with a plate her grand-father has etched, so she set about taking an impression from it.

We didn’t even get dirty, even though we each had a go at using the brayers to apply ink to the plate’s surface. We scrimmed and palmed the plate. Here you can see Richard Lawrence, St Bride’s print workshop keeper,  helping us.

The hands-on proved to be the best part of the day for most of us, bringing a better understanding of the morning’s discussion.

And here are some of the results.

That’s it for now. See you tomorrow.

Leave a comment

Filed under education, libraries, museum

Introductions at Senate House Library

Today is Monday and I will not be shy.  Roll out of bed, go downstairs for breakfast and sit with Ollie (NZ) and an American woman  (whose name I have forgotten) who knew London like the back of her hand.  Ollie talks a lot. But it makes breakfast fun. I spot Donato, ask about his Japanese exam, take an extra coffee back to my room and await the appointed time.

There is the usual registration, and I see Nicole Gilroy from the Bodleian. She is taking the European Bookbinding course. She does remember me. After Dr Karen Attard’s riveting talk on what we could expect to see during our course, we are sent off to our various rooms.

Dr Elizabeth Savage, is a delightful and enthusiastic educator. But I am not sure this course is quite what I expected, hoped for or needed. It is very cerebral; I am having to think, as opposed to taking down notes and being shown slides of items on a screen (as in 5 years ago).

We begin with the usual introductions, and it really seems like a course in art history.  We are a pretty diverse group: librarians, collectors, bookseller, curator, art historian, student. We rapidly cover the history of printing techniques, and we enjoy some discussion. Wish I had taken the time to do more of the prelim reading…..

The usual tea-time, but in the afternoon we get our hands on blocks. I am here to study what printers’ blocks and plates can tell us in and of themselves, as opposed to what the printed impression might tell us. There is a lot of discussion about nomenclature and inter disciplinary vocab that affects the cataloguing of these items. Are they realia I wonder? Wish I knew cataloguing…..

We explore the differences in the lines that each method, relief and intaglio produce. I learn a cool new word: flong.

IMG_7861

sorry it’s blurry; a flong is a papier mache-like sheet that gets impressed onto the set-up plate. Type metal will be poured into this, duplicating the plate…

We have 2 sessions and then the hands-on. Here we are asked to describe to the others what techniques may have been used to create the blocks.

IMG_7872

Anna discovering that there was type “hiding” within  the block. These were numbers, and the block was a generic pattern for a series. As the series changed, you just changed the little numbers. This was the block for an “assignat”, a type of currency.

The dark blocks are made from very hard boxwood; they look nearly petrified. The Queen block is double sided. They are cut and shaped in order to be able to join with others on the form.

Handling these items is amazing. I’ve never seen blocks quite like these. I am sure to my printer friends back in Canberra, these are not so surprising, but as printing is not my particular area of interest, they are fascinating.

This next set were of particular interest to me:

The bound title page is date 1632, but it is more likely that the plate was produced in the 1930s at the request of the collector; where is the original plate? And we can tell this by the material used and the nails that hold the plate on the block. I used to wonder what kind of type was used for the lettering, but it is etched in. And of course, the engraver doesn’t necessarily prepare the writing.

Time was running short and we were left with the perplexing questions:

  1. What can the printing surfaces reveal that is not evident on the impression on paper?
  2. Can a vocabulary common to bibliographers, art historians and book historical research ever be generated and how would this change the face of cataloguing?

There was a welcome reception in the Chancellor’s Hall and a few of us left for dinner shortly afterwards.

I think we are an interesting group, and being thrown into a pot like this can either be scary or refreshing.

see you tomorrow.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, conservation, education, libraries, museum

The Grand Adventure begins…

with a headcold.

This just goes to show the power of negative reinforcement; my worst fear is to get sick the day before leaving, and lo! I got sick the day before leaving Braidwood for London. Left work early Thursday because my head was so stuffy, and by Friday morning I was ready to cancel this trip of a lifetime. But I couldn’t cancel or rearrange the schedule. However I wasn’t the only one sick on the plane, and I managed to sleep most of the way.

So. Here I am, again, five years later. This is where it all began.

IMG_7817

Senate House and its Library, home to the London Rare Book Summer School.

I spent a few hours wandering around Malet Street. It was university Open Day, so heaps of parents with child in tow, or was it the other way around, were visiting various departments, and talking about the future.

I found Waterstones, which I can’t believe I had never seen before. I spent some happy hours browsing the shelves and the internet, and getting high on caffeine. And listening to some accordion.

My student accommodation is highly recommended and the best place for me to be. It has everything I need except for a kettle. Breakfast is better than at a hotel and you get to meet some strange and interesting people.

Do not go to the British Museum around lunch, if you want lunch; you can’t find a seat. I was surprised at how warm the rooms were. Too many tourists. I think they really should cap the number of visitors to these places, because you can’t see the exhibits. Also, many tourist sights have given in to security fears, and every where it seems your bags are searched. There are long queues just to get into the venues. I did go to see the mummies, and have learned that part of my course takes me to the print and drawing room, which I may say is a haven in the tourist madness.

I walked around over the Saturday and the Sunday getting my bearings. Following advice from a nice young Italian boy, I walked all the way to St Brides; I realised that by catching the Tube, you miss the sights. So summer Sunday afternoon in London CBD can be relatively car-less and quiet.  I went to find St Brides

I kept walking even though it was quite summery, and I had intended on resting before tango. I found St Paul’s and St Paul’s Churchyard, which to my surprise was just a lane. Foolishly I thought it was going to be a churchyard, and could never figure out where the printing shops might be. I take things a little too literally sometimes. In this new and refurbished lane, I tried to imagine what it might have once been like to live and work there.

IMG_5192

St Pauls, with its churchyard and gardens behind.

To finish off the walking, I found a very retro French cafe with Brazilian waitresses, some of whom appeared to just be over this tourist season, and doing their best to ignore the customers sitting out on the street.  Cafe Boheme in Soho. Well refurbished, it did give off a nostalgic sense of la Belle Epoque. Nice haven from all the tourists with a very small but nice menu.

The day, ended with tango of course. You’ll need to go to the other blog for words on that!

See you tomorrow!

Leave a comment

Filed under food, libraries, museum

A Celebration of music manuscripts symposium – review

When the call came over the ALIA RareBooks distribution list earlier this year that there would be a symposium on manuscripts at the university of Sydney, I immediately registered.  Parchment manuscripts, musicology and calligraphy are not my specialties, but interested as I am in printer’s decorated initials, I could see some relevance in my attendence.

I went to see these:

By the way, these are digitised. You can view them here.

The speakers list was impressive, more so when I got there than on paper. I didn’t know anyone; had no idea that I would be in the presence of some brilliant minds and thinkers. It is a very niche set of talks surrounding processional manuscripts in Sydney University’s Fisher Library rare book collection. To be honest I didn’t realise the minutiae into which the speakers would be delving. It’s been two years since I completed Thomas Forrest Kelly’s online course on Books in the medieval liturgy (HarvardEX), and I was a bit fuzzy on some terms. As I listened to speakers compare square notations from similar books, I felt part of a bigger world; that there is a world where research is conducted on what could be for some people, obscure topics, but very important for the development of society in general.

The Keynote speaker David Andres Fernandez was presenting some findings of his examination of processional books Add. MS 358,F406, F380 and F407, with comparison to exemplars from Seville.  His book on this subject was to be the evening’s book launch, which included a short concert of some of the music contained therein. I do not write much detail of his presentation because I didn’t understand it all. However it was well received my the knowledgeable audience  who did not hesitate to ask questions.

David Andres Fernandez with Jane Hardie at the symposium

David Andres Fernandez with Jane Hardie

At the book launch downstairs, I met fellow ALIA bloggers Nicholas Sparks and Diana Richards. Meredith Lawn, music librarian at the SLNSW,  gave me great tips on how to find early music in the catalogue (for their watermarks of course). I’m such an innocent; I just siddle up to people and introduce myself – if only I had remembered how to introduce myself in Spanish – and start chatting, not knowing who people are. Just about everyone there was either a doctor of this or a professor of that,  all humble and generous and very approachable. To our delight a sextet sang songs from the manuscripts; these were open for viewing in the rare book room. There was plenty of mingling, eating and examination of manuscripts.

The next day was divided into 4 sessions. Julie Sommerfeldt, Manager of Rare Books Collection, whom I met in 2012 at the LRBSC in London, was the perfect hostess for such an event opened the floor for the first day’s speaker, Nicholas Sparks who delightfully introduced us to the history of the Fisher Library’s collection.

Simon Polson’s Talk about talking about manuscripts posed the problem of nomenclature when describing manuscripts: do the defining words refer to the space in which the item is used or to the user of said item, referring here as an example to the word “augustinian”. He discovered that in the manuscripts he examined many of the pages contained recycled images from other manuscripts and that some pages were palimpsest, that is pieces of parchment whose words have been removed and recycled for the use of other text.

Jason Stroessel’s paper was read out by Alan Maddox. It examined the gauges of the staff, and he proposed that 4 scribes were the makers of this processional. Incongruities in the rubric suggested that perhaps it may have started out as a book written for monks, but ended being produced for an abbess.

Morning teas are great opportunities to mingle. Sometimes I don’t know what to say to people. However mingle I did. Throughout the day at all these eating opportunities I spoke with people in the hopes that next time we meet our acquaintance will be renewed in a more relaxed manner. Some people have very sympatico faces; faces that just make you want to know them. Others, you can tell that they probably feel as awkward as you are feeling. It’s like living in a Jane Austen novel, but the reality is that if you are shy and you go to a function by yourself you do not have the benefit of being introduced to others. And if you are all shy, then there is silence and missed opportunities.

Robert Curry examination of the Regla de Sancta Clara Fisher 364 also uncovered the possibilities of four scribes to the manuscript. St Clare’s personal rule was one of poverty; but if you followed St Clare’s St Urban rule, then your life in the sisterhood would be much easier. I am so glad I live in the modern world. I was learning ecclesiastical history in dribs and drabs. By mid-morning I had made the following notes to self:

  1. return to the study of paleography
  2. learn more about the ruling popes and who were they exactly
  3. re learn the order of prayers
  4. read up on the council of Trent
  5. Re-do the online course on liturgical books

And of what importance would this be to me? Actually there is much symbolism in title pages, printers’ initials and printers’ devices, so it wouldn’t hurt me to know this stuff. What other things did I learn?

  • What is a melisma? a group of notes sung to one syllable of text.
  • What is an acceptable variant within a family ? that might be of written notation or printer’s blocks or watermarks…
  • What is a letra gruessa? a fat letter – and later in printing terms, there is similarity with the black letter family.

And thanks to Meredith I finally found out what a viola de gamba was.

From Kathleen Nelson’s presentation on the antiphonal Fisher  F1, I learned about letras caudinales – second most important letters, used for psalms, and letras quebradas, broken letters, (again here we can relate to the printed black letter or the quebrada in tango) used for verses.

The Canadians Barbara Swanson and Debra Lacoste were both charming and warm. I realise I am talking more about the people than about the presentations.  At the end of the day it is all about connections; and I made lovely connections with these very learned people.

There was not much in the way of binding descriptions. The exhibition was focused on the pages not the bindings, so not much joy there either. So yes, I was only just keeping my head above the waters.

If you can’t go to Sydney, visit the digital versions. I had a great time; it ran smoothly and on time, and my thanks go out to Julie and Jane for giving us this fantastic opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under education, food, libraries

What a bunch of fools!

At the beginning of each new school year, I would go to the newsagency to buy my required exercise books. Usually there was a tall one and some short fat ones.

2017-11-24 07.52.55

Foolscap and the shorter book

(If we are going down the past of nostalgia, who remembers roneos?)

I liked neither because I grew up in a French country where the exercise books were like this:

  You can learn cursive writing with this sort of paper

Since I can no longer buy these lined books, my preference now lies with the range of “A” size products. This sizing has become the standard, but in 1979, A4 books were not common.

2017-11-24 07.53.20

A4 and A5 notebooks

However what has all this got to do with the image below?

IMG_5195

Yes it is a fool, with a very small head. He has a 7 bell collar, short even 2 bell hat, with a 4 and 3 circles under. And no hair braid.

Paper with the fool’s cap watermark was used quite commonly all over Europe. On the Continent, its size was quite varied, but in England in denoted paper 12 inches by 16 inches. The foolscap usually refers to the fool’s head with a cap. Sometimes the cap is a hat, sometimes it is a cap that goes over the ears. The cap or hat usually has two bells, sometimes on sashes of differing sizes. Early fools had braids, either diagonal or horizontal; towards the end of the 17th century the fools loose their braid and and the braid, in form of circles, is now found on the hat. The fool’s collar also differs in time and place: it can have from 4 to 8 points. Underneath the fool you will more than likely find a 4 with a crosse pommée and 3 circles. Sometimes in lieu of the 4 there might be a triangle.

In E.J. Labarre’s 1952 “Dictionary and Encyclopedia of paper and papermaking“(p110), you will find all the variety of sizes. They are too innumerable to list here, but let me mention a few: you could find small foolscap, double small, quarto, foolscap long folio. In his research, Briquet found fools caps in paper used in the Upper Rhine provinces dating to 1540. My own research has uncovered watermarks dating from 1478 to 1703; however the earlier date could be from more recent paper as it was found on endpapers used in a rebind. In England, the mark was replaced by the Britannia watermark, being paper exported from the Netherlands. It appears that the mark itself disappears altogether at about 1795.

In the above gallery you will see a variety of fools caps, with caps and braids or with short hair and hats.

Now that there are no watermarks in ordinary writing paper, I think I’ll stick to the standard A sizes!

For more pictures of watermarks click here to visit my Flickr site

 

 

Leave a comment

December 9, 2017 · 5:03 am

A hollow, a hollow, my kingdom for a hollow!

I get fantastic writing ideas when I am driving between Canberra and Braidwood. Unfortunately I don’t have a voice recorder.

I’ve been thinking about large, heavy books, about my students learning how to round and back their 17 section A4 size textblocks. They are making a case binding, because that is one of the methods I am most comfortable teaching, and they are adding a hollow to the spine.

There has been much debate in the literature about the usefulness of the hollow. This has confused me because when I was learning book repair I used the hollow quite a lot to re-attach cover. However what I call a hollow (for Oxford hollow), I also call a tube (which it is). My mentor calls this something else entirely.

In my mind, the hollow is a tube that is made after the spine linings are on, traditionally from kraft paper, but now form more archival material. It is stuck to the spine and the spine cover is then attached to it. It can be made on or off the book. My personal preference is to make it on the book.

Left: how to make a hollow                                        Right: the result of a hollow (BTW this is not what the original image was for)
Left: courtesy Cornell University Library –                                           Right: courtesy Cool Conservation

Here is what I have read:(paraphrasing )

According to Jane Greenfield, hollows started in mid to late 18th century. Boards were attached to textblock and a hollow added to spine to provide smoothness for spine upon which tooling can more easily be applied.

Douglas Cockerell bemoaned the fact that hollows were used too often, and made the spine stiffer.

During five years of repairing large books, many of these had broken at the spine. All that had been holding the book together were the spine linings and the endpapers. A hollow would have helped these heavy tomes, but I can imagine that the vagaries of bookbinding production line do not encourage time out for details.

Hollows are neither necessary nor suitable to small thin books, and perhaps there is an argument for the case of unnecessary usage in such cases. However I do believe that certainly for large case bound books a hollow would be useful, and even for laced in books, the hollow would take strain away from the supports. If we want large, commercial hardback volumes to remain strong, then adding a hollow would make the book and the end user much happier.

NB: To my shame I only realised this year that hollows only work with rounded books. They do not work with flat backs. So don’t try it on a large university test book unless it has a rounded spine!

cheers

 

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, conservation