Friday, March 1, 2024

John Francis Dean - The First

Yesterday, I learned of the passing of John Francis Dean. Looking back, John probably had the greatest impact on me in the conservation and preservation field. I shared some of my experiences with him in a post here several years ago.

After emigrating from Great Britain to the United States in 1969, John F. Dean managed the preservation program at the Newberry Library before establishing the apprentice training and conservation program at the Johns Hopkins University in 1975. He went to Cornell University in 1985 to establish and develop the Department of Preservation and Conservation. He is widely recognized as one of the major proponents of preservation programs at academic libraries and was the 2003 recipient of the American Library Association’s prestigious Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award. A thread throughout his career arc is David Stam who as as Director of the Newberry Library brought him to the U.S., then as Director of the Library at Johns Hopkins brought him there. They remained life-long friends until David's passing last February. David was University Librarian at Syracuse when I arrived there ...

John Dean (2nd from left) with Yoko Sampson demonstrating
during one of the frequent tours he gave of the program at
Johns Hopkins. The image is undated, but could have been during my time.
Image from the Johns Hopkins University graphic and pictorial collection

I was introduced to John at the start of my freshman year at Johns Hopkins in 1981. Like many students, I needed a work-study job, and being a faculty brat my parents knew the campus options well… So, “son, the library hires a lot of students… Shelving books is boring, but there’s this Englishman in the basement who has a book conservation program and manages preservation…” Sounded interesting, went down, talked to John Dean, and got the job. That experience, and all the people who worked their changed my ideas, interests, and goals. This was a fully developed program with circulating collections repair and rehousing (my job, largely), rare book, and paper conservation. They also managed the library binding program that was substantial in those pre e-journal days…

I was put to work learning how to repair the heavily used books from the circulating collections, make basic enclosures for brittle items, clean stacks, … Because of the nature of the program John created at Johns Hopkins, I was exposed to all levels of work, something that deeply intrigued me so that when I wasn’t training for bike racing or studying, I volunteered with the paper conservator and just watched. John encouraged this interest by inviting me to observe presenters brought in like Tini Miura, exposing me to other aspects of the field. Knowing that I was a semester ahead, he encouraged me to take an internship in Germany to see what impact that experience might have - That experience led me to apprentice there after graduation and then experience my own sort of journeyman years.

John F. Dean striking a pose while at Cornell.

In 1993, I began work as a rare books conservator at Cornell where I was reunited with John. He had left Johns Hopkins in 1985 to start the conservation and preservation program there. While Cornell did not have the apprenticeship program, it was a very broad and comprehensive program that included commercial binding, circulating book repair, box making, special collections conservation in books and paper, and reformatting that included the then nascent digitization. Exposed to all those aspects I developed a far greater understanding of the complexities of the field and how they all interconnected. This was quite different from single item treatment in a private practice where those interconnected parts were not always obvious. Like at Johns Hopkins, the program he created was very active in the training of other professionals through internships and workshops. It was one of those interns, Marty Hanson who was the Preservation Administrator at Syracuse who later lured me away from Cornell to establish "my own" conservation lab while earning my MLS. The ultimate work-study job. John was also very involved internationally, especially in Southeast and East Asia so that interns from there were not uncommon either. He was also very successful in sponsoring and supporting consortial preservation efforts. John "retired" from Cornell in 2005.

Me, John Dean, and Marty Hanson at the inaugural
Brodsky Lecture in 2005.
Photo: Steve Sartori, SU Photo and Imaging Center.

In 2005 I was fortunate to be able to help create and then lead the Brodsky Series for Advancement of Library Conservation at Syracuse University Library. It was only natural that John was invited to be the first speaker on the topic of Conservation and Preservation in the Digital Age. From my introduction at the inaugural lecture:

John Dean our speaker for this afternoon’s inaugural event will speak on “Conservation and Preservation in the Digital Age,” a topic he is uniquely qualified to speak on as a result of his leadership in such activities at Cornell. John Dean is Cornell University's Preservation and Conservation Librarian.  He received his City and Guilds of London Institute medal in bookbinding in 1956, a Master of Arts degree in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1975, and a Master of Liberal Arts degree in the History of Science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1981.  Following his six years apprenticeship, Dean established and lead four major preservation programs beginning in 1960, at the Manchester Central Research Library (England), the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Johns Hopkins University Library (Baltimore), and, since 1985, Cornell University Library.  He is author of several works on conservation and preservation management, has taught conservation and preservation management at the University of Maryland, Syracuse University, the University of Alabama, and the State University of New York at Albany, and is a member of several national and international preservation committees.

It was John Dean who introduced me to the field when I was a work-study student in the conservation lab at Johns Hopkins, urged me to go to Germany to apprentice as a bookbinder, and has been a true mentor and friend. I can think of no one more appropriate to inaugurate this series.

John's lecture can be viewed and downloaded here. He speaks about his own training starting on page 7 of the transcript.

With John at the memorial gathering for David Stam at the end of April, 2023.
Despite best intentions, it was the last time I was able to see John. 

John, thank you for everything over these decades. You and your program saved me while in college, and you were the best mentor and role model I could have hoped for as an academic library conservation and preservation professional.

Rest in Peace

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dietmar Klein - The Passing of my Meister

It was with sadness that I took notice today of the passing of Dietmar Klein 10/14/1943 - 2/22/2024), the bookbinding Meister I apprenticed under, in posts shared on social media. As almost always happens in moments like this, one reflects on the impact of that person on ones life, and in this case career. 

Working in the Conservation and Preservation as a work-study student while at Johns Hopkins and then interning at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg inspired me to embrace bookbinding and conservation as a career. As my time as a college student was winding down, I escaped campus (and some exams) to interview at the three binderies in Germany that responded to my query about apprenticing. Ones of those was the Kunstbuchbinderei Dietmar Klein located in Künstlersiedlung Halfmannshof, an artists' colony in the heart of Germany's industrial heartland of the Ruhr Valley. that alone was enough to entice me to accept their offer to apprentice. I described the adventure of getting there, and my experiences as an apprentice in "The Ponderings of a Bookbinding Student- Part 2".

Me between my Meister Dietmar Klein and his wife Regina Klein
at my Lossprechung in July of 1987. The Lossprechung marked
the successful completion of my apprenticeship. Frau Klein would
receive her Meister shortly after.

I came into this apprenticeship older than the average apprentice at the time, with direct experiences in the field, and from a different culture (even though I was German, I grew up and studied in the US). While these experiences, especially working in binding and conservation helped me hit the ground faster, they could also be a kind of liability as I was not the clean slate that one often desires with apprentices, leading to friction. But, as I was often reminded, "the apprentice is always in the wrong, the Meister in the right, and on the off chance the apprentice might have been right, they were still in the wrong." As someone else told me, "Lehrjahre sind keine Herrenjahre" ( "Learning years are not earning years" i.e. one starts on the very bottom rung in every respect ). Having the proclivities to get ahead of myself didn't help either. In something I came to regret later, my apprenticeship was shortened from 3 years to 2 based on those previous experiences. I also only experienced 1 year of Berufsschule (trade school) rather than 3 based on my age and education. It was what it was, as we say today. 

The whole crew in my final year: Me, the other apprentice Nicole,
the Meister, and the Gesellin (soon to be Meisterin).
Photo: Ruhr Nachrichten, 9 December,1986.

In the end, I passed my Gesellenprüfung (journeyman's' exam) and was given this advice from the Meister - "now you can set about to prove that you are better than your exam results, a better situation than turning out to be a disappointment after". A long career in various roles has taught me that this is so very right. As an apprentice I focused on the essentials of the work, but was exposed to so much more in those special jobs that came into the shop. Our bread and butter was large batches of 100+ journal volumes/week that we bound for regional municipal, corporate, medical, legal libraries. We also did repair and rebind work for individuals, as well as special commissions such as presentation bindings, guest books, fine bindings, and restoration work. As an apprentice, I was regularly tasked with contributing to that work as my experiences allowed including disbinding, sewing, forwarding, ... Gold tooling and finishing were not part of that, but in a small shop like ours with 3-4 people doing the work, there was ample opportunity to "steal with the eyes" by observing and keeping notes. 

The skill that I came to most appreciate was the ability to "work", by which I mean the ability to look at a job (1 volume or 100), see what was needed, organize that work, and complete it without losing track of the process. Through that repetition I also learned to internalize so many processes that they became second nature. I could think about the next step (or other projects and things) while working on what was at hand and didn't need to think about how to fold that end sheet, sew that book, make those cases, stamp titles, ... It also allowed me to focus on the details. While my work as an apprentice was essentially library binding by hand, those organizational skills scaled up for special collections conservation work and everything in between. Even now, when I no longer bind or conserve in my day job (and I haven't done any binding in a year and a half) those experiences allow me to jump right back in, albeit at a slower pace (for lots of reasons).

The Meister in his happy place doing gold finishing.

Following my apprenticeship I headed to Ascona, then back to the US and lost touch with the Kleins. On my "honeymoon" in Germany as I was driving between relatives, I saw the exit that lead to the Halfmannshof where the Kunstbuchbinderei was. It had been 7.5 years since I left, and I was filled with a sense of apprehension as I pulled up into the parking lot and looked towards the bindery. I got out of the car and my wife and I walked in. The Kleins were surprised to see me again and we had a good long visit. Showing the bindery to my wife brought back many memories, and when we left we promised each other to keep in touch - we still are.

Kleins visiting me at Syracuse University Libraries in 2009.
They were on a big USA trip ...
Note the Bonefolder caps we are all wearing.

In 2009, the Kleins visited me in Syracuse on their way across the USA. It was very good to see them again, and to show them the Conservation and Preservation program I was leading at Syracuse University Libraries, the kinds of work we did for the special and circulating collections, and tell them how my experiences with them helped shape me and to develop the skills I needed to complete and mange the work, as well as teach students and work-study students.

Thank you Herr Klein for all that you taught me. You helped me become who I am (and prove that I was better than my apprenticeship grade).

His family are in my thoughts.

Rest in peace | Ruhe in Frieden

Saturday, February 3, 2024

The Prodigal Binding Returns

Once upon a time, isn't that the way most tales start, I organized my first national traveling exhibition for the Guild of Book Workers. That was the 10/'92 - 3/'94 traveling Fine Printers Finely Bound Too (Download @ 13MB). Organizing and shepherding that exhibit were an adventure, especially as I had never undertaken anything like that before ... Lots of teachable moments. 

Due to unfortunate circumstances, I also ended up designing the catalog by myself with a VERY tight deadline (HAD to be published by the opening), and had no experience doing that sort of work beyond those as high school yearbook editor a little over 12 years earlier. Fortunately, I had an excellent photographer. The rest was up to me. I worked with what I knew, namely WordPerfect 5.0 and the very limited typefaces I had available. Those were the days. Choices were informed by what I was infatuated with at the time. Not everyone was happy, but it was out on time. Again, a learning experience.

Cover to the printed catalog of Fine Printers Finely Bound Too.
(Download @ 13MB)

One of the things I made sure of was that there were plenty of copies in sheets. Binders crave books in sheets, and there were many wonderful works for inspiration within those pages. and then set about binding 2 copies in 1993. The one on the top one was for me, the bottom one a commission from the then Guild president. The technique described is what in German is referred to as the Franzband, THE fine binding structure for full-leather bindings. He presented on the technique at the 1990 Guild of Bookbinders' Standards, so read his Journal article, "The Logic and Techniques of German Bookbinding", and see the presentation handout here.

Fine Printers Finely Bound, Too. The Guild of Book Workers, New York, 1992.
Sewn on 3 frayed out cords; gray "zig-zag" endsheets and sewn red leather joint; graphite top edge; red and gray endbands. Covered in full chagrin leather with multicolored onlays in black, gray and sharkskin. Tooled in gold and blind. 24 x 16 x 1.5cm. Bound 1993.

 
Fine Printers Finely Bound, Too. The Guild of Book Workers, New York, 1992. Commissioned copy.
Sewn on 3 frayed out cords; gray "zig-zag" endsheets and sewn red leather joint; graphite top edge; red and gray endbands. Covered in full chagrin leather with multicolored onlays in black, gray and shark skin. Tooled in gold and blind. 24 x 16 x 1.5cm. Bound 1993.

When she retired and sold off her business, that copy disappeared for years before reappearing at an auctioneer where I got outbid. 

The first auction after eBay. I got outbid ...

It then reappeared on a dealer site for A LOT of $$. I was flattered, but yikes ... 

Dealer listing. I was flattered ...

Then they retired and off their stock and this book went to another auctioneer. 

The final auction ...
Probably could have gotten it for less, but pizza dude rang the bell, so "hail Mary" bid it was.

This time I was successful and the prodigal book returned home to be with its sibling.

Both, reunited after over 30 years ...

And, because he couldn't help himself, Fritz Otto took a close look at it. The textured shark leather onlays intrigued him...

"Interesting texture on this shark leather, and you did ok binding it ..."




Saturday, January 27, 2024

Holocaust Memorial Day and the Collins

January 27th is recognized as Holocaust Memorial Day, the day of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. With the increasing and ongoing spread of totalitarian movements, rhetoric, and imagery across the globe, it is important to remember the past and where it can lead if we are not vigilant and push back at all times.

Ernst and Else Collin from the catalog to the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung of 1929, an image of a painting by Walter Kampmann. Ernst is sitting in a chair with a book [paper], and holding a writing instrument, his head seemingly lost in thought resting in his palm. A woman, presumably his wife Else (nee Cronheim) almost has him in embrace, one hand on his right arm, with her left almost on his shoulder. More here.

Ernst and Else Collin were deported to Auschwitz on December 9th, 1942 and murdered there. But, their horrors started much earlier, officially with the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933, and their systematic exclusion from public places, education, their places of work, their ability to live their lives freely, and so much more.

III) Transportliste: 24. Osttransport mit 1061 gelisteten Namen in das KL Auschwitz, 09.12.1942.
Note the Israel or Sara in the name. These were added by the Nazis to all Jewish individuals.
Page from the Transportliste for the 24th deportation from Berlin to Auschwitz, 12.9.1942.
The address for the Collins is from the Judenhaus at Aschaffenburgerstr. 6 in Berlin where they
were picked up, most likely the now yellow building.

Image of the Transportliste from the Arolsen Archives.

From there they were taken to the freight station in Moabit where a memorial was dedicated to those deported to their deaths. Other information links their deportation train to "Gleis 17" of the Bahnhof Grunewald and to their deaths. That platform is now a memorial with the dates of the transport in steel as part of the platform. More here. The Deutsche Reichsbahn (German railways) was very complicit in these transports, and created this as a "central memorial" to those deported and the role of the railway. 

Detail from the memorial by Axel Mauruszat.

On April 1, 2014, almost 10 years ago, two Stolpersteine (Stumbling Blocks) were laid to memorialize Ernst Collin and his wife Else (nee Cronheim) in front of the entrance to their home at Cicerostr 61 in Berlin. Stolpersteine are "monuments" created by Gunter Demnig that commemorate victims of the Holocaust. They are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for an individual victim of Nazism – both those who died and survivors – who were consigned by the Nazis to prisons, euthanasia facilities, sterilization clinics, concentration camps, and extermination camps, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide". The "stones" record the name of the individual, their birthday, and their fate. In Berlin the Koordinierungsstelle Stolpersteine works together with Stolperstein Initiatives in the various city districts, in this case Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.

Photo Gerhard Schumm, 4.1.2014

Google Maps recently updated its Streetview images for Berlin, and the Stolpersteine can finally be seen, sort of.

Detail from Google Streetview of Cicerostr 61 in Berlin.

NIE WIEDER!

NEVER AGAIN!