Sunday, April 23, 2017

Babette, Bärbel's older sister?

About a month ago I introduced Bärbel who had to leave school at the age of 13~14 following the death of her father, and go off to learn a trade so she could contribute to the household. Bärbel was the protagonist in Bärbels fröhliche Lehrzeit (Bärbel's Happy Apprenticeship) that I wrote about in Bookbinding as Chick Lit. This genre is known in German as Backfischromane, an interesting term. I had found the book by accident while surfing eBay... and ordered it on a whim, no researching the Author further in any detail. The story spoke for itself, and the illustrations were fun. After that post I received an email from a librarian colleague in Weimar who wrote to let me know that Felix Riemkasten had written an earlier version of the book in 1935... Well, now I was obligated to dig deeper if only to see what the differences were. After all, post-war Germany in 1953 was a very different time from Nazi Germany in 1935...

Babette bindet Bücher (Babette Binds Books) arrived early last week and provided a wonderful deja-vue experience. The 1953 story (Bärbel) was an almost identical word-for-word reprint with the same characters, but with a different illustrator (Lotte Oldenburg) than the 1935 story (Babette). Babette did however provide some differences that were interesting. The first was the choice of typeface in the 1935 story, an appropriately German fraktur. Makes for an interesting combination with the typefaces used on the cover... I did look through my Buchbinderlehrling to see if the book might have been reviewed or at least mentioned, but alas, no. Babette was described in Georg Ruppelt's Buchmenschen in Büchern (Book People in Books), 1997, accompanied by the frontispiece illustration.

Both books can be found via various online antiquarian platforms:

Cover | Einband

From the dedication below, I wonder if Lotti Kessler went on to become a bookbinder because of Babette's story...

Dedication | Widmung
Lotti Keßler
zum Geburtstag 1936
von ihrer Freundin
Lore Panzer.

The frontispiece and title page below show Babette in workshop with Meister Schwannecke and depict her as a the book-lover she is.



The 1953 story with Bärbel began with her being told by her mother that with the death of her father and the loss of income, that she would need to leave school to learn a trade and contribute to the household. We do not learn how the father died or other family details. These were, however, revealed in 1935's story about Babette... Babette's father was the local "city clerk" (Stadtsekretär, Beamter/Civil Servant) and went after his duties and responsibilities with great dedication. He was thinking of these on his way to hearth and home when he stepped into oncoming traffic on a slushy wintry day... He died instantly, a small consolation for his family... As the youngest of three she also had two brothers, one a student at university and the other a sailor. As a student, Babette was very bright and would certainly have followed her brother to a university - she wanted to become a teacher...

Babette cleaning the store room in her first days as an apprentice.
Babette muß in ihren ersten Lehrtagen den Lagerraum aufräumen.

More about Babette's family and the consequences from the death of her father...
Mehr über Babettes Familie und die Folgen vom Tode des Vaters...


Babette's mother spoke strongly about these consequences and the impact that they would have. Babette answered with "jawohl" and "jawohl Mutter...," I.e. "yes, ma'am! A good obedient child who knows her duties and responsibilities. The story itself is told very unpolitically, although duty and obedience (Pflicht und Gehorsam) could be interpreted that way, and probably should be in the context of 1935 when everything was politicized, including trades and education.

After this the story continues identically with only very minor variations for both Babette and Bärbel.



Coffee with her former teacher, note press under table.
Kaffee mit ihrer ehemaligen Lehrerin. Die Presse ist unter dem Tisch.

Babette gets to go dancing but is encouraged to wear gloves because of calluses...
Babette geht tanzen und wird geraten Handschuhe zu tragen wegen Hornhaut...

Babette sewing | Babette beim Heften

The cranky Journeyman's pants are glued to the stool as a prank, and torn out.
The other apprentice got sent to his apartment to grab a new pair...
Die Hose des fiesen Gesellen wird vom Lehrling an den Hocker geklebt.
Nach gelungenem Scherz muß Letzterer eine neue Hose holen.


At the exhibition | Bei der Ausstellung
The end | Ende


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Parchment from Salmon - Lachs Pergament

By now, everyone show know that I have a certain infatuation for working with fish leather. Part of the reason may be that it is so different and uncommon. A bigger reason may well be the connection to Ernst Collin and my project around his writings... I first wrote about the uses of fish in binding back in early 2014 - Something Fishy - Fish Leather for Binding - with subsequent posts showing my uses of the skins. Recently while looking through all my issues of Der Buchbinderlehrling (1927-43) I found a short article about "Fips" and the eel skin in the volume for 1937. I've worked with eel leather (Very thing, but strong. Great for millimeter bindings), but this was the first article that described making parchment from a fish skin. The earlier articles were scant on the tanning/drying details. In his third year, "Fips" wanted to do something special for the binding on the Buchbinderlehrling he was going to enter into the annual bookbinding competition. So, he went next door to the fish monger and asked for a really big and fat eel, but without the meat, guts, bones... After some discussion, he got what he needed, scrubbed it clean in the courtyard of the shop (to the disgust of all) and tacked it to a board to "let the sun do the rest." It was that simple.

Inzwischen sollten alle wissen, daß ich so eine verspinnerte Vorliebe für die Verwendung von Fischleder... an Einbänden habe. Ein Grund mag sein, daß es so anders ist und von fast niemanden mehr verwendet wird. Der größere Grund mag die Verbindung zu Ernst Collin sein der bekanntlich einige Aufsätze über Fischleder in der Buchbinderei geschrieben hat. Ich habe über diese zuerst 2014 in dem Aufsatz Something Fishy - Fish Leather for Binding geschrieben mit weiteren Aufsätzen wo ich meine Anwendungen beschrieben habe. Neulich fand ich beim Durchblättern meiner Buchbinderlehrling Jahrgängen (1927-43) einen kurzen Aufsatz über "Fips" und die Aalhaut. Ich habe schon einig Male Aalhaut verwendet (sehr dünn, aber stark), ideal für Edelpappbände, aber dieser war der erste Aufsatz in dem beschrieben wurde wie aus Fischhaut Pergament gemacht wurde. In den meisten Aufsätzen die ich bis jetzt gesehen habe ging es eher ums Gerben, aber in allen Fällen mit wenigen Details. Als Lehrling im dritten Jahr wollte "Fips" sich etwas besonderes für seinen Einband vom Buchbinderlehrling für den jährlichen Lehrlingswettbewerb ausdenken. Aus verschiedenen Gründen kam er zur Aalhaut. Also, ab zum benachbarten Fischhändler. Ein ganz dicker sollte es sein, aber ohne Fleisch, Gräten, und Innereien... Die hat er von dem verdutztem Fischweib sogar kostenlos bekommen. Also zurück in den Betrieb um die Haut zu reinigen (zum Eckel aller) und aufzuspannen. So einfach war das.

"Fips" setting out his eel skin to dry in the sun.
"Fips" beim Aufspannen seiner Aalhäuten.

Judging by the picture in the article (above), perhaps the eels fattened themselves after the Battle of Jutland.

Dem Bild oben nach wurde sein Aal vielleicht von der Skagerrakschlacht so fett.


Friend and colleague Monica Langwe in Sweden sent me these pictures of fish parchment she had, so I now had a sense of what I was aiming towards. Nice to see the unique textures I was used to from working with fish leather in the parchment, too.

Meine Freundin und Kollegin Monica Langwe in Schweden schickte mir diese Bilder von Ihrer Fischpergmenthaut. Jetzt hatte ich eine Ahnung wie das Ganze aussehen sollte. Schön auch zu sehen, daß die eigenartige Oberflächenstruktur wie beim Leder erhalten ist.

Fish parchment detail | Fischpergament Detailansicht
View of overall skin | Gesamt Ansicht des Pergaments
So..., the other day my wife was pulling into a parking lot with our local seafood trucked parked in it. Among the mussels, clams, and scallops was a modest Atlantic salmon fillet with skin on. She knew about my crazy projects and wanted to provoke me into action. So, after eating clams and mussels, I got to work skinning the fish.

Also, vor einigen Tagen wurde das Auto meiner Frau in einen Parkplatz mit dem Laster vom Seefruchthändler versteuert... Unter den Muscheln und Jakobsmuscheln war auch eine bescheidene Seite atlantischen Lachs mit der Haut dran. Sie wusste von meinen verspinnerten Projekten und wollte mich sticheln... Also Muscheln gegessen, und dann ran die Arbeit den Lachs zu enthäuten...

Pulling the skin off.
Beim Enthäuten.

Almost done – I rewarded my helper with scraps of sashimi
Fast fertig –Meinen Helfer habe ich mit Sashimiresten gefüttert.


The skin being cleaned after removal.
Nach der Enthäutung fing die Reinigung an.

The skin was first washed and rinsed in very mild (useless) dish detergent
and water to remove oils and the scales that remained...
Die Haut wurde zuerst in sehr milder Geschirrspülseife und wasser gewaschen
zwecks entfettung und den Rest der Schuppen los zu bekommen.

Soaking for 2 days in kaolin clay to degrease further and aid in smell removal.
Die Haut wurde als nächstes für zwei Tage in einer Kaolin/Wasser Mischung gelegen
zwecks Entfettung und Geruchentfernung.

The skin stretched out to dry in the sun under tension, just like "Fips'" skin.
The Haut unter Spannung in die Sonne zwecks trocknung gelegt,
so wie "Fips" es auch gemacht hat.
In for the night, nice and taut. Will it pass the dog test, will Loki lick it?
Rein für die Nacht. Wird es das Schnüffeltest bestehen, wird Loki es lecken?

This morning I found several greasy spots that I cleaned, and then out in the sun it went again.

Heute Morgen einige fettige Stellen gefunden die ich gereinigt habe, dann wieder raus in die Sonne.

The finished parchment | Das fertige Pergament

Recto

Verso

Detail

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Stolpersteine - Stumbling Stones

Three years ago today Stolpersteine were placed in Berlin for Ernst Collin and his wife Else. (Deutsch hier).

The Stolpersteine for Else and Ernst Collin in 2015.

Yesterday, the University of Kentucky held the UK Historic Preservation Symposium to Address Conflict, Violence and Preservation.
“The event will explore the modern place of artifacts of the past that reflect a legacy of racial, religious, cultural or class-oriented conflict, and will ask whether we can learn the lessons these places offer if they are not present in the landscape,” said Doug Appler, assistant professor of historic preservation in the College of Design.
Listen to Anne Thomas, coordinator of the Stolpersteine project that honors Holocaust victims throughout Europe speak here.

More about Günter Demnig's Stolpersteine project on their site here.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bookbinding as Chick Lit

Bärbels fröhliche Lehrzeit (Bärbel's Happy Apprenticeship) by Felix Riemkasten written in 1953 is a charming piece of teen lit. for women. Illustrations by Christa W. Gräfin von der Schulenburg.

After the death of her father, Bärbel, at age 14, needs to leave school to take up an apprenticeship rather than going on to university like her eldest brother (She was a straight A student). She loves books, bookbinding isn't too strenuous (says her mother), ... What could go wrong? Nothing actually, mostly, and after finding an apprenticeship her first task is cleaning the store room (very familiar to me). Then there are challenges in dealing with the Altgeselle (Journeyman who never moved on to become a master), being the only woman, ... However, she's an ambitious over-achiever, pushes herself to learn new things, wants to create fine bindings and open new markets... A fun read that is remarkably accurate in its portrayal of many of the realities of apprenticeship, its descriptions of tools and equipment, and is up-beat, cheerful, and even empowering.

Bärbel pointing out some of her bindings in a book store window.

Although Germany had been relatively "progressive" about women as apprentices..., Bärbel was the first woman to apprentice with Buchbindermeister Schwannecke. All apprentices were referred to as "Junge" (boy), and Bärbel was also referred to as this... Bärbel's gender was also something that led to regular disputes with the Altgeselle, a journeyman who never progressed beyond that stage and was largely responsible for the day-to-day work and apprentices.

Bärbel heaving a sewing frame loaded with books through the bindery... Why? To demonstrate on her first day that she could carry her weight. Would be easier and safer to carry if held lower...

As woman, Bärbel was naturally weaker, something of a liability in a trade that required great stamina working while standing and carrying heavy loads... Hence, carrying the loaded sewing frame on her first day... Of course, she first had to identify the sewing frame never having seen one...The number and size (as well as dangerous) of the equipment and tools also intimidated her.

Among the adjustments was also that learning a trade as an apprentice was not a warm and fuzzy environment filled with mutual respect... Praise was scant, even when the work was well done, and apprentices (and journeymen) were chastised in the presence of others.

As part of her apprenticeship, Bärbel also had to go to trade school - the great equalizer where apprentices learned those things they might not learn in the shop... This was an experience she enjoyed, in large part because it was not the "bunker" her shop was.

Bärbel also learned about the value of acquiring the best tools and equipment very early on, and invested heavily in herself, often at the expense of a nice new dress... Fortunately, she was also able to borrow some equipment like hand presses or sewing frame so that she could practice at home...

Wrapped up in her ongoing conflict with the Journeyman was also the realization that it was very important to set personal goals for oneself, and that not to do so was to hold oneself back. For her, this meant going beyond mastering just the day-to-day skills, but taking it to the next level.

The book also did a good job of describing the types of jobs that came in, from repairing textbooks, to binding ledgers for businesses, to journals for libraries, ... This was the kind of work that sustained small trade binderies, and subsidized the more demanding work. It was also the kind of work that "allowed" apprentices to develop chops via rote memorization (of mind and hands), not her favorite. Via a conservation with another apprentice, she learns about his motivation for stealing, with his eyes, picking up tricks and new techniques. Bärbel is his favorite for this as she does the most beautiful work.

In terms of techniques, one of the best descriptions is for when Bärbel learns about decorated papers, and how to make and apply these. For her, this is also when she realizes even more what the design possibilities can be, and how to set her work apart. In some respects it felt the Bibliophile listening to the Master in Ernst Collin's Pressbengel (Bone Folder).

In the end, Bärbel passed her Gesellenprüfung ending her apprenticeship, but she stayed on at the bindery. First though, time to forget about the bindery and go dancing...

Bärbel gets to go dancing but is encouraged to wear gloves because of calluses...

Newly minted as a journeyman binder, Bärbel seeks out venues for showing her work, and perhaps earning some extra income. A local bookstore is more than happy to display her work in their shop window, also indicating that customers can contact her via the store. Ironically, she has very little success in attracting work. She does gain a patron of sorts in her brother who was at university and is now doing well, binding books for him (and his friends...). This eventually catches the attention of the (now other) journeyman who rats her out to the Meister. Without her Meister and the license to run her own shop she cannot legally do this kind of work on the side. However, after reprimanding her more for using shop resources without permission and compensation, he senses opportunities for his business and adds Kunstbuchinderei to his name. This gives him more prestige, and with Bärbel's skills that he acknowledges are more refined than his, a broader pallet of services. The other Journeyman gets reproached for being a busy-body, and further when learning that she is earning more than him, and as a girl no less, plans for further revenge. This back fires, or as is said in German "geht in die Hose" (went to his pants), literally. Bärbel, meanwhile, continues to be allowed to borrow equipment, and is quite happy with the situation.

The cranky Journeyman's pants are glued to the stool as a prank, and torn out. The other apprentice got sent to his apartment to grab a new pair...

The frontispiece: That's a heavy load that she's carrying on her shoulder. She's carrying a book in a finishing press through town, just like on the other occasions when she borrows equipment from the shop to keep working on her own books at home...

Finally getting a binding job via the book store, she gets to know a Frau Director Feld, a woman who is very successful and independent in her life. This Frau Feld becomes her patron in the classic sense, giving her commissions, discussing bookbinding with the interest of Collin's Bibliophile, but even more. Asking her to leave her portfolio of designs, materials, and decorated papers, she shows these to like-minded friends, but also arranges a tea in her home where Bärbel gets to meet these friends and give her pitch. While very surprised by this scenario, she is very prepared, poised, and confident.

Bärbel confidently and enthusiastically at work.

One of the guests mentions an upcoming competition for a new guest book for the city (every village, town, city, ... had one). Open to all, Bärbel enters a design finely executed on a sample binding. She is heart-broken to learn that she did not win having been beaten by established artists, and is told by Frau Feld that the gentleman who encouraged her to enter was doing so largely in jest – she was still very young and inexperienced, and the winners were established and highly respected artists. She did, however, come in fourth and her work was exhibited with the winners, a consolation. Her Meister was appropriately proud, and wanted her to remain with him to do the higher end work that she had been bringing to the bindery – who would do it if she left... Frau Feld had other ideas however and had been busy networking to find Bärbel a position in a large trade bindery where she would work in the extra binding department. Having worked in the same bindery for her apprenticeship and journeyman years, she had very limited perspectives and alternative experiences. Moving on would be very important for her professional development, something the Meister also realized.

The [binding] world was hers for the taking, and with her drive, passion, and the help of patrons and mentors she would succeed.

Bärbel dedicating a guest book she bound to her patron.

So, from this 54 yr curmudgeon, a fun read loaded with accurate descriptions of the trade and apprenticeship in general, positive and encouraging, and with the complications of teen love and its associated drama. Based on my personal experiences as an apprentice in Germany during the 1980s, I found the portrayal of the Meister and his relationships with the others fair and largely accurate - apprenticeship is not summer camp, management style ranging from brusque to encouraging, what we would expect in the traditional trades. For someone like Bärbel who was academically strong and would have gone on to university, the contrast would have been stark and revealed crass differences in class and educational background, as well. Throughout though, Bärbel and the Meister handled themselves and each other well, and the real antagonisms were expressed through the journeyman who never showed any drive or enthusiasm, but was jealous of those who did. Ultimately his behaviour had him strongly reprimanded – shape up or ship out – and he and Bärbel came to an understanding. Finally, there was Frau Feld, a successful and cultured woman whose strong support (and some enabling) opened many doors for Bärbel, doors that she walked through with confidence to close the deals that Frau Feld had started.

Thinking that this book might have been reviewed, or at least mentioned, in Das Falzbein, THE journal for bookbinding apprentices I leafed through my complete run page-by-page starting in 1952. Alas, nothing, disappointing because I think the book could have encouraged readers to at least consider our craft. I did, however, find numerous images of female apprentices and art school students who could have been models for Bärbel.

So anything like this appear in English or another language?

See also my post about Bärbels older sister?, aka Babette bindet Bücher.

Both books can be found via various online antiquarian platforms: