Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paul Adam: An introduction to the German bookbinding trade, part I

 While the trades were historically described in catechism-like works such as Friese's Ceremoniel der Buchbinder from 1712 (below), it wasn't until the turn of the 19th century for more complete and trade-oriented works to appear, works that laid out the history of the trade and its requirements in detail.

Paul Adam (1849-1931) was one of the leaders of the German bookbinding trade during the late 1800's until his death. He was the author of several seminal "modern" manuals written for the trade, among them Der Bucheinband: Seine Technik und seine Geschichte (1890), Die praktischen Arbeiten des Buchbinders (1898), also published in English as Practical Bookbinding by Scott, Greenwood & Co. (London) in 1903, Die Kunst des Entwerfens für zeichende Buchbinder (1917). All these works were reprinted numerous times and issued in various editions. Dates refer to the copies in my personal collection. His autobiography Lebenserinnerungen eines alten Kunstbuchbinders was published by the Meister der Einbandkunst's Verlag für Einbandkunst (Leipzig) in 1925.

Title page of Leitfaden für die Gesellen- und Meister-Prüfung im Buchbindergewerbe

Among these, Leitfaden für die Gesellen- und Meister-Prüfung im Buchbindergewerbe (1904) was the first modern text that set out to describe the trade for those who might enter it. It was published by Adam (founder and director of the state subsidized Technical School of Artistic and Practical Bookbinding in Düsseldorf*) for the Federation of German Bookbinding Guilds, one of the first of its kind. In over 130 pp it describes:
  1. The history of the book trade
  2. The early work habits and techniques of the bookbinder
  3. The development of the bookbinding trade and its practices
  4. The tools of the bookbinder
  5. The materials of the bookbinder
  6. The techniques of the bookbinder
  7. Calculating costs / estimating
  8. Materials, their properties and sources
  9. Decorative techniques
  10. Procurement of tools and supplies
  11. Accounting for the trade
  12. The bookbinder and bookbinding trade, their members, and their legal standing
  13. The organization of the German trade guilds
  14. The tradesman in his private life
  15. Tips of the trade and organization of the the workshop
Heading for chapter V, "Materials of the Bookbinder."
Depicted are a [poorly constructed] and [well constructed] book.

Also included were the required theoretical knowledge and hand skills for apprentices, journeymen and masters so that these would know what was expected as part of a nationally coordinated education and examinations process for the trades. These last sections were perhaps the most important as successful completion of the exams for the various levels would determine the career path of the individual.

Advertisements for many of the vendors of the time round out the volume.

Illustration ending chapter 4, "Tools of the Bookbinder."

In successive posts I will  describe some of these sections in greater detail as they would be very useful topics to cover in updated form by programs teaching bookbinding and the book arts (or most any craft) today. To help ensure at least a chance of success, crafts/tradespeople must not only understand their manual skills but also the fundamentals of calculating costs, accounting, and the other business aspects of what is a beautiful craft and trade.

Below are some of the other illustrations of this work depicting a great deal of Jugendstil charm.

Illustration for chapter VI, "Techniques of the Bookbinder."
Illustration for chapter IX, "Decoration."
While the "Meister" is laying on gold leaf with a piece of paper, the journeyman keeps away the curious apprentices...

Final illustration depicting rats being driven away from a bag of starch.

From the muse to the binder.
Ploughing an edge. Plough with
a circular blade at bottom.

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