Sunday, January 24, 2021

Indexing Shears

Lots of books have need for indexing tabs, books such as directories, address books, and ledgers. The marks for the index are placed along the fore-edge of the book. These can be half-round cuts called "thumb indexes" like those found on many dictionaries, or they can be strips of decreasing length that are cut out of the fore-edge. It is the latter I will show here. 

Mary Sullivan of Crowing Hens Bindery in Nashville, TN reached out to me about this topic and provided the beautiful images of her German-style indexing shears and an image of the one described in Wm Atkins Account Book Binding - A Classic Article on Folding, Sewing, Equipment,..., pg 33. Note: This is text is available as Print on Demand and is excerpted from The Art and Practice of Printing by John Mason, edited by Wm. Atkins. Mary, by the way makes beautiful springback bindings. Check them out on her website. They open flat and are great for writing in.

Mary Sullivan's German Indexing Shears (top).
Hickock Index Shears from Atkins, pg 33 (below).

Here is an image of shears, including the Registerschere from the 1928 catalog (pg. 38) for Braunwarth und Lüthke in Germany.

The Registerschere is 2nd from right. The elongated shape
between the handles shows the shape of the cutout.

Both feature an adjustable gauge to set the depth of the cut. So, how would one go about using these.?

First, one would need to determine how many cuts need to be made. In most traditions there are letters that might be combined, or even left out. The indexing tabs would also need to be evenly spaced out to have a clean looking index along the foredge. So, how would one do this? Math by dividing height of textblock by number of tabs, or is there an easier way? Well, it so happens that there is, reusable even. As an aside, this idea can also be easily adapted for determining sewing stations of pretty much any number for any common book. Just lay the signature on the template so that the textblock aligns at top and bottom, then transfer marks.

Index Scale Card from Atkins, pg 32.
Note "X" at the top and the added "Mc" at the bottom.

Register-Einteilungsschema from Fritz Wiese's Werkzeichnen für
Buchbinder
, 1937. Note the combined and added indexing tabs.
We called a Registerkamm where I was an apprentice. Kamm = comb.

Paul Adams described how to cut these tabs in his Practical Bookbinding (1903) on pages 166-67.

For all such work a thumb index is generally required; each page takes one or more letters, or a specification is given, according to which the binder counts off the number of pages required for each letter—X and Y being here excluded. Nowadays, the indices are cut with index shears, which not only regulates the depth of the index but also avoids the acute angles which are so easily torn in.

Commence cutting from the back, that is, with the Z ; this, being the last letter, is not cut out. Then count off W, cut with the shears, and cut off what remains below to the bottom edge with a sharp knife, to do which a narrow thin board [or sheet of zinc] is slipped underneath. The further you proceed towards A, the longer is the strip which has to be cut out with the knife. When the excisions for the whole alphabet have been made, the letters are pasted on. These are sold ready printed, and nowadays are almost always in one piece for back and front. 

The printed sheet with the alphabet is glued or gummed on the back, and, after drying, the alphabet is creased lengthwise and either cut so or punched out with a suitable tool. The single letters are damped and stuck in position.

When cutting with the shears, it is useful to cut a manageable number of pages at a time for comfort, and to keep "round" of the foredge, such as it will be. This cutting, as well as the vertical cut described by Adam above can be done before or after sewing.

Here what the index looks like. Image taken from Mary's copy of Leonard Monk's A Text Book of Stationary Binding, 1912.

The cut out indices.


Finally, some beautiful images of Mary's German shears, with the final one of them in use.

The brass "clip" at bottom holds the shears closed when not in use.

View of the shears showing the wide cut on the right.

The shears in use showing various cut depths. 


Friday, January 22, 2021

Bernie, Like Elvis, is Everywhere...

We all get to deal with "difficult" clients from time to time. It didn't help that I made Bernie wait in the cold, and that the fish skin box wasn't what he expected. Some days you can't win...


At least he was somewhat dressed for our Syracuse weather. Needs a hat.!

For those not familiar, Bernie Sanders made quite the appearance at President Joseph Biden's inauguration this past Wednesday. Here is the original picture of him in the visitors' seats, just a different view.


You can see the ever-increasing number of memes at Google. The knitting pattern for the mittens is on https://www.ravelry.com/, account required.


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Packing and Shipping Art - An Adventure

 Martha Edgerton, book conservator and artist, was one of my first supervisors and mentors when I was a wet behind the ears and ahead of myself work-study student in the Department of Conservation and Preservation (1981-84) at Johns Hopkins. I've always admired her work so was happy to give Human Enclosure II, a powerful statement on the parallels of slavery and mass incarceration here in the United States, a home. It's been wonderful to keep the connection with her all this time. 

The work is part of a larger series about the Atlantic slave trade titled The Amazing Race: The Atlantic Slave Trade Through the Pages of Book Art acquired in part by Special Collections at Johns Hopkins' Sheridan Libraries along with other works by Martha. Back in 2017, I was able to see many of those works as part of a larger exhibit at the Libraries titled Freedom Where I Stand that included many historic documents along with works of art that spoke to those themes.

Josephine Baker in Freedom Where I Stand

In the online catalog for the exhibit. 
"The theater box represents the barracoons used to temporarily jail
captured Africans until enslavement and mid-Atlantic transport.
It also speaks to the subject of mass incarceration."

I purchased the piece from a large exhibit held in Baltimore at the Creative Alliance back in July. After the close of the exhibit it took a long time to get the work shipped, and then when it arrived it was damaged in transit. Talking with Martha, she asked to complete the needed conservation treatment and shipped it back to me. That was November 30th, and it took over 6 weeks to make it back to Syracuse

COVID is real! USPS is everywhere and its employees very exposed.
Value them, they are essential!

Martha had her assistant LuLu help secure the elements and pack it up. The two of them did a great job (Martha is a very good teacher). LuLu's small fingers were no doubt an asset and really able to get in there.

LuLu preparing it for its journey.
Little did we know how long.

So, for the same reason I asked Fritz Otto to unpack. No damage this time. 

It was nice to see everything supported and secured so well.

Big supports, but very light.

The right tools for the job.

Even little supports where they were needed.

Everybody needs a hand, sometimes.

Almost done.

All done. So glad there was no damage. Thank YOU LuLu.
Perhaps we'll have a chance to meet someday.

The work really makes you think about the Black lives destroyed by slavery and mass incarceration. We can and must do so much better.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Bookbinders from Meinholds Handwerkerbilder

Below the image for bookbinding from Meinholds Handwerkerbilder. This was number 15 in the series illustrating trades. They were produced by Meinhold und Söhne, Dresden primarily as "posters" that were suspended between wooden rods for classroom use in 1924. The scan below is from a postcard series that was also issued.

Meinholds Handwerkerbild Nr. 15, Buchbinder

The Series:

Nr 1. Der Schmied / Blacksmith, Nr 2. Der Tischler Cabinetmaker, Nr 3. Der Schuhmacher Shoemaker, Nr 4. Der Schneider Tailor, Nr 5. Der Bäcker Baker, Nr 6. Der Töpfer Potter, Nr 7. Der Klempner Plumber, Nr 8. Der Böttcher Barrelmaker, Nr 9. Der Bauhandwerker Construction worker, Nr 10. Weber Weaver, Nr 11. Der Flußfischer River fisherman, Nr 12. Der Sattler Saddlemaker, Nr 13/14. Schriftsetzer und Buchdrucker Typesetter and printer, Nr 15. Der Buchbinder Bookbinder, Nr 16. Der Fleischer Butcher, Nr 17. Der Korbmacher Basketmaker, Nr 18. Der Gerber Tanner, Nr 19. Der Maschinenschlosser Machinist, Nr 20. Der Gärtner Gardner


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Eliminate Paste Clumps

 Important for every bookbinder and bookbinder's spouse that wants to spare the other aggravation!

New [Wilhelm] Leo's Paste Clump Eliminator

Solid construction, won't rust, easy to use.

Turn the handle with knob and all the paste clumps will be eliminated and your paste will become beautifully smooth. Tested and recommended by professionals. No workshop should be without.


From the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien, 1900.

Can't find one, get an applesauce mill.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Fritz Otto Starts His Own 'Insta'

 Well, he done and did it. Fritz Otto started his own 'Insta' to take control of his own identity and manage his own 'reputation'... Thought there might have been some clause in his contract about social media..., but nope. So, here he is. Welcome Fritz Otto!

To see what he's up to, follow @fritzottobuchbinder


To see more of his labours and personal projects at the Pressbengel Project, in addition to some silliness, click on the "Fritz Otto" label.



Saturday, November 14, 2020

Tanning Steelhead Trout in Green Tea

I was recently graced with a gift of two nice-sized steelhead trout skins by the fishmonger's wife. For a change they were a matched pair, i.e. they could have been both sides of the same fish, a nice bonus when thinking about binding designs.

Decided to tan these using green tea. I had seen wonderful examples by Janey Chang and Abigail Bainbridge in which much of the natural coloring had been preserved. It would have largely been lost had I used black tea, or made parchment.

Cleaning and other preparations the same as before, lots of changes of cold water with unscented/undyed dish detergent kept in the fridge. Next...

The skins in the first bath of 5 bags of tea. I used about 60 bags
total of Tetley's Green Tea.
It is important to start with a dilute tannin mixture
to ensure the skin tans through to the center.

The second bath had 10 bags of tea.
This went on with changes every day and half in
which the amount of bags increased each time. 
The last was about 25 bags for 2 days.
I snipped into the skin during changes to make sure
the center was getting tannins.

After taking the skins out, dripped-dried them, then started working by stretching and massaging. When starting to feel like they were drying worked them over a stake, in my case a c-clamp that was smooth and had a rounded shape. Benefit of the c-clamp was that it didn't move...

Got tired after a while and had Fritz Otto take over. He had a few things to say, but did a good job...

"Making parchment from fish is nothing...
This softening after tanning is brutal hard work.
Working on oversized books was bad enough."

As he felt them drying he added some olive oil to his hands
to help lubricate the skins and finish them.

Team-work and a good week's work.

In the first step of the process, cleaning the fish, we decided to filter out the shinies (aka scales)... A few stubborn ones went through the tanning process and ended up yellowish. For kicks we threw them on the flatbed scanner (4800 dpi and downscaled for web).

A sampling...
Untanned, note the growth rings, just like tree-rings
 said the dendrochronologist's daughter...

This was one of the stubborn ones that wanted to be tanned...

These skins will be used on Life-history and Habits of the Salmon, Sea-trout, Trout, and other Freshwater Fish (1910). 

Book Arts arts du livre Canada (Vol 10., Nr. 2, 2019)

"Fish Tales, experiments with fish skin for bookbinding
The New Bookbinder: Journal of Designer Bookbinders (2020)