Tag Archives: paper

Worker 1 and worker 2: trials and tribulations of edition binding

I am worker 1 and I roped my partner Watkins into being worker 2. I go to work everyday, while he has binding opportunities at home. He is more of a paper artist, but has learned some bookbinding, and when it comes down to it, is much more finicky about it than I am.

We have to bind two editions of 15 or so books. It is printed on glossy/semi matte paper and 400 pages weighs quite a lot.

So we sew.

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Yes we used a sewing frame each. Watkins, as a beginner sewed relatively loosely. I, as an intermediate binder, sewed relatively tighter than he. We did 6 each.

The paper we used was very slippery. The sections were six sheets. Was that too many? I couldn’t round mine. I went to my day job and left worker 2 to do the rounding. He rounded his with some ease; he tried one of mine and swore a lot.

So, as boss lady, I decided that we would back half of them. I rounded (finally) and backed one of my own, and it was hard work. It did not please me. Like, where where my 90o turns? Now let me be honest with you. I don’t actually do much binding. I don’t have time. If you follow my blog, you might have guessed that I only bind a few books a year. So even though I teach bookbinding, I don’t do much of it myself. BUt intellectually, I know what needs to be done. Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach….

I’m not being negative; I’m being realistic.

So, to get back to the production line.

I left Watkins in the bindery today to back his 6 books plus one of mine. This is the result:

Shirts neatly folded

Shirts neatly folded in his drawer. What does that say? He told me he had to leave the bindery before he chucked something on the wall.

It took him 5 hours to back 6 books. I had warned him that setting the book in the press would be difficult. He was cursing and swearing as the textblock moved about. He was cursing and swearing as the sections seemed to move of their own accord.  I gave him this job because he can back far better than me; yes, he had done it before. But neither of us had experienced this paper. The lesson here is that if you have shiny, slippery paper, you will have a hell of a time backing it. Bookbinders out there, if you read this, please send me your advice!

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You must admit that for a beginner, that’s pretty good. He was very hard on himself. As the Q & A  person, yes I could find fault, but neither of us have the experience to make the perfect backing; we simply haven’t done enough of them.

I was sewing endbands last night:

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See, I was crafty; I decided that if I couldn’t round the books, I’d just keep them straight. I don’t believe there is any shame in that. This is certainly a learning process.

  1. don’t use shiny paper
  2. check your sewing
  3. practise on something not important
  4. practise some more.

Any advice gratefully accepted. The books will look great at the end of the day, but their journey will have been long and painful.

 

 

 

 

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Scrolls and concertinas

In a previous post we examined  lontars,  collections of dried palm leaves which have texts or illustrations inscribed on them, and held together by either a central thread or threads on either ends.

Papyrus and dried leaves do not have a very long life, and this was known to contemporary writers. As a medium they are not very flexible. It seems only logical that the invention of paper would produce an evolutionary change in how the written word was stored.

The fragility and handling difficulties of the lontar, or the Chinese  pothi made from bamboo slats, was overcome by writing on long sheets of paper.

The continuous form of the scroll was first developed in China during the Tang dynasty.  While much of the writing was previously done on silk, it wasn’t until the Tang period  that artists began to use paper as their medium. Scrolls can be read horizontally, from right to left, or vertically. Scrolls were not necessarily for every day use. While some scrolls contained religious texts, scrolls depicting landscapes and scenes were used as decoration.

Scroll

The scroll allows for the slow development of a story. Presumably, presenting bite size chunks of information allows the reader to concentrate and be fully aware of what he is seeing or reading. This form was prevalent until the Song dynasty.

In Asia there are two varieties of scroll:

The horizontal scroll, when used  for texts, is called  makimono in japanese (with few illustrations). The picture scroll is called juan zhou in chinese or emakimono in japanese, meaning in the chinese manner.

The vertical scroll can also be used for text, however as a picture scroll it is called biao-fa or guafu in chinese or  kakemono in Japanese.

In its construction, the Asian scroll differs to the European scroll in that it is made up of several sheets of paper, attached around and behind the main scroll piece.

 

vertical scroll

 

 

In Europe,  the parchment scroll had been used from the earliest times and even after  the advent of printing. In fact, scrolls are still in use today as away of archaizing information; that is, increasing the importance of the information contained within it, hence the bestowing of university degrees in scroll form.

Parchment scrolls were easy to carry in one’s pocket, vest or satchel, making information easily transportable. If you needed to add information but weren’t too sure how much needed to be added, scrolls were quite adaptable. A piece of parchment could easily be sewn onto the end. Scrolls were also particularly handy for maps or for writing out genealogies. They were used extensively in mass, where the priest read out parts of the mass, and while reading the scroll an image could be seen by the congregation.

 

However, unrolling scrolls must have been tedious and inconvenient. It is no wonder that in Asia at least, the concertina provided a first step towards the codex. While the pages of a concertina are folded, it is usually read in a two page spread, not necessarily as a drawn out concertina shape. It is my experience that more often than not Asian concertinas horizontally.

Concertinas sizes depend on lengths of paper.  One sheet may have been long enough to contain all the necessary information; however it is likely that several sheets would be pasted together end to end to form a continuous length. A search on the internet will reveal a myriad easy ways to make a concertina: folding a single sheet of paper, attaching two boards on the end, and there is a book.

concertina drawing

Different ways of folding a concertina and attaching separate leaves

 

Book artists have embraced the idea of the concertina because it is a quick and effective means of producing a book. if you want to learn more about making concertina bindings in the Asian manner,  Kojiro Ikegami’s seminal book on Japanese binding techniques[1]is a terrific place in which to start.

 

 

[1] Ikegami, Kōsanjin. & Stephan, Barbara B.  (1986).  Japanese bookbinding : instructions from a master craftsman.  New York :  Weatherhill

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Watermark of the week: When does a bow look like a wombat?

Over the last two years I’ve examined about 220 books and have collected over 400 watermarks. Sometimes there are tow versions of one book and I get them both out to see if the paper is the same; if there is a little difference in the printing or the pagination. Sometimes it’s as though I see the same things over  and over again.

In the search  for watermarks I look through databases and books, sometimes getting a glimpse of a mark that might resemble one that I have.

What do you think this is?

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Could you believe these are all bows? as in bows and arrows, made in Paris between1636 and 1642.

I thought it looked like a potato or a fat bear or a wombat. However , how does one describe this and how do you find it in a database if you don’t know it’s a bow?

I’ve just been browsing books, and that trains your eye. In books of later periods I have not seen any more marks like this. I wonder who’se marks they represent. They were in the following books:

  1. Sancti patris nostri Gregorii Episcopi Nysseni opera : nvnc denvo correctivs et accvrativs edita … & in tres tomos distributa Parisiis : sumptibus Aegidii Morelli … , 1638
  2. Sancti Patris nostri Justini philosophi et martyris Opera. Item Athenagorae Atheniensis, Theophili Antiocheni, Tatiani Assyrii, & Hermiae Philosophi tractatus aliquot, quos sequens pagina indicabit. Quae omnia Graecè & Latinè emendatiora prodeunt. Parisiis : apud Clavdivm Sonnivm, 1636
  3. Qvorvm plvrima Graece, qvaedam etiam Latine nunc primum prodeunt : Graeca cum manuscriptis exemplaribus diligenter collata, Latinae versiones ad Graecorum normam exactae & recognitae / Cura & studio Iacobi Sirmondi. Lvtetiae Parisiorvm : sumptibus Sebastiani Cramoisy et Gabrielis Cramoisy, 1642

If anyone out there knows, please tell me!

 

 

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The find of the week – January

It is saturday and I am writing this quickly before I start making the custard for the ice cream…

When I first started the search for watermarks every little grape and heart and crown was exciting. Now I have the “oh that’s only a heart” attitude. When there are no watermark, there is a little sense of outrage. Anyhoo…this week, this is what I found:

A unicorn, well at least two parts of him. His op half was in the flyleaf of volume 1 and the bottom part was in the back fly of volume 3 of

Historia theologico-critica de vita, scriptis, atque doctrina sanctorum patrum : aliorumque scriptorum ecclesiasticorum trium primorum saeculorum ex virorum doctissimorum literariis monumentis collecta (RB JES 4979) at the National Library, printed in Augsburg in 1783
Unicorn on edge of cross grain paper, with belt and ornament

Unicorn on edge of cross grain paper, with belt and ornament

bottom quarter of the unicorn in vol3

bottom quarter of the unicorn in vol3

 

Just as with the Virgin Mary in a previous post, I have searched online databases and all the books I can get my hands on, to no avail. So if anyone can tell me if they have seen this same unicorn, I would be most grateful.

Dos a dos binding

Dos a dos binding

This is my project book of the research I am currently undertaking. It is easy to carry around: 150 bindings and 260 watermarks! I’ll be giving this to my friend Fabienne when she visits from Montevideo….

Next…I found two jokers in the same book. This has happened to me before in The History of the Plot. These two came from :

The primitive origination of mankind, considered and examined according to the light of nature / written by the honourable Sir Matthew Hale (RBfCLI 4016) printed in London 1677.

I am getting my son Max to photoshop all my watermarks so that they are clearer. This is hard to see. But once your eye is trained you can see any number of details.

And lastly, please find below a man on a horse. They are also sometimes called picadors. I found him in:

Mellificium theologicum ad dispatandum et concionandum proficuum… : Colligente & producente m. Johanne Binchio (RB De vesci 920)

man on horseThis was printed in Amsterdam in 1658.

I  am currently just collecting data and putting them in a book. This really has made my week!

cheers

 

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Saints and saintly women

I am not a religious person; I tried to read the Bible once but got bored quickly. I believe that this has led to  a lack  in my art appreciation abilities. I might understand more symbolism if I had had a more thorough religious literary upbringing.

My random watermark discoveries have shifted my attentions to spanish papermakers and their marks. Did you know that the largest collection of Jesuit texts in the Southern Hemisphere is held at the library of the Compania de Jesus in Cordoba, Argentina. The National Library of Australia has over 5400 books in their Jesuit Collection.

In fact in terms of historical papermaking I haven’t been able to find much information on spanish papermakers. As I peruse the Library’s catalogue, and bring up from the stacks  a mountain of books on papermaking history, much of it is Britain-centric.

I have a lot of data; lots of watermarks to sift through. They are starting to look the same. So while having access to data on internet databases such as Piccard’s or Le Briquet  they hurt my eyes. Using books is perhaps limited, but online databases take longer

To help me sort my data I’d like to make lists of papermakers. Italians, Spanish, French, Dutch. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. I can’t find a list of spanish historical papermakers. I am going to have to guess and amalgamate data.

This is just a long intro to the book of saints I was examining.

Leather bound, blind tooled landscape book

Oracvlvm anachoreticvm : Sanctissimo patri nostro / D. Clementi VIII

Printed in Venice by Raphael Sadeler, and bound with Musius, Cornelius, 1503-1572. Solitvdo, sive Vita solitaria lavdata. It’s about hermits and saintly women, who might have been hermits.

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It is a strange landscape book. You don’t see many of those. Covered in leather with 5 single cord supports. Blind tooled. No introduction or title pages. In fact it looks like someone’s scrap book. The first and last third (more or less) of the book are cross -grained bound pages with text; it is landscape because correctly paper grained printed plates have been stuck on to make the book wide.

 

cross grain meets grain

Each page in these section has text and then an image. In between these parts, are engraving of different saints. Some of the plates are loose. What struck me was that the images were not what I was used to; more accurately, not what I expected.

The book is dated Venice 1600. The pictures are so naturalistic, cartoon-like in the mood they give.

Hermit's gardenThere are everyday scenes with hermits in. Some strange beasts and people.

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So, picked at random because I was looking for spanish books, I come across some interesting watermarks:

This appears in the first third of the book:

Shield watermark

And a shadow watermark, maybe? Can you make out the face in the tree?

Mask like face under the bird cage in tree

And as the plates are printed on full pages, we get this mark:

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The women return to the cross grain/grain pattern and have this mark:

Shield with 3 fleur d elis and crown aboveI was wondering if each of the women had their own mark, a saintly mark, but I think it was just random paper:

Can't make it out. Can you?

This watermark seems part lion, part snake. I’d really appreciate it if anyone had a clue to please let me know what you think it might be.

An anchor, which is typically Italian

The anchor above was found in the back fly. This is a typical italian mark. There were also horns amid the women’s skirts.

Chasing watermarks is a bit like trying to find the end of the rainbow; it is endless.

 

 

 

 

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Not much happening outside my own head

I’m happy at work, and since I have finished all the books that are going away for competitions I am a bit slow in the home bindery.

This is what is exciting  me at the moment:

 

Horn watermark

Horn watermark

Perhaps not this one is particular, but certainly this one: two griffins? found in a book about Spanish royal lineage.

Two griffins around shield

Two griffins around shield

I posted about searching for watermarks a few months ago. Well I am still obsessed by them. However given that I now have so much data, I’ve decided to consolidate by using the light sheet on books that I have already examined for their binding structure.

Take a look at this:

Watermark in Albrecht Durer's head

Watermark in Albrecht Durer’s head

I was so excited to discover this watermark in a self portrait by Albrecht Durer. Unfortunately I can’t quite make out what it is. Amongst the same set of images here is a tower watermark:

there is a crenelated tower in there somewhere.

there is a crenelated tower in there somewhere. Can you see the doorway?

This is the best image I can take. I think there is a tall crenelated tower, with perhaps a smaller secondary tower next to it. I can’t find this in any resource.

So as I consolidate data, I am also searching books and online databases, such as Piccard online and Le Briquet online. These take hours to sift through and at the end of the day all the watermarks end up looking the same.

I mean, how many grapes can you possibly have as watermarks? Well I read somewhere online that Germany once claimed to have had 25 million watermarks attributed to their country before the 1800s!

I have found French pots; they can have one or two handles, lid or no lids.

Pot, one handle with flowers

Pot, one handle with flowers

Recently I found a snake, with shield?

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Here we have grapes in a circle

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a hat,

this is a hat believe it or not

this is a hat believe it or not

and here is an axe:

An axe

An axe

As I sift through all my photos I see some marks that resemble each other. I suppose the biggest part of the job now is to compare all the similar photos and find them on the databases. I can’t tell you how  excited I get when I find a mark. It is such an overlooked item in a book. Even with the lightsheet, the printing can make the mark hard to decipher. I think I have trained my eyes to find them though.

In the libraries of Europe and America, these marks must seem so inconsequential; but in my small world here they are amazing to my colleagues and myself.

 

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A bit of a watermark gallery

The quality is not very good. It is really hard to photograph. If you have any solutions please let me know. I have a light sheet and a small camera.

Enjoy

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June 4, 2015 · 6:14 am

After the course: the British Library and its conservation laboratory.

Why is it that cultural institutions world wide seem to feel the brunt of funding cuts? Who gets funding increases? Is it that the administration of things has gone viral and we are now paying more for bureaucrats than for the people actually do the work, who create the interesting stuff?

Exterior of entrance to British Library

On Sunday after my course finished I went on a bit of a reconnoitre. I knew my apartment was close, and since I didn’t want to be late for my appointment at the preservation lab on the Monday morning, I thought I’d take a closer first look at London’s foremost book repository.

King’s library near the cafe

Its exterior belies what treasures can be found in its interior. I wandered around the large empty halls, not really knowing where to start. I thought a cup of tea might be the place; and on the way I found the philatelic collection. They had stacks of pull-out drawers with English stamps. The café was located at the base of the King’s Library collection. It stands behind many feet of glass, extending beyond where I could see. Unfortunately the café was closed.

So I wandered around the building, looking quickly over the displays in the treasure galleries. Without a purpose I feel quite listless in cultural institutions. At least I knew my way there for the morrow.

Monday morning: after croissants at Les Deux Amis, I made my way in the drizzle to the British Library for my first laboratory visit of the trip.

After such an intense week in the dark looking at books and bindings, I was keen to get back to the bench, anyone’s bench.

Before the walkthrough, Robert Brodie, their public relations officer, took me through their workflow procedures: how items get to preservation, and the processes through which they go in the department. To begin, various departments whose collections need attention, work through a bidding system for time in the laboratory; based on time, a worth number is assigned to each bidder. On this basis the whole year in conservation is planned and different collections get assigned a certain amount of work time and priority. This was significant because within our library we are looking for ways to prioritize our work.

Within the library they use the PCMS (Preservation conservation management system), which keeps track of jobs and books electronically throughout their journey from one department to another.

The Conservation department consists of 6 teams of about 5-6 people. Each team has their own station and their own wet area. Each team deals with a particular collection or department within the library. The teams are made up of paper conservators, binders and all rounders, both paper and book conservators.

The conservation lab at the British Library  is located on a spacious two floors. In the two floors that Preservation cover there are specialist rooms such as the paring room for leather work,

the finishing room, with many drawers of type and tools and the expert finisher

the finisher

and the stores room.

After Robert’s whirlwind tour, he left me in the capable hands of Chris Day.

Chris and I discussed the intricacies of binding repairs. As I am fairly knew to this business I was keen to see how others did spine repairs; I was curious to see if other labs also used commercial paste, or if they solely used starch paste. Most of the repairs that passed through the lab were on major items. The British Library is also a legal deposit library, so they received  paperbacks and all manner of books.  Repairs to such items are not necessarily done in the lab.

In essence, the way they look at books is the same as us, except that their books are so much older than ours. By comparison, some of our treasures would possibly be just an average, alright  perhaps more than average, book in their collection.

Chris took me to meet with the finisher in the tooling room. Unfortunately there were visiting Russian librarians and I did not have the opportunity to talk with him. As we walked around the separate rooms that made up the laboratory we talked about binding repairs and and the state of binding in the UK.

At the end of the day, life in the bindery wasn’t so different to the one at home. It’s bigger, better equipped and has more staff. The binding techniques remain the same; the paperwork is slightly different.

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Boxes: I gave up wood for paper

There is something delicious about small boxes. I became a woodworker because I wanted my father to teach me how to make chairs.

He and I shared a workshop, and he taught me a lot. He is a tool maker,  and made a lot of the machinery and jigs we used.

Those were great times, making frames and then discovering the joys of boxes. I love small things, small places in which you can hide stuff. I taught myself with books, my very first one being Andrew Crawford’s “Book of boxes”.

I have always had wild ideas about spaces; I like to find hidey holes, and crazy but useful shapes. After all, the boxes needed to be useful.  But I digress. As the years moved on, and I had a little shop of my own, my life changed, as life does, I found myself without a workshop, without inspiration.

A course was on offer at the local technical college. It was during the day, which suited me, and I met Neale Wootton, who has become a mentor to me over the years. I think upon those classes with fond memories; he had a great plan and dry sense of humour. He was a bit scary, in that very knowledgeable kind of way.

That course opened a magical door. It was very exciting to be able to make REAL books; books with cloth cases, not just sewn pamphlets. Since those early days I haven’t made as many books as I would have liked. I haven’t learnt many techniques either; as a bookbinder in a large institution, I now repair books.

However, I’ve just inherited the class at tech, and I will endeavour to instill in my students the inspiration that Neale instilled in me, and on the way I also hope to become a more imaginative binder.  And I still make boxes.

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