Monday, April 5, 2021

UNESCO Recognizes Bookbinding as Cultural Heritage.

Bookbinding has been added to the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the German UNESCO Commission 2021. The declaration calls out the role the bookbinding trade has had in ennobling the printed word in all its aspects, as well as preserving that record. While the images below call attention to the art of printing books, without bookbinders there would be no books. Printing was added to the Inventory in 2018. The bookbinder is always the last in the chain of production, and often overlooked in colophons and elsewhere, even in fine press books. No more! Image below featuring Bauer's 500 Jahre Buchdruckerkunst, 1440 - 1940 (500 Years of Book Production), and Fritz Otto, from the Pirckheimer-Gesellschaft's blog. The Bauer tunnel book is now part of RIT's Cary Graphic Arts Collection.

From the Pirckheimer-Gesellschaft's blog

Fritz Otto feels it is past time to correct this oversight in print, and is pushing to create a tunnel book on the theme of bookbinding. Hmmm, we'll see what we can do.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Visit to a Hand Bindery in Trier - Buchbinderei Mohr

Was searching YouTube for some bindery videos from Germany and came across this one from the Buchbinderei Franz Mohr in Trier, Germany. The Buchbinderei was founded in 1864 (via, and was stop 1 on my apprenticeship interview tour in May 1985. The location was very convenient as I flew into Luxembourg from Baltimore... Trier has an incredibly rich history.

The Buchbinderei Mohr as I saw it in May 1985.

View in same direction from the video.

Device for fan gluing (Klebebindung, aka Lubecken)t hat starts at 2:08. It appears to be the same
as being used [by the Geselle?] in the foreground of the first image.

Here the video that shows the steps of case binding journals and periodicals for town, municipal, medical, law, ... Below the full video.

I did not end up apprenticing there, but it was the hand-bindery the other two I visited were compared to in terms of the type of work completed and overall atmosphere.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Fritz Eberhardt’s Finishing Tools and Technique

It was once again my pleasure to collaborate with Don Rash and his Boss Dog Press by translating essays from the German that highlight the work of one of that tradition's finest binders, a student of Ignatz Wiemeler. From the downloadable prospectus

The Boss Dog Press is pleased to announce the upcoming publication of Fritz Eberhardt’s Finishing Tools and Technique, the sixth book from the Press and the third volume in the series Eberhardtiana. The goal of this series is to preserve the writings and art of fine hand bookbinders Fritz Eberhardt (1917-1997) and his wife Trudi (1921 -2004). In addition to being two of the finest binders of the twentieth century, Fritz and Trudi were teachers, mentors and good friends to many practitioners of the book arts, and their work and lives deserve to be remembered and celebrated. It has been the honor of the Press to do this in a small way.

Finishing Tools follows 2004’s Rules for Bookbinders and 2014’s Three Lectures. It catalogs 94 unique finishing tools which Fritz fabricated for tooling in blind and gold on his design bindings. Each tool is represented by a description, measurements, and a scanned image of the tool’s impression. There will also be digital photographs of the tools, of the electric tooling station that Fritz used, and of a paper tooling pattern used on Fritz’s design binding of Gordon Craig’s Paris Diary. The catalog proper is preceded by two essays dealing with Fritz’s work, one by Professor Hans Halbey and one by Fritz himself. The essays were published together in the March 1990 issue of the German bibliophile journal Philobiblon. 

Millimeter binding (Edelpappband) covered in decorated paper
by the binder with tooling based on Eberhardt's unique tools,
leather trim at top and bottom, and title stamped in gold. 

Title page with photo of Eberhardt tooling a binding.

One of Eberhardt's bindings and the beginning of the essay where
he discusses his binding philosophy.

Photos of Eberhardt's tools with description and
printed impression of the design.

From the colophon:

This is the third volume of EBERHARDTIANA. It was compiled, designed and executed by Don Rash, with the ongoing support of Elaine Rash. Types used are digital versions of Herman Zapf's Aldus for the text and Michaelangelo for the titling. The book was composed in Adobe InDes1gn. Boxcar Press supplied the polymer plates for printing. The paper was made at the University of Iowa Center for the Book by Tim Barrett and student co-workers, and as printed damp on the BDP Washington handpress. Inks are Graphic Chemical Albion

Matte Black and Hanco Leaf Brown. The tool impressions in the catalog were done by scanning smoke proofs, converting them to printable images in Adobe Illustrator and printing them with the text. All photographic images are digitally printed onto 48 gram Asuka paper.

The edition consists of 80 copies, with 10 copies (I-X) unbound, and with 50 regular copies (1-50) and 20 hors commerce copies(A-T) bound in full decorated paper over boards with leather strips at head and tail.

To learn more about the Eberhardt's, read their oral history recorded by Valerie Metzler, in which they discuss their life, their training, their time in the United States, and much more. It can be found in Volume 37, Number 2, 2002 of the Guild of Book Workers' Journal. Very much worth reading.

Monday, March 15, 2021

500 Years of the Art of Printing

Just received this lovely tunnel book, 500 Jahre Buchdruckerkunst, 1440 - 1940, that was issued by the Bauersche Gießerei (Bauer Type Foundry) in Frankfurt. It was created by the illustrator Fritz Kredel. Kredel was helped out of Germany by Melbert Cary in 1938. RIT's Cary Graphic Arts Collection was endowed by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust as a memorial to Mr. Cary, together with funds to support the use and growth of the collection. As they don't seem to have a copy, it seems only fitting to gift it to them. 

For a while it seemed the little gem was lost. But no, the journey from the antiquarian dealer in Madgeburg to Syracuse took 3 months and the item dropped out of postal tracking systems after 2 months, only to reappear the day before it arrived. Who knows where it languished, Frankfurt airport, New York?!? 

Here Fritz Otto helps me set it up for these pictures by holding on to the far end.

Fritz Otto holding the far end...

Side view showing the panels.
The accordion folds are at the top and bottom.

Shall we peek inside?

Oh look, a print shop. Type casting at front, right; type setting at front left;
printing in the middle, note the sheets hanging above, so the ink can dry;
and in the way back inspecting the final product.

As this is a German print shop, the paper will in all likelihood be unsized at this stage. As described in Prediger's Der Buchbinder und Futteralmacher (1741), the binder will size and beat the paper with a specially shaped heavy hammer before binding. Jeff Peachey describes this process in detail on his blog.

Another Sprayed and Stenciled Paper

Recently acquired another volume of the Archiv für Buchbinderei (Vols. 21-22, 1921-22). Another article by Ernst Collin, and 2 brief mentions/reviews of his Pressbengel. More about the Schablonenspritzpapier technique here and here

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Fish Skin Tanning in Newsreels

Thank you to Gloria Conti, conservator working in Scotland who found this Italian newsreel from 1938 titled Le tante utilizzazioni della pelle del pesce. The film shows the processing of fish skins into various products. Gloria provided a translation of the brief narration below.

The many uses of fish leather 

In Germany fish leather is very in vogue. After being tanned, worked, dried, and handled with meticulous patience, it can be used to make many things like we see here: shoes, handbags, gloves, belts, and even to bind books.

Thank you Gloria. 

The imagery looks like the photos used to illustrate Franz Weisse's article "Fischhaut - Fischleder - Fischpergament" published in Das deutsche Buchbinderhandwerk, Vol 2, Nr 9, 1938. I described that article and shared some of the images in my post "Fish Skin - Tanned Fish Skin - Fish Parchment."

Perhaps the footage and images were taken together?

Often, when one gives, one also receives, so here a similar newsreel clip from British Pathé, 1949. This was shared on the Adventures in Fish Skin Tanning (closed) group at Facebook. It describes the process as having been developed by two Poles. No books in this one.

The first clip described the tanning... of fish skin in Germany. The second in the U.K.

My question, are there articles and references in the bookbinding literature outside of Germany that describe using fish for binding...?

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Bookbinding and Adapting to Life Changes 2

In my post "Bookbinding and Adapting to Life Changes," I wrote about changes I've made to my studio equipment and how I approach some tasks... One of the things I mentioned was the challenge of using a board shear (Kutrimmer 1070) when one cannot push down on the foot clamp peddle. Being seated on a scooter makes it even more challenging... The wheels on my old indoor scooter were small diameter, but when I needed a new one this fall the wheels were larger, and I found that I could force myself on the clamp. That worked, but was a bit hairy (tipping danger) and caused the light board shear to wander.

Well, as we say in German, "what one doesn't have in the legs..., one needs to have in one's brain." (Was man nicht in den Beinen hat muss man in der Birne haben.). But, a small ramp... Hmmm. Sooo, threw together a simple ramp made of staggered off cuts of thin pink foam insulation board held together with a rubber band.

Very sophisticated construction... 🙄 First test. Will it work?

Fritz Otto was worried he'd have to hold the ramp
in place as it slide on the carpet while I moved back
and forth on the scooter. But, it worked. Just a few tweaks...

On to board shear ramp Mk. 2. This ramp has one more thickness of pink foam board (5 total), binders board top, e-flute corrugated bottom, some glue and packing tape to hold pieces in place, and velcro to hold it in place on the carpet. 

Much more robust and sophisticated construction.
It's also almost twice as wide.

Velcro hooks on bottom to keep it from moving on the carpet.

I should be in business for 80% of my cutting needs. I'll take it. For those other times, Hope is always happy to help. The independence will feel good though.

[Edit 13 March, 2021]

Thanks to Jeff Peachey I even have a very solid and attractive wooden "forever" ramp now.

The incline and Jeff's message. I love the twisted humor.

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
, 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, 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