Sunday, February 23, 2014

Creating order, or ...

Creating order, or the delusion of it... Yes, I now have a 3rd Iron Horse book truck... Currently using it to hold my Pressbengel Project/Ernst Collin/German binding history materials as those are being referred to the most. Will also be clearing some of my journals off of the shelves for more space... Perhaps I should get some off-site storage for the low use/no-use... ;-) And, yes that is salmon leather hanging off of the end of the book truck.



And here 1 & 2... Clearly need to tackle piles on the one in the foreground. Back one holds my artist's book collection and most of my bindings...


Now to clear/clean the bench... so I can finish my conservation work and get back to binding projects.Rediscovered some nice textblocks I had collected over the years, Press Intermezzo among them...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Something Fishy - Fish Leather for Binding

In 1919, after the end of World War I, there were severe shortages and civil unrest in Germany. This situation repeated itself after World War II. These shortages led to a high level of experimentation with ersatz (replacement/alternative) materials such as straw for paper and board, spun paper, ..., silk instead of linen for sewing thread, but also colored straw for inlays (Strohintarsien). Ernst Collin and others wrote articles on the subject in such periodicals as the Archiv für Buchgewerbe, the Buchbinderlehrling, and the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien. This post is about one of those "ersatz" materials, fish leather.

In the Archiv für Buchgewerbe ( Vol. 56, 1919) the bookbinder Franz Martini of Charlottenburg (Berlin) recounted a war experience in which he saw Cod skins that had been pulled off the fish in a field kitchen in Belgium and discarded. Drawing on his experiences at the bindery of Lüderitz and Bauer, he examined the skins to ensure there were now cuts/tears, then carefully removed the scales and made parchment from them, using them to bind various such as military journals. Based on these experiments he deemed the fish parchment superior to calf or sheep for durability and working properties such as the ability to mold over raised cords without wrinkling.

Martini had the leather tested at the national testing center on the recommendation of Paul Kersten (Director of the School for Artistic Bookbinding in Berlin) and the Director of Royal Library of Berlin. The results of this testing were impressive, especially in terms of fold and tear strength where the fish parchment easily reached 50,000 double folds without damage.

Material: Fish skin (untanned), sheep parchment, calf parchment
Mittlere Reißlänge in mm = average breaking length in mm
Mittlere Dehnung in % = average stretching in %
Reistance to folding.


After these tests Martini also developed a way to tan these fish skins to leather, also taking out a "utility model" (Nr. 674 741), a more limited form of patent, on this invention. Below some images of bindings he  created with these tanned skins from the Archiv für Buchgewerbe. Obviously, fish skins are most suited to half/quarter bindings due to their shape... Images from Archiv für Buchgewerbe ( Vol. 56, 1919).


Half-leather extra binding with leather onlay and original pastepaper

Half-leather extra binding with leather onlay and original pastepaper


In the 1934 Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien (Vol 49, Nr 19), Ernst Collin wrote an article titled Bucheinbände aus Fischhaut (Bookbindings in Fishleather) that described the process in more detail, illustrated with photographs by Ernst. Shown is the same Franz Martini as mentioned above demonstrating how to remove the skin from the fish and prepare it. Martini has been able to demonstrate the effectiveness of tanning fish on a variety of species including cod, halibut, shark, eel, and others. Ernst points out that one of the reasons fish leather is not common is that most consumers prefer to cook the fish with the skin on - he suggests wrapping in gauze for the same effect, the cooking method is not mentioned.

Click to enlarge.

The article recaps an earlier article by Paul Kersten from the  1917 (Nr 7) Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien which was similar to the 1919 article mentioned above. Ernst's article also states that Martini's attempt to patent the process failed as it was not unique enough and had been described in earlier publications.

Ernst concludes by praising this material and encouraging the German fisheries to take advantage of the need for durable yet affordable native materials to help contribute to sustainability and German economic independence.

The 1938 volume of the Buchbinderlehrling, a periodical for apprentices, describes the manufacture of fish leather in the context of the 4-year plan to make Germany independent of imports, and increased rationing in advance of the looming war...

The fish were carefully skinned and then tanned in rotating drums using a vegetable tannage -  summach, dividivi, or willow. Unfortunately the tannins in most domestic plants were not effective enough. To dye the skins, aniline dyes and pigments (for darker colors) were used. Finally, the leather is pressed and glazed. Overall, these processes are identical to tanning other animal skins with an equivalent quality possible. Fish leather is retains its flexibility and softness. It is also very resistant to tearing.

The article concludes by reminding the upcoming bookbinders that this is a material that they will need to become comfortable with, just as all other binding materials.

A final article on the subject from the 1946 (Nr 12) issue of the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien leads with "Fish Leather Developed by Bookbinder," recaps the articles mentioned above, and concludes by saying fish leather has established itself as a binding (and other leather trades) material, but no one remembers that a bookbinder first developed it.

Images of fish leathers below from my leather "stores." Of these the eel is the thinnest and smoothest by far, and only really useable on millimeter bindings, on small/light books, or for onlays. Almost no paring is required for use.

The other fish leathers, trout, salmon, cod, and carp are available glazed and suede. Paring is possible, but what I've found most effective is pasting out the back for dimensional stability and letting it dry on Mylar. Peel off and sand (a "micro" belt sander is great) with a little edge-paring. These leathers can easily be used as a structural element of the binding, just as any other leather - they're not just for onlays...


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


The dogfish/shark and stingray skins are very difficult to pare, the former being very rubbery - kills Scharfix blades, fast.  The stingray is very hard and best used as an in/onlay. Cutting with a knife also very difficult. Probably the reason I haven't used it yet. Abigail Bainbridge wrote a great description of working with shagreen for the West Dean College Current Projects blog.


Click to enlarge


Below examples of bindings using fish leather that I have made. Click image to enlarge.


On Søren Kierkegaard by Edward F. Mooney

Bound in salmon leather on spine with stained birch veneer covered boards; endpapers of handmade Roma paper; graphite top edge; leather endbands; title stamped in gold on front cover with goat leather onlays. Enclosed is cloth-covered slipcase. Bound 2013.

The Book of Origins – Le Livre des Origines, André Ricard, 2004

Modified Bradel binding (Gebrochener Rücken); textblock sewn on three slips of Cave Paper brown walnut dyed paper; endpapers of Cave Paper brown walnut dyed paper; gilt top edge; sewn silk endbands; Bradel case with 1/4 veined calf vellum spine and undyed goatskin sides; slips laced through at joint; decor of codfish leather onlay and blind tooling.
22.5 x 14.5 x 2.5 cm. Bound 2005. Collection of Karen Hanmer.

Gaylord Schanilec and Clarke Garry, Mayflies of the Driftless Region, Midnight Paper Sales Press, 2005

“Open joint” binding; sewn on 3 brown salmon leather slips; flyleaves and doublures of Cave Paper “layered indigo day” paper; graphite top edge; rolled endbands brown salmon leather; spine covered in gray salmon leather; boards covered in full vellum with printed illustrations from text below; salmon leather slips attached to boards and framed with decorative weathered wood veneer; tied mayfly attached to front board. 26.5 x 19 x 2 cm. Bound 2013.

Ladislav Hanka, Remembering Jan Sobota, 2013

Modified Bradel binding (Gebrochener Rücken); layered Indigo Night Cave Paper endpapers; sewn link stitch on 5 reinforced slips of same paper as ends; endbands of endpaper paper around core; spine covered in brown Kangaroo with cutouts to reveal slips and sewing; boards covered in brown tie-dyed Pergamena deer parchment; onlays of suede Salmon leather with fishing fly mounted into lacuna in parchment; title stamped in gold on front board. 33 x 25.4 x 1 cm.Bound 2013.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jahrbuch der Einbandkunst 2

Back in April of 2012 I shared this binding from my reference library, one of those books that changes how you approach your field and the history of it. Below a snippet from that blog post...

The copy above, bound by/in the firm of E.A. Enders (Leipzig) is from my collection. I remember being blown away by it on many levels when it was brought into Bill Minter's shop by a dealer who wanted to have a nice clamshell box made for it. Much to Bill's chagrin, the book was sold on the spot (for what was then a lot of money) with a box made shortly thereafter in my own then modest studio. I very quickly found myself sucked into the essays, especially the ones on contemporary binding. It was my first (and really only) design binding purchase and I still love to study the design, the combination of decor, the typographic elements - Germans integrated the title into designs more so than other traditions - and also the little flaws that make it "human."
Yesterday another one of my orders arrived from Germany, this time from Antiquariat Peter Ibbetson, the kind of order one needs to sign for, so glad it was Saturday... Among them was book that I had dawdled over ordering, Musterbetriebe deutscher Wirtschaft: Die Großbuchbinderei E.A. Enders, Leipzig - München from 1929. Translated, "Model Businesses of German Industry," the introduction challenges the reader to learn about German model businesses, pointing out the deluge of publications by and about American model industries, and that these are better known than the "native" German ones... This one is number 6 in the series, here the WorldCat record..


Although part of a series, this book is very similar to the many other publications by binderies such as Extra Binding at the Lakeside Press (R.R. Donnelley and Sons Company, 1925), or Ernst Collins' essays "Fünfzig Jahre deutscher Verlegereinband, 1875 - 1925" in Festschrift Hübel & Denck (Leipzig: Hübel & Denck, 1925) or "Vom guten Geschmack und von der Kunstbuchbinderei" in Spamersche Buchbinderei (Leipzig: Spamer, 1914). These publications tend to give a history of the book and the bindery, highlighting the functional areas with illustrations of the workspaces and the bindings produced in them.

So in reading/leafing through the book I get to page 39 (Sonderabteilung für Handeinbände, Extra Binding Department) and what do I find??? Look familiar? Unfortunately, the 6 pages of that section don't provide any details about the binding, although other bindings mentioned are described as exemplars of the materials and techniques applied in this kind of work.


Oh, so very glad I grabbed it...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Aber mal im Ernst

Aber mal im Ernst = but seriously folks, let's ...

Been enjoying a wave of successes in my quest to add to my bibliography of Ernst Collin's writings.

Some successes based on minimal references/citations from Google Books snippets were filled by the amazing Inter-Library Loan staff at Syracuse. Some of those led me to finding other publishing venues Ernst was active in. One was Das Echo: das Blatt der deutschen im Auslande, a periodical for Germans living abroad - articles were meant to keep them in touch with what was going on in the Fatherland. In additions to articles about bookbinding, there are articles on textile design, silver-smithing, jewelry-making, but also one on household/kitchen appliances and one on why the Treaty of Versailles was bad deal for Germany. HathiTrust held some of the volumes of this title, starting in 1913 and ending in 1922... First Ernst appearance in 1920 with about 6 articles per year. Unfortunately there are gaps, but output trending up.

Also went back to some other journals, Archiv für Buchgewerbe and Archiv für Buchbinderei leafing through page-by-page-by-page, several hundreds per volume. That netted a few more articles not captured by OCR.

Then in the ink-on-paper category, a modest package from Buchatelier Bischoff that included the original publications as issued of Deutsche Einbandkunst: Ausstellung des Jakob-Krausse-Bundes, Vereinigung deutscher Kunstbuchbinder, im Weissen Saal des Schloßmuseums zu Berlin, September -Oktober 1921. Published for the Jacob-Krausse-Bund by Ernst; Spamersche Buchbinderei, Leipzig; Werkstatt für Kunsteinbände with the essay by Ernst; and finally the complete run of Die Heftlade the journal of the Jakob-Krause-Bund that was absorbed into Meister der Einbandkunst. Ernst Collin published and edited the journal in addition to contributing articles to it on a wide range of topics. Most of the articles are short, but that's ok. Like many journals of the era, it also includes tipped-in samples of printing and decorated paper.

On the way still is the Festschrift Hübel & Denck Leipzig, 1875-1925 with an essay by Ernst among others. Like the Spamersche Buchbinderei, this is another publication by one of the significant trade binderies in Leipzig, both with fine/extra binding departments. A history of E.A. Enders is also on the way in another order.

Also Ernst related, the 1947 volume of Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien,  the first postwar volume that contains a mention of the firm of W. Collin and Ernst... Had a scan of that via ILL but was glad to get original hardcopy. Also included in that volume are about half of 1936 I believe, very close to the end of Ernst's publishing career. Access to volumes of this title is one of my greatest challenges - it's not just about being locked up for copyright, it's not even available to search for snippets or words on a page...

The in-process bibliography of Ernst writings has now grown to about 145 articles and monographs on a broad range of subjects, beyond bookbinding. About 40 of those added in the past week or so in a sustained systematic effort.

The bibliography can be linked to via the top navigation bar of this blog - Ernst Collin Bibliography. For those in the US who can read German, there are links to about half the titles at HathiTrust. Citations, leads ALWAYS appreciated.

Ernst Collin was a very active, versatile, and good thoughtful writer with a confident sense of place/presence.