Friday, December 3, 2010

Deceitful Bookbinders in 1724

Georg Paul Hönn's Betrugs-Lexikon (1724), or an Encyclopedia of Deceits committed by the trades describes the myriad of shortcuts and other deceits committed by craftsman in the numerous trades that were parts of Guilds and other elements of society. During that time the Guilds controlled all aspects of a trade including what we would now consider protectionist practices such as not allowing other trades to perform the work of others such as binders selling books and vice-versa. Some of these protectionist aspects still exist today, though the guilds have lost a great deal of influence and power.

Hönn’s work was first published in 1721 in Coburg, Saxe-Coburg in central Germany, in an edition of 2000 copies, quite large for that time and was quickly sold out. As a result three more authorized editions were reprinted as well as pirated editions.1 The “encyclopedia” contained more than 300 articles on deceits.

Thank you to Peter Zillig of Cologne, Germany for posting the original German text of the article on bookbinders on his Vuscor blog.

Encyclopedia of Deceits, or a lexicon of deceits, wherein can be found most deceits and the means of countering them.

Bookbinders commit deceit when they:

  1. When they remove leaves or complete signatures from good books left for binding and then conceal this, or even claim this as a defect from the bookseller who left the books for binding.
  2. When they complete defective books for their good friends or clients by replacing them with complete works left by other clients and let the latter complete their now defective or missing works.
  3. When they work to create defective books in order to spite booksellers with whom they are not on good terms.
  4. When they carelessly misbind books, misfold signatures or trim these too closely, and then when these errors are brought to their attention blame the journeyman.
  5. When for their own advantage they divide into two or more volumes books that would be more appropriately bound as one volume.
  6. When they should bind a book in calfskin or vellum but instead use sheep and pass it off as calf.
  7. When they stall clients who have brought them books to be bound from week to week, and do not deliver the work when promised.
  8. When they have secret agreements with book printers to buy at a discount illicit reprints of publishers books in order to sell them as bound copies with great loss to the publishers.
  9. When they silver plate the metal clasps and bosses on prayer and hymn books, and sell them to unwary buyers as being made of pure silver.
  10. When they gild the edge of a book with fake gold, claim it to be real gold, and charge for gold.
  11. When they sell newly-bound publishers bindings under false pretexts and cause harm to the local booksellers who possess the sole rights to sell these.
  12. When they scrape clean old and dirty vellum bindings and sell these as new.
  13. When French or English volumes are shoddily handled and bound so that they attract moths and then quickly fall apart.
  14. When they bind the signatures and do not use as many sewing stations as they should and skip stations here and there or combine two or more signatures.
  15. When they insufficiently beat or size the signatures so as to save work and sizing.
  16. When they agree to fix prices among themselves for Bibles, hymnbooks, calenders, to arbitrarily raise prices.
  17. When they discretely file or trim down silver clasps and bosses that were included with books left for binding.
Measures to protect one against these deceits:
  1. That one does not give the binder any book that one has not conscientiously collated so that if there are mistakes the binder can be held accountable.
  2. That to prevent deceit, one takes the good advice of competent people, and upon receipt of a book from a binder examines it carefully and leafs through it to ensure that there are no defects or mistakes, and if any deceit is found the binder will be reported to the bookbinders’ guild for punishment.
  3. That they be forbidden from entering the profession of bookseller under any pretext, and to do will result in confiscation of their books and punishment for themselves.
Sources:

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