Corona Times

13 March, 2021

Almost to the day, one year on, I got vaccinated. Feels good to have it done, but need to get everyone vaccinated, something I am hopeful about. In the meantime, I will continue to play it safe as I try to get out more, especially now as the memory of winter fades and the days get longer and warmer.

I Got Vaccinated.

Otherwise, everything "normal."

Working on some bindings, dialing back the writing after last year, and trying have some fun. Even made my life easier in the studio by figuring out a simple ramp could let me safely and effectively use my boardshear seated on my scooter. Thanks to Jeff Peachey I even have a very solid and attractive wooden one now.

I think I'm done here. After the plague is before the plague as the wise soccer coach Sepp Herberger ones said. Fritz Otto, my alter ego will keep his mask on for a while longer...

Fritz Otto, my alter ego will keep his mask on for a while longer...


15 August, 2020

Over 2 months with no updates. This is the not so new normal... On indefinite work from home (WFH) and settled into a good work space long ago, my library and studio, aka my happy place.

In other news, the Fish Skin Bind-O-Rama was a complete success and can be viewed by clicking on the image below.

Ok, that's it from here unless something dra-/traumatic happens.

5 June

Another month, more sameness... My day job seems irrelevant, might as well be as configured, all the higher ed readings show that everyone is making up their responses as they go, planning to open (they have to), but with contingencies if they don't, and they might. And yet even those concerns seem meaningless as the world seems to be spinning further and further out of control and revealing depravities that have always been there. Sickening to watch and read about, but proud of (and worried about) those on the front lines fighting back. That we have regressed into this darkness so far and so fast shouldn't suprise, but does. The historical precendents are there, and we continue to repeat the "mistakes" of the the past. We need to stope this slide into authoritarianism, the police state, call it fascism, and fight back. This has to stop. Then, we need memorials for each and every individual going back to 1776, or earlier. Something to make us bow down and relect about each of those murdered in hate crimes, name, birth date, cause of death (murdered by police, lynched, ...) with date to be placed where they were murdered. The Stolpersteine would be my model. I also just learned about the Witness Stones Project that started in Guildford, CT, and Stopping Stones that works to adopt the model on a wider scale, both on the same model. One stone, one name. Even that won't be enough though as one stone is one too many – there shouldn't have to be any – and we should undo the systemic oppression that creates that "need" to memorialize after the fact. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

So, after not publishing a Colliana report of new findings around Ernst Collin and his family of Court bookbinders last year, I completed one for 2019 and 2020 posting it on his birthday, May 31st. Felt good, in particular because the history of his Corvinus Antiquariat from opening to closure was captured in articles and notices in the Börsenblatt des deutschen Buchhandels, as well as some responses to his Pressbengel following publication in 1922. With things moving into public domain again, one year at a time, I found more mentions in other publications that became available online.

Some nice surprises in that there seem to be about 30ish people jumping into the fish skin parchment making / tanning Bind-O-Rama, well beond my expectations. To keep people going we had a wonderful Zoom chat with some of them a couple weeks ago, and just had another. Deadline is June 30, and I can't wait to see what people come up with. It's a wonderful mix of fine binders, conservators, students, and others spread across the globe. Details about the Bind-O-Rama here.

Bind-O-Rama  participant reward. They'll have earned it.

Related to my piscatorial adventures, caught two beautiful rainbow trout at Wegmans Creek and got the skin off both in one piece rather than as fillets. One will work fantastically on my in-process binding on A River Runs Through It. Hope to get back to that soon, if there wasn't that other problem... I even took a tea tanning workshop with Janey Chang in Vancouver, BC. Online, of course, but she did a fantastic job. Take one of her workshops if you can.

Rainbow trout staked out to dry in evening sun.

In other news, I have been sleeping on the couch since last Saturday because our in-home elevator hydraulic system crashed, and the part may not arrive for at least a few more days... My desk is now in the dining area and I have a view of the backyard wildlife. Sleeping not comfortable, but the change might not be bad. Did get first haircut in 3 months on Saturday and had a 3 month overdue dentist’s appt on Thursday. Still need to figure out what to do with the COVID beard that is now longer than my hair.

Three months worth of hair...

My piscatorial plague doctor mask made by @fiskurjoe (Fiskur Leather) arrived today and is absolutely fabulous, exceeding my wildest dreams. I asked for fish leathers and told to follow his wildest creative itchings. Fill the beak with good smells, like salmon fillet and pinot grigio, and never have to smell the stenchy associated with COVID... Leathers are salmon, perch, wolffish, and lake trout. The finest in COVID-proof PPE! Ready for work...

Piscatorial Plague Doctor

2 May, 2020

Was a good couple of weeks where I even enjoyed some day-job work, even though unrelated to what I usually do. Presented to the university's iSchool class on the history of libraries. The presentation was on the history of books from a binder/conservators perspective. The students are all scattered now, some may return in the fall, others will have "graduated" at non-graduations... Was very glad to have backed up all the treatment photos from when that's what I did so that I could draw on the collections in a meaningful way, and thanks to the catalog information the students could request the materials when back on campus...

Presentation to iSchool class on "history of libraries"

I also was challenged to give a presentation of making parchment from fish skin by a colleague, in part in response to my Bonefolder Bind-O-Rama call for entries

Almost "show time" for the webinar.
Used YouTube Live and it worked great.

Webinar felt comfortable, I had some basic notes of people/things I wanted to remember to mention, but no slides... Just talk about and demonstrate how to do it. Stars aligned because "fish mongers wife" had delivered a salmon skin several days before. The stars aligned. About 108 live viewers with 900+ views since. Watch the recording here. Even more satisfying is seeing several start to make their own parchment from fish and share the experience on social media. Can't wait to see the finished skins.

The Guild's New England Chapter had the first of what promise to be more Brady Bunch style Zoom-based show and tells. Was great to see and talk with people I know mostly from email and social. I talked about my fish and webinar, of course.

GBW New England show and tell. Note my fish skin Zoom background.

Got two textblocks ready and sewn. One will be for the GBW
New England Chapter exhibit,

Another highlight was that yet another German periodical was digitized and made available, this time the Börsenblatts für den Deutschen Buchhandels (a semi-daily what's happening in the publishing and book trades. Found numerous Ernst Collin references, including to his Corvinus Antiquariat and around the publication of his Pressbengel. More on that in my Colliniana report. In contrast to last year when I skipped it (nothing to report) I'll have several things this time around - May 31st, Ernst's birthday.

Otherwise, trying to get out. Been mostly gray, streets still surreal... The photo below taken about 3 weeks ago, leaves just started really coming out last week.

Social distance, two-by-two...

Had to replace batteries in my van so that the ramp I use to get in and out would deploy and stop beeping because it couldn't hold a charge, mostly because the van like most cars is just sitting in the driveway.

Stay well, ... I'm going to step away from HAL to keep working on my bindings. Perhaps I'll even venture into the brilliant sun we have today.

18 April

And another two weeks have passed by. On the upside, processed another salmon skin, and in the spirit of Easter dyed it with egg dyes. We'll see how stable the colors are and what the vinegar might do, but the results were great. Click here for more. Neighbor has promised another skin and I was gifted fabric dye. Will try again.

Dyeing Easter salmon.

Winter is still hanging on and two days ago managed to get this snap taking out the trash. Pretty, isn't it. Ok, I'm done and need spring...

Another beautiful mid-April morning in Syracuse.

Work is going so-la-la... The place seems more and more distant and we seem to be losing what touch we had. Emails to staff from university administration are setting us up for ??? Until then, keep carrying on. Masks now required any time we might encounter anyone. Makes sense, but the wing-nuts are gathering. Starting now, work weeks will be shorter (4-day) because I have too much vacation time to use up. Would rather go places, but have personal projects to do.

Have to prep for a presentation on history of book from binding perspective. Finding it much harder than I thought it would be, but perhaps all this is weighing on me as well. Presentation is on 4/27.

3 April

And, another week is done, several big data reports showing the impact on library resources and services as a result of closing the physical location... Looking forward to the weekend and doing some needed yard work.

Seen in the neighborhood.

Fritz Otto says @pile_of_bricks has it spot on.
Be safe folks so you can keep making and
enjoying beautiful prints, books, ...
You know, things that make us think.
Check out and support his project to create a print workshop in Detroit.

Be safe!

30 March

The world is stopping, even we need to stop, especially when cooped up kids write stop on the road. The Ampelmann says stop, too, when he's not saying walk.

Stop means stop, vest from the Ampelmann Store in Berlin.

If you can't get out much anymore, for whatever reason, travel virtually. The New York Times has a good article.

29 March

Well, first week of "working" from home went well. Actually got work done and was able to chat with colleagues using various video tools... Common themes, this is getting old, fast; so glad to see another face and someone else's environment. This is how they got to see me.

Made a point of turning off the computer when I "went home" for the day...

Did have some fun and do something else during lunches and on this weekend. Decided to start having Fritz Otto show some of the artists' and fine press books in my collection on social media. Had seen that some people felt disconnected from their collections at work and wanting to see something else... On Twitter and Facebook.

The Warwick Press collection, most of it anyway.

Fritz Otto also found a simple portfolio protecting one of the books and wanted me to share the instructions, so I did. That post is here.

That simple portfolio.

Saturday we went for a drive to make sure the van started and their was juice to deploy my ramp to get in and out. Was a beautiful evening. Need to get outside more. Monday a "staycation" day.

What are you doing?

21 March

Went for a "walk" the other day to just get out of the house. We have a feeder canal to the Erie Canal near our house, as well as the trout stream that feeds it. While the bridge crossing the stream was well behind several no trespassing signs, there was still much to see and appreciate. These power lines were not observing social distance, but it's ok to hold one's child's hand.

Parent and child not observing social distance...

Got our last haircuts in a while as the Governor is shutting down non-essential businesses, particular related to personal care... Ditto for cafés where we got take-out for lunch on the way home. Today is it for them as well. Felt very surreal,  but hoping for best for all involved.

To help with tele-working, I treated myself to a new high quality webcam and got that hooked up. Monday it's back to "work" and I want to look my best. Even set the alarm for my usualish time. I work 7:30 - 4 and want to keep that routine.

I also helped my wife set up a blog for their turtle "Mort" who is living with us for the duration. Check it out at Mort Moves.

Will relax some, definitely not in a writing frame of mind. Maybe the last three episodes of Babylon Berlin.

18 March

Had a few productive and silly days.

Made good progress on my two German articles with the one on fish parchment almost done as a first draft. It's written in a conversation style and will refer readers to selected blog posts for videos of the process. In citing some sources, I found another source from a newspaper article that I was able to retrieve online from ZEFYS. LOVE these digital collections and couldn't have written these articles and the Ernst Collin related pieces without them, if only as discovery tools.

Paalzow, Hans. Bucheinbände aus Klippfisch, Berliner Tageblatt, Nr 141, 18 März, 1917.
An interesting thing in writing for German publications is that they have character counts, not word counts, a good thing with those really long words that they have.

Also had some some messing about and having Fritz Otto make a small salmon parchment covered box... More at Fritz Otto Says Be Safe and Fritz Otto Makes a Box with Lid (Kasten mit Hals).

Standing next to the lower box half.

Paring shark leather for the ends of the lower box half.

15 March

Things got real, and I am considered non-essential staff.
Dear Faculty and Staff:
Syracuse University continues to closely monitor and evaluate health advisories and guidance from federal, state and local public health officials related to the COVID-19 health emergency. Accordingly, given new and updated guidance, we write today to communicate important information for faculty and staff. Specifically:
Effective Tuesday, March 17, and through to March 30, only essential faculty and staff should report to our Syracuse, New York, campus...
So, work from home it is effective next week as this week is vacation...

My wife works at the University's Childcare Center that also closed, so we now have a corona refugee living with us. Goes by the name of Mort. Was informed/made to remember that mort is French pour death... Nope, not with us.

Have a book order that will be in the library's mailroom tomorrow, so will go in to retrieve that, sample books from the bindery of Werner Kiessig. More on him later. For now, back to Ernst Collin auf Deutsch. Going better than I thought.

14 March

Starting a new page that I'll use to "chronicle" the ups and downs of living and working with COVID-19 (No, not infected). I'm a librarian by day, bookbinder and history of the book... person in my off hours. Universities everywhere (like mine) have sent their students off (back home...), canceled or moved classes online only, but strangely libraries remain open (we're the busiest place on my campus by far). Governments (local, state, national) are telling people to self isolate and keep "social distance" to reduce transmission rates and thankfully I can do my day job from home if I need to without really giving much up. Music can be loud, coffee fresh when I make it, can work from porch and observe yard, ... So, not really bad, but also something many will not be able to do.

I start a week of long-planned [stay]vacation today. Have an article on the "millimeter" binding to submit for a German journal (translation of The Edelpappband, or “Millimeter” Binding), and then want to start on a German version of my fish parchment article as well as an article (also on German) about Ernst Collin and the Pressbengel folding in different threads such as the state of bookbinding at the time, collecting, the economy, and other "Ernstiana." Have time for these two, but will feel good to conceptualize and start. Fish will be eas[ier], Ernst more of a challenge particularly as it will likely close the more formal aspects of my research and publication. I'll also start prep for a class presentation on the history of the book that will be virtual, either with the library's special collections, or my own. We'll see.

As we all disperse we may well lose connections to our work and things we enjoy (those two not always connected). We've already lost most conferences, lectures, and workshops – this is going to drag out for months...  So, I may also try things like virtual coffee hours to talk shop in different contexts using Google Hangouts or Zoom, in addition to project updates. I think it would be great if other did the same. Beth Doyle at Duke has set up a wonderful starting point for her staff on the Preservation Underground. Check it out. I'm partial to the Brodsky Series that I started at Syracuse; slides and links to lecture video via each presenters page.

Unless the library goes to strictly work from home, I may end up popping in from time to time, but will likely try to spend most of my time at home, working. This will require self-discipline, so I will get up at my normal time and keep to routines as best as possible. We'll see.

So, here goes. Be safe and stay healthy.


  1. No change here. Have mostly worked from home since 1960.

  2. Thanks for this. My shop/studio is in a bigger building of studios.
    The building owners have closed the building to the "public", but it is accessible by the people who work here. Client pick up. etc, are now happening by delivery services.
    It is lovely and quiet. I might even get a book done that is for the pure joy of it.

    1. Better to play it safe. Enjoy the quiet, and most of all binding for the joy of it. It really is the best way. In terms of the quiet, I remember presenting at Standards in 2001 after 9/11. Standards was in Alexandria, VA, no planes were flying into Reagan/National, and it was still eerily quiet. Then, while presenting the first plane came in, something we heard and felt (right under final approach). Everyone clapped. I'm looking forward to that kind of moment now, but know it'll be some time. Take good care. p.