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). 


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fritz Otto makes The New Bookbinder

When Designer Bookbinders' latest issue of The New Bookbinder, volume 40 arrived, the one with my article "Fish Tales: Experiments with fish skin for bookbinding", Fritz Otto was blown away to find himself and the salmon parchment/shark leather box he made included in the "Lockdown" section of the issue. It's a fantastic issue, that carries the subtitle/theme of "Creative covering; the clothes on our books." Fish skin certainly fits that theme. 

"Lockdown" was a two-page spread of images from each of the issue's contributors with a brief blurb about what they had been doing during the COVID-induced lockdown we have all lived with since March. Lots of different projects, most binding related, some not such as mask making, gardening, and painting. It was a wonderful recognition that the work we do does not exist in a vacuum.

Checking out the cover with Nadine Werner's
fantastically photographed paper folding.

Hey, look, that's me! How'd that happen?
You can't see it, but that's the picture from when I made that box.
The Meister shot it on b/w film, something he has been getting back into.

Here's the description on the back.
Even mentioned my guide, the Bone Folder.

Hmmmm, a sign of the world of total information control
we live in. Instagram added this when the image was uploaded.
Better watch what I upload, or not! ✊


Dark Archives – Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

 Megan Rosenbloom's Dark Archives is out! Read the review from the New York Times and elsewhere. Dark Archives is a wonderfully conversational dive into this subfield of bibliopegy. It also connects to topics here because of articles on the subject by Ernst Collin and Paul Kersten, the latter also the focus of part of one of the chapters.


Should Fritz Otto be worried? First fish, now this.
The Meister knows about Paul Kersten and others, also Pergamena... 
Time to 🏃.

To learn more, listen to this great conversation. There are others online as well. Just check out #DarkArchives on Twitter.

Anthropodermic Biocodicology (HUMAN LEATHER BOOKS) with Megan Rosenbloom & Daniel Kirby 
Listen on Ologies with Alie Ward

Anthropodermic bibliopegy is a long, fancy way of saying “HUMAN SKIN BOOKS” and the study of confirming or debunking them is … Anthropodermic Biocodicology. For this skin-crawling, history-trawling Spooktober episode, we chat with the absolutely wonderful and charming medical librarian and expert of books bound in human skin, Megan Rosenbloom. Also, on the line: analytical chemist Dr. Daniel Kirby, who discusses how books are tested to confirm if they are, in fact, human leather. Why would someone make these? What’s in between the covers? Whose skin is it? What do they smell like? And what can they tell us about our culture and our past? Rosenbloom has just released her book “Dark Archives” and gives us a peek into the world she’s come to know so well. Listen under a blanket or with a nightlight on, though. It’ll give you goosebumps.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Trout Fishing on the Rapid Streams

In 1983 the Guild of Book Workers organized a small set book exhibition of sixteen fine bindings on Cutcliffe's The Art of Trout Fishing on the Rapid Streams published as a fine press book with illustrations by D. R. Wakefield. That fine press edition is no longer available, but the original is (scroll down).

The catalog cover. Print copies can still be found.
It is also online via the Guild of Book Workers' website.


H. C. Cutcliffe. The Art of Trout Fishing on the Rapid Streams. Revised and illustrated by D. R. Wakefield. Tiverton, Devon: The Chevington Press, 1982. Printed in Perpetua type on handmade Barcham Green. 10½ x 7 7/8 x 3/8  inches. Limited to fifty copies, signed and numbered by the illustrator.

Binders who participated were:

  • William Anthony
  • David P. Bourbeau
  • Lage Carlson
  • Betty Lou Chaika
  • Jerilyn Glenn Davis
  • Odette Drapeau Milot
  • Louise Genest-Côté
  • Donald Glaister
  • Ursula Hofer
  • Jamie Kamph
  • William Minter
  • Joseph Newman
  • Gisela Noack
  • Gray Parrot
  • Julie Beinecke Stackpole
  • Griselda Warr

The catalog is illustrated in the style of the day with smallish black and white photographs. Still, it is a wonderful record of the exhibit representing some of the most active binders of the day. Some are still active, some not so much, and some have passed. Included in the catalog are the binder's education, prior and past positions, and a description of the binding. Mine also included the price list for those works that were for sale.

The price list in 1983 dollars.

So, ordered a first from 1883 to bind. Paper ok, needs a bath, smells less like a damp lakeside camp than the last book, but otherwise in good condition. Still, going to pull, wash, and deacidify. The book is also available in print and digitally via the Internet Archive.


When engaging in piscatorial bibliopegy, I prefer to use skins that I have preserved, but when Janey Chang shared these oak gall tanned brook trout on her Insta I couldn't help but ask whether she would part with them. When making parchment the color largely disappears, and other tanning methods overpower the delicate coloring of the fish. These are just perfect. Now to work on a design that honors the fish, and book.

So, who's up for an exhibit on this book?

Saturday, September 19, 2020

About Slipcases from the Lakeside Press

It is fairly uncommon to see coverage of the work of American binders and binderies in the German trade press. Below "a few words about slipcases" as they are made at the Lakeside Press of R.R. Donnelly in Chicago, at that time under the direction of Alfred de Sauty.

The article starts out by mentioning the efforts that go into a fine binding and that [as a consequence] bibliophiles take greater care to protect them, including the construction of enclosures. The slipcases illustrated in the following images are all custom-made (or as we now say "bespoke" 🤮).

– From Philobiblon, Nr.1, 1938. Philobiblon was a leading German bibliophilic journal.

For more about the work of the Lakeside Press see: Extra Binding at the Lakeside Press (1925), A Rod for the Back of the Binder (1929)All the King's horses ... (1954). See also The Training Department of the Lakeside Press; an historical sketch together with an illustrated description of its progress, aims and purposes, (1923). All titles linked to are in HathiTrust.

The article in German, main themes above.

Captions clockwise starting top left:
Cloth covered with pull ribbon and visible binding spine.
Cloth covered with cloth dust jacket stamped with title.
"Lockable" cloth covered sipcase/clam sheel with drop front.
Cloth covered with 4 flap enclosure.

Captions clockwise starting top left:
Quarter leather slipcase/clam shell with or without raised "cords."
Quarter leather with 2-flap wrapper.
Full leather solander (top pulls off).
Quarter leather solander.



Monday, September 14, 2020

The Crafts of Germany, 1832

The Crafts of Germany

The different crafts in Germany are incorporations recognised by law, governed by usages of great antiquity, with a fund to defray the corporate expenses, and, in each considerable town, a house of entertainment is selected as the house of call, or harbor, as it is styled, of each particular craft. Thus you see, in the German towns, a number of taverns indicated by their signs, as the Masons' Harbor, the Blacksmiths' Harbor, &c. No one is allowed to set up as a master work man in any trade, unless he is admitted as a freeman or member of the craft; and such is the stationary condition of most parts of Germany, that no person is admitted as a master workman in any trade, except to supply the place of someone deceased, or retired from business. When such a vacancy occurs, all those desirous of being permitted to fill it present a piece of work, executed as well as they are able to do it, which is called their master-piece, being offered to obtain the place of a master workman. Nominally, the best workman gets the place; but you will easily conceive, that, in reality, some kind of favouritism must generally decide it. Thus is every man obliged to submit to all the chances of a popular election whether he shall be allowed to work for his bread; and that, too, in a country where the people are not permitted to have any agency in choosing their rulers. But the restraints on journeymen, in that country, are still more oppressive. As soon as the years of apprenticeship have expired, the young mechanic is obliged, in the phrase of the country, to wander for three years. For this purpose he is furnished, by the master of the craft in which he has served his apprenticeship, with a duly-authenticated wandering book, with which he goes forth to seek employment. In whatever city he arrives, on presenting himself with his credential, at the house of call, or harbor, of the craft in which he has served his time, he is allowed, gratis, a day's food and a night's lodging. If he wishes to get employment in that place, he is assisted in procuring it. If he does not wish to, or fails in the attempt, he must pursue his wandering; and this lasts for three years before he can be anywhere admitted as a master. I have heard it argued, that this system had the advantage of circulating knowledge from place to place, and imparting to the young artisan the fruits of travel and intercourse with the world. But, however beneficial travelling may be, when undertaken by those who have the taste and capacity to profit by it, I cannot but think, that to compel every young man who has just served out his time to leave his home, in the manner I have described, must bring his habits and morals into peril, and be regarded rather as a hardship than as an advantage. There is no sanctuary of virtue like home. — From Everett's Address

Knight, Charles, 1791-1873, and Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain). Knight's Penny Magazine. London: C. Knight & Co., 183246. Vol. 1, May 5, 1832, p55. View at HathiTrust.



Sunday, September 6, 2020

New Colliniana Acquisitions

I recently acquired several new items connected to the Collins.

First is a publishers' binding, Georg Friedrich Händel by Fritz Volbach, part of a larger series about Berühmte Musiker (Famous Musicians and Composers). The book was published in 1898 and represents the kind of work that W. Collin did as a large trade bindery. On the back W. Collin's stamp in a variant I had not seen until now. You can see other examples here and the Pan after Clavigo here.

Georg Friedrich Händel by Fritz Volbach.

Detail of the stamp.

The other is a book about the artist Adolf v. Menzel bound by W. Collin after 1906. The cover design is in leather relief, and I suspect the binding was created after 1918, and the death of Georg Collin on 24 December of that year,  as the signature in gold on the front turn-in does not include Hofbuchbinder. The monarchy had ended with the end of World War I, so there were no more Court bookbinders.

Adolf v. Menzel bound by W. Collin after 1906

Signed W. Collin, Berlin.

Then from the father to the son, the complete run of Die Heftlade edited by Ernst Collin, printed on rag paper, #15/400, and as published 1922-24 in individual issues. I have had a complete run with all inserts for some time, but it is nice to have them as issued.

The complete Die Heftlade.

In with the Heftlade was also a catalog for the Euphorion Verlag that published the Heftlade, and Ernst Collin's Pressbengel. You can find the Pressbengel on page 2, and the Heflade on the last.


Finally, I was offered a copy of a "Sonderdruck" (special printing) of the Heftlade from 1925 about Jean Grolier. It's printed by the same firm that printed the full run, but I'm find it hard to place it as there is no editorial information... Another mystery.

The Cover.

Imprint.

Detail of Imprint.