The Common place book

I had an enquiry the other day about someone’s commonplace book. What was that? According to Wikipedia:

a commonplace book is ” Commonplace books (or commonplaces) are a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. …. Such books are essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces are used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts. Each one is unique to its creator’s particular interests but they almost always include passages found in other texts, sometimes accompanied by the compiler’s responses.  ”

When I read this I remembered that I grew up doing this in primary school. I wonder where they are now?

They are neither diary nor journal. The two examples in this blog will have some of the author’s own musings and writings in them.

Thomas Clifford’s commonplace book (NLA MS1097 – item 42) houses all manner of information:

 

MS 1097 item 42 - 1

Cambridge panel with full gilt spine panels

MS 1097 item 42 - 4

MS 1097 item 42 - 3

endbands

MS 1097 item 42 - 6

laced in

It is actually a great way to remember things. Indeed, as a bookbinding teacher I now deliberately leave information out of any notes I give; I recommend to my students that they add in information as a way of retaining it.

Here are some of the things Clifford wrote in the book:

IMG_3273

Ambition like a torrent xxxx looks back…..

IMG_3276

suspicio – jealousy

IMG_3277

An index

On the endpapers I found this pot watermark

MS 1097 item 42 - 12

pillars or bollards

This is Nettie Palmer’s commonplace book of a much later period 1907-1936 (NLA MS 6531)

According to the catalogue, this is a notebook in which

 “she transcribed favourite pieces of poetry, extracts of prose writing, brief diary entries and personal reminisciences for the period 1907-1910, 1913-1914, 1918-1921 and 1936. Loose clippings, a drawing and manuscript notes inserted.”

I remember writing all sorts of notes. Maybe you could try as well.

cheers

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, education, libraries, rare books, Uncategorized

Watermarks and how to find them

When papyrus was used as a writing medium in about 600BC by the Egyptians, contemporary users knew that as product  it did not have a long life.

The Chinese are credited with the first major paper making industry in about 95 AD. However it was the Arabians, after their conquering of the Eastern states, who diffused this knowledge throughout Western Europe. It is also possible that merchants who travelled brought information and goods across borders, fostering innovation in many techniques, papermaking being just one of those.

According to Joel Munsell, an American printer and publisher, paper was used far earlier than suspected, perhaps as far back as the 600s by the Longobards (Lombards), a Germanic tribe living in the north of Italy. They used paper for documents of importance so that forgery was impossible. In the 700s Arabians were thought to have brought back paper technology from their raids in the East. In these periods cotton and straw were used in paper manufacture. In about 1000 Arabians were already writing on satin paper, using local cotton.

Munsell’s chronology is quite extensive and shows that cotton paper and rag paper where being used on the Continent well before printing began in the 1400s. While it is greatly accepted that Italian paper mills were the first to supply paper in large quantities to printers in other countries, there are claims that it is in fact the Spanish who first produced paper in large quantities, namely at Xativa.[1]

The Spaniards having learned the secrets of papermaking from the Moors, used their knowledge of watermills to improve the grinding techniques of linen rags to produce  fine white paper.

What is a watermark and why is it important?

pot watermark

pot watermark single handle with trefoil

If we accept that paper technology came from Arabia to Spain via the Moors who settled there, the  paper marks we see in early Spanish papers  are simple lines and hatchings that are reminiscent of the marks made by the parchment makers. These are made after the paper making process.

The first  watermarks appeared in Italy in around 1270. The crude marks make way for more inventive images created by an  elaborate system, the attachment of wires to the mould. These first watermarks were simple shapes, circles, lines, in various combination, and are made during the paper making process. Where the pulp touches the raised wires, some of it slides off, creating a thinner area.  When the paper is held up to the light, the image is visible.

Churchill RBq 910.8C563 snake

Enter a caption

Papermakers used symbols on their papers as an early form of branding and quality control. Symbols more often used were animals, fabulous monsters, weapons, eagles and birds, gothic capitals, marks associated with important families or cities; ie Columns (Colonna), ladder (Scala, Milan), serpent in wave form ( the Visconti family). Were they proof of purchase, that you really had bought paper from a particular mill, and not an inferior copy? Papermakers traded, either selling or passing on their moulds, and of course they were not averse to imitating moulds from famous papermakers and their peers.  Watermarks can give us a dating clue, however provenance on the strength of a watermark is no longer solely considered.

Later when Holland began supplying the majority of Northern European printers, the  Dutch Mark of Amsterdam which had been the acknowledged sign of quality, was “borrowed” by English paper makers. So it was that marks were bought and sold or “borrowed”, which makes it very hard to use the watermark reliably as a source of provenance. The Germans claimed that by 1800 they had 25 million watermarks

Mylij RB JES 5154 MOA

Mark of Amsterdam in paper used by Milij in Cologne 1589

Knowledge of heraldry is a big help in deciphering watermarks. Many marks are coat of arms or use heraldic symbolism. Watermark nomenclature is based on familiarity with its symbols. The NAtional  Library of Australia has a guide to finding heradic sources in its collection.

The Library holds some incunabula, books printed before and including 1500. To find this material you need to eliminated the  terms”microform” and “electronic” in the search box. They are more than likely to have watermarks. To facilitate your search, the following users list are also available:

Material can be ordered via the catalogue using your library card and  viewed with a light sheet in the Special Collections Reading Room on Level 1.

So come on over and try it out!

 

 

[1] Munsell, J (1856) A chronology of paper and paper-making

Leave a comment

Filed under asian binding, bookbinding, education, libraries, rare books, watermarks

Where books are loved

I am finally in an Australian institution that loves books.

It seems that in the library world, only readers wonder where are the books. Librarians are all about “creating access” , “accessing collections” and more bloody uses of the word “access”, and yet care not one little bit about the actual books.

Ok, so I am a bookbinder and I can perhaps be seen as biased.

Yet finally in this public State Library, where tourists throng (because of the holidays perhaps) on level 4 there is a celebration of the book.

State Library of Victoria’s exhibition “World of books” takes you on a wonderful journey. From the inception of printing to book making in asian countries, there are fascinating examples from their collection. and not all of it is Australian or about Australia. It is refreshing that other parts of the world are acknowledged without fuss.

in one section there are a whole load of terrific book designs for comics and paperbacks, and of course artists’ books.

I will post photos when I get  back to my own computer, but if you are in Melbourne it is well worth a visit, even if it is just to remind you that books are here to stay.

cheers

 

Leave a comment

Filed under asian binding, bookbinding, education, libraries, printing

The tale of the bear that traveled through time and space

Once upon a time, in around 1622, a printer was in need of an ornament. He wanted something striking and useful. Something he could use in a few different ways: in a chapter header or as a tailpiece. It also had to be interesting, perhaps interesting enough to entertaining to enhance the text his was printing.

In those days,  the printer – publisher needed every advantage to attract readers in order to make a profit on his printing venture (nothing has changed!).

What inspired him to create a bear? Bears do represent courage, strength and leadership.

Could be that a circus came to visit Coloniae Agrippinae, or Koln as it is now better known, nevertheless a bear was created in the shop of Johannes Gymnici in 1622, and with it two accompanying sides to form a chapter header. He printed in Alexandri Alensis Angli, Doct. Irrefragabilis Ordinis Minorvm, Vniversae theologiae svmma, in qvatvor partes ab ipsomet avthore distribvta (NLA RBf 230 A374)

The bear poking his tongue out at the men and dogs on either side of him.

This bear was not content to remain in one town and in that same year he was seen in Amsterdam, this time with Michel Colin.

The bear was found in Description des Indes occidentales, qu’on appelle sujourdhuy le Novveau monde / par Antoine de Herrera… Translatee d’espagnol en francois
(NLA RBq JAF 102)

In 1628, the bear found its way to the city of Arras and stayed with the De Riviere brothers.

In a chapter header – Note the eyes and ears are slightly different.

This chapter header was printed in Ioannis Cassiani opera omnia / cvm commentariis D. Alardi Gazaei (NLA RBf CLI 3865)

His cousin or perhaps younger brother, although similar, was found in Lyon in 1659 with Barbier and Girin.

Found in R.D.P.F. Heiron. Baptistae de Lanvza… Homiliae qvadragesimales: ex Hispanico idiomate in Latinvm… translated (NLA RBf CLi 4053)

By 1687, the bear was getting on, and made its way to London to visit with Thomas Bradyll.

Glossarium Archaiologicum (SLSA)

The last time I saw the bear was in 1700 in Antwerp perhaps returning to rest with George Gallet and the Huguetan Brothers.

You can see the nail marks on next to each snake, where the design was attached to a wood block. Is this a copy of a copy? Found in Dionysii Petavii aurelianensis, e Societate Jesu, opus de theologicis dogmatibus, auctius in Hac nova editione… Theophili Alethini (NLA RBf 230 P477)

Some of the differences are slight, one bear is obviously completely different. Who was the first to make him? Was it Gymnici or was is Colin, or did they both get copies from some printer as yet unknown to me? Whose design is it? Questions, questions, questions. It is amazing that this bear has travelled so far and for so long relatively unchanged.

If you would like to take a closer view, please visit my Flickr album: tailpiece comparison. If anyone has a bear from another printer and another time, please let me know.

happy reading

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, education, libraries

On a bookbinding adventure in Pohnpei

I don’t “do” tourism very well; I can’t lie still on a beach for more than a few minutes. Four of us had decided earlier in the year to visit our friend on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. As the time approach, I wondered how I would amuse myself for 2 whole weeks.

 

I can tell you now that I re filed over 10 000 photos of ornaments and initials. That took up a bit of time.

We knew that the island would be small, and that our movements would be limited. So when a colleague from work reported that there was a library on the island, it occurred to me that I might be able to teach bookbinding on my off-excursion days.

IMG_6249

I sent my CV and bookbinding workshop proposal to the Pohnpei Public Library (PPL), and with a bit of help from the Australian Consulate,  three morning workshops began to take shape. I had also visited their website and found that they had a wish list of books to complement their holdings. So the girls and I decided to bring a few kilos of Australian children’s and youth fiction with us.

I had hoped that teenagers or children might be involved, but I had not reckoned on how the island works. Let me say here that this blog is not so much about the bookbinding aspect as it is of  social ramifications of a visiting teacher might engender in a small community.

IMG_6254

This is Lester Ezekias, the director of the PPL. He contacted his local librarians group, the equivalent of ALIA in Australia,  in the hopes of creating interest. Even on the Friday before the start of the workshops, he was emailing people to gauge interest.

Things on the island work by word of mouth or social media. Therefore on the first day we had 6 people who didn’t know what to expect. IT was lucky that Lester had attended a previous book repair workshop as he had bone folders and a few bits and pieces that were to come in very handy.

I’d come prepared with electronic notes and a presentation, but not the correct hardware. On that first day we had to crowd around my laptop to view some power points. I had made up small shows about the various different exhibitions, of Pacific and Islander material, that I had chanced upon during the year. One was a visit to the Museum of New Caledonia, compact exhibition space, but full of interesting information and artifacts relating to Kanaka culture as well as Pacific cultures in general. Another was a glimpse at the Tapa exhibition at the National Library of Australia, where the conservators had cleverly used camouflaged magnets to hold up a long tapa cloth.

And of course, a power point on a very brief history of the book in images.

My friend Kath, we whom we were staying, saved the week by providing her laptop and hardware to connect to the big screen. And as we bound books and had morning tea, the shows ran on a loop. But enough of electronic things, let’s get back to the meat of things, learning bookbinding.

Waiting for students, and Kath and Lesley helping out on the first day

I introduced the students to the wonderful uses of the telephone book and the versatility of pamphlet sewing.

At the end of the first session everyone had a few small booklets.

Bush telegraph and the next session was full; librarians from public schools and the Micronesian community college turned up to learn how to make simple housing. Wallet, four flap folders, phase box, using material locally available.

 

By the third session we were overfull; but no matter I was happy to share my knowledge with those I hope would be sharing this , in turn, with their students.

On the third and final session we made sewn board bindings. Everyone happened to be skilled at sewing, even the men. What pleasure to see surprise and smiling faces at the end of the day, book in hand, students marvel at the immediacy of the result and at having gained an understanding about the construction of books.

IMG_6258

My friend Lesley H. had been my assistant throughout, and for a complete novice she was a great help to others.

I have to thanks Kath Grant for her invaluable insights, as well as for inviting us for a visit. Thanks also to Lester Ezequiel for his unfailling support and to his staff who were completely in the moment, in between answering phones, checking out books to patrons and helping with passport applications.

On our penultimate day the four of us trouped over to the library to donate Australian books we had brought with us.

img_9039I think that carrying 20 kilos of books was very worthwhile.

The whole experience was all about the people; how we interacted, how different cultural views can be, how adaptable humans can be.

Perhaps I hope to go back and teach again.

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, education, libraries, preservation

A book in the hand is better than on screen

As I revisit some of the books I previously examined to now look for printers’ initials, I realise that images of books, or even descriptions, often do not do justice to the item itself.

I’ve been looking inside a book printed by Michel Isingrinium in Basle in 1555. When I look at the photos I took over two years ago, in my mind the book is quite large. Even when I look at the title page and the few initials, I still think the book is at least quarto size.

Look here at this big book:

IMG_7868IMG_7871IMG_7872

However upon a revisit, this is what I get:

IMG_7457

It was not much taller than my pencil. What?!

When I requested items from the catalogue I don’t usually pay attention to the size description. I guess I am looking for particular information such as date of printing, printing house etc. I don’t pay attention to “12mo”, so I am often surprised at the books when the librarians bring them over to me. More often than not they are smaller than I expect.

However a digital version gives you no context. It’s great to be able to view book from the Biblioteca Nacional de Espana, but I personally don’t get a sense of reality. (However it is cheaper to view from my computer than fly to Madrid).

A book in the hand is worth two on the screen.

Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding, education, libraries

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!

 

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