Saturday, July 27, 2019

Bookbinder Barbie Visits Syracuse

So, @BookbinderBarbie is a real thing. In some ways she is becoming an "influencer" and a meme for the bookbinding and book arts set online, at least I hope she will become. We could all use a lighthearted ambassador that makes what we do accessible to the "masses," at least I think so.

She was started by North Bennet Street School Bookbinding (NBSS) students a year ago, and has been sharing her experiences in that program and during her travels ever since. This summer she is visiting binders, conservators, printers, artists, and many others throughout the US, before heading back to start her second year at NBSS. Think of it as a series of intense, short-term internships.

Bookbinderbarbie on Instagram

I was fortunate to have her visit this past week, and we had some great experiences in a few short days. She got here late because Air USPS "lost her," then decompressed for an evening by looking at some books including one about her in a past life, and playing with the trains. Next day we headed across Syracuse to see some sights and visit Boxcar Press and the great people there. That evening, I taught her the stiffened paper binding (Steifbroschure) and we made a 1/4 fish leather binding with sides covered in hand printed cloth made by an artist in Venice. This was a prelude to making her own parchment from salmon the next day. That next day she got to go to work with me, and while I was doing my thing with spreadsheets (she wasn't interested) she received a personal tour of Syracuse University Libraries' amazing Plastics Collection from Courtney, the curator. She was an instant fan!

After we got home it was time to make that parchment. Below a few photos, embedded posts from with links to the others from Syracuse. To see all her adventures, you know you want to, scroll through her Insta feed, better yet follow for there is much more to come.

Richard Minsky Nice to see Barbara Slate's Marvel Barbie comic.
It's been 25 years since Barbie taught at the Center for Book Arts.
Looks like a new bookbinder Barbie may take that position ❣️
Barbie #43, July, 1994.

Making a 1/4 fishskin case binding with printed cloth sides.
Barbie came with her own tools.

The stiffened paper binding (Steifbroschure)
More under

Syracuse's own Niagara Mohawk building, an art deco gem.

I got to go shopping for a delicious meal in advance of Barbie's visit. Yum!

Stretching out the salmon parchment.

Inspecting the stretched out skin.

A full step-by-step description of the process can be
found under

Finally, looking at some books, here the Boss Dog Press edition
of Ernst Collin's Pressbengel that was translated
by Peter D. Verheyen as The Bone Folder. 
Download the text laid out for binding in the left sidebar,
make some fish parchment, and bind your own copy.
Make sure to share pictures.

Links to all the posts from Syracuse:

I can't wait to see what Barbie does next and how she grows as an emerging professional. Perhaps she'll tell her story in a journal article or blog post somewhere. I know I had a wonderful time hosting her, and know all the others she visited did as well. What a great way to spend the summer. Made me feel young again.

Related, perhaps other programs and individual book artists could adopt this concept with their own Avatars, and then they could all converse and grow together as practicing binders and book arts professionals.

Oh, Twitter seems to be enjoying her, too.

Some tweet reactions!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sprayed and Stenciled Papers

Decorated papers from the Hübel & Denck Monatsblätter 1924 & 1925, as well as a photo showing process from Praktische Winke für den Verkehr zwischen Verlag und Buchbinderei published by the Leipziger Buchbinderei A.G., 1926. The decorated papers are created with sprayed colors using stencils and other techniques. See also pochoir, schabloniertes Papier. Paul Klein wrote an article on the topic, "Das Spritzverfahren in der Buchbinderei" for Der Buchbinderlehrling, vol 2, nr 8, 1928.

End- and covering paper Pekapapier Nr. 84 made in our own workshop
from a design by Paul Klein.
Hübel & Denck Monatsblätter, Nr. 2, 1924.

End- and covering paper Pekapapier Nr. 96 made in our own workshop.
Hübel & Denck Monatsblätter, Nr. 3, 1924.

Peka sprayed paper made in our own workshop using light-fast colors,
a new development that has man advantages in addition to the attractive soft-toned colors.
Hübel & Denck Monatsblätter, Nr. 1, 1925.

Photo showing process of making sprayed and stenciled papers
from Praktische Winke published by the Leipziger Buchbinderei A.G., 1926.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Bone Folder as Bound by Marc Hammond

Congratulations Marc! Absolutely beautiful and honored by the binding.

The Bone Folder was written by Ernst Collin as Der Pressbengel, translated by me, and printed by Don Rash's Boss Dog Press with photos by John (Hans) Schiff. Order information at left. Unbound sheets are sold out.

Below the post on Instagram,

The 1st Place winner in the "Bound Together" bookbinding exhibit is a binding of “The Bone Folder" by #NBSSalumni Marc Hammonds BB ’17 @marc.hammo. . Marc says, “Much of the subject of The Bone Folder relates to traditional bookbinding techniques. My inspiration stems from the raised sewing supports and endband cores used in historic bookbinding to attach the boards. In my design, they are illustrated by leather onlays and dots tooled with gold leaf. The goal I had in mind was to craft a very contemporary binding with a design which would allude to traditional techniques.” . “The Bone Folder” was written by Ernst Collins as Der Pressbengel, translated by Peter D. Verheyen @pdverheyen, and printed by Boss Dog Press. . See photos of Marc's book process here, including the titling on the spine. This is a full leather binding with onlays, dots tooled with gold leaf, and Diane Bond paste paper endpapers. . Come see the book in "Bound Together," open until tomorrow. it will also be in the 20th Annual Celebration of Craft: Student & Alumni Exhibit, opening May 1, 2019. More info: . #boundtogether #boundtogetherbooks #bookbinding #bookbindingtools #bookbinder #bookbinders #bonefolder #thebonefolder #bookbindersdesign #bookart #finebinding #bookbindingexhibition #acc2019 #bookstagram #books
A post shared by North Bennet Street School (@nbssboston) on

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Help [Hübel & Denck] Advertise!

Help [Hübel & Denck] Advertise!

"A good book is the best friend and helper anytime!," "read books, knowledge is power!," and "give books at every occasion!" Hübel & Denck, based in Leipzig was one of Germany's largest trade binderies, binding everything from notebooks to literature, including very high end specialty work. The image is from their house journal that published articles about typography, design, bookbinding, collecting, ...

From Hübel & Denck's "Monatsblätter für Bucheinbände und Handbindekunst," vol 2, nr. 12, 1925-26.

Each of the issues in the journal had it's own unique style that included the paper, typography, graphic elements, and samples of materials. More about those later.

The bindery and book cover factory Hübel & Denck, 1895.
Franz Weisse worked there in their extra-binding department.
Hübel & Denck also published the Monatsblätter für Bucheinbände und Handbindekunst (1924-28),
a monthly newsletter with articles by and for bibliophiles that Ernst Collin wrote for as well.
Each issue had its own distinctive typographical design and often included samples of materials

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Carsick and Corrugated Cardboard

Good article in the New York Times (3/22/19) about the resurgence of corrugated manufacturing in the US. Nice segue to sharing images of this project from last summer...

Last summer I finally got around to binding my copy of John Waters' Carsick that chronicled his hitchhiking trip from Bawlmer to San Francisco. Carsick is your "traditional" modern trade hardcover, adhesive bound with dust jacket... Nothing special.

So, rip cover off, take tacking iron (with protective layer between) to remove the bulk of the hot-melt adhesive and round while still warm. Next, attach a rolled cord to make a shoulder as there was none, make the endpapers, trim, give top edge a coloring of Woodland Scenics asphalt color (bookbinding and choo-choos overlap), apply rolled endbands, line spine, make case, cover with distressed corrugated cardboard, case-in. Got it? Good. Just another German case binding...

The start of Mr. Waters' journey, and mine.
Thought it might find use in the design.

A trip to AAA (Just like Mr. Waters) to get some road maps.
Started in Bawlmer/Maryland, an overall of the US, and finally San Francisco.

Textblock done, next the covers. Start with your typical corrugated cardboard box like you might pick up to make your hitchhiking sign, write destination (or in this case title) in Sharpie, and done. My vodka box was too clean though, so some light weathering was called for. Enter a post lunch-time coffee on Waverly Avenue, busy during that time, including with heavy truck traffic, just like along the interstate.

Result of the weathering...

Mr. Waters holding his sign.
From a review in the Chicago Tribune.

Needed a bit more, so coffee stains from the bottom of the cup.

End on view showing edge treatment, endband making use of map cutoffs,
and the corrugated.

The endpapers...

Overall view of cover. A torn strip of map depicting the heartland along the bottom

A very different yet very fun project where I felt I was channeling Richard Minsky's "material as metaphor" concept.

I enjoyed reading the book, too,really three stories bound as one, his fantasy trip, his horror trip, and reality. My masseuse (who didn't care for the book) undertook a similar trip last summer, retracing the one he made 40 years ago. Like Waters' experience, his reality was similar, a trip filled with meeting interesting people with interesting stories that reveal not all is lost in 'Merica.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Advertising for Binderies, 1910 and 1918

Just came into several issues of the Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, n.F., spanning the years 1910 - 18. Some wonderful advertising for binderies and binders I've shared here and seen in other places, so perhaps more fodder for future posts. You can find most of these binderies on the Buchstadt | City of the Book, Leipzig, 1913 map. 

E.A. Enders, 500 employees and 230 machines.
Everything bookbinding and related, with an
extra-binding department head by Professor Walter Tiemann.
Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, n.F., vol 9, 1917-18

E.A. Enders in 1929.
From Muster-Betriebe deutscher Wirtschaft.

Hübel & Denck, Leipzig.
Royal Bavarian Court bookbinders.
Odd that the Wittelsbacher went to Leipzig in Saxony.
No one in Munich, Nuremberg, or ...?
Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, n.F., vol 2, 1910-11.

Hübel & Denck also published the Monatsblätter für Bucheinbände und Handbindekunst,
a monthly newsletter with articles by and for bibliophiles that Ernst Collin wrote for as well.
Each issue had its own distinctive typographical design and often included samples of materials.
[Bindery image]

Karl Ebert in Munich
Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, n.F., vol 9, 1917-18

Completed book cases for the Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde by W. Drugulin, Leipzig.
Drugulin also printed Ernst Collin's Pressbengel in 1922.
Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, n.F., vol 2, 1910-11
You can see modern examples of these book cases towards the bottom here.

Carl Sonntag Jun[ior] and Julius Hager, Leipzig.
More about Sonntag in German.
An ad for Julius Hager from 1921.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Bookbinding and Adapting to Life Changes

In The Ponderings of a Bookbinding Student- Part 3, I mentioned some of the reasons for returning to the US from Germany in 1987, even though returning was perhaps not the initial plan. One of the things that happened in the spring of my last apprentice year (and 2 short months before my exams) was that I was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy. At the hospital the doctor said, "so what are you going to do now?" Hadn't thought about it, was still bike racing, and thinking of my life and career... "Well, you won't be able to get a job and will need to go on disability..." Ah, well, that's a problem then, and that statement alone made it easy to return to the US. Effects of this progressive disease weren't obvious for a very long time, in part because I continually adapted to those changes. Part of that was getting a job in academia with great health insurance, and  acquiring new interests and skills in my day job such as digitization and management.

In Blade Runner (1982), Roy and Pris asked Sebastian (Who had challenges of his own) for help with their life expiration dates...
We've got a lot in common.
What do you mean?
Similar problems. 
Accelerated decrepitude.

I don't know much about bio-mechanics, Roy...
In terms of my binding and teaching, the impact started to be noticed around 2003 when traveling to teach workshops became too strenuous, especially since one is "always on," and that for at least two long days, back to back. I continued to teach classes from my home studio until 2012ish when I decided I needed a break, in part to do my own work and not worry about having to clean off the bench once a week. I still welcome former students and selected others who want to use equipment and/or otherwise talk shop.

The impact is also felt at the bench where I have increasing issues with stamina and some fine motor skills such as sewing endbands or holding a finishing tool… I have no intention to stop binding, but rather will adapt by changing structures and other aspects. It creates some interesting design challenges, and for those things I can't do, I ask for help... Adapting to changing circumstances and adjusting ones career/artistic/life goals is essential regardless of circumstance. Sometimes we just need to roll with it, something easier said than done.

Last spring, after having avoided the bench because of problems getting up off the scooter safely and trying to stagger back and forth (always holding on) to get things out of my flat files, work at the stamping press (on another bench), sit on an adjustable stool that worked with my "standard" standing height benches, ..., I made the decision to have my benches reduced in height so that I could work comfortably seated on my scooter.

Original bench height (ca 36"/91.5cm), great for working when standing,
Seated on a scooter, not so much.

New bench height (ca 28"/71cm), equivalent to standing. Much better!

Bench for stamping press, a few inches higher than the old bench height.
Platten about chest height, great for looking at the stamping area.

About the same working height, except now from the scooter. Much better...

So, now I can comfortably work at my benches, but there are still plenty of challenges to working such as the declining fine motor skills
  • The bio-mechanics and ergonomics of endbanding (stamina and fine motor).
    • No work around yet, but maybe make some boxes that I put to either side to rest arms/elbows on.
  • Being able to exert downward pressure to keep rulers in position and keep things from slipping in general.
    • A rubber mat helps keep the cutting mat from slipping around...
  • Holding/using finishing tools very strenuous, even to do a straight line.
  • Using board shear.
    • Ask for help! Only way to do it, unless... Hmmm...
  • Bigger books more unwieldy, smaller ones easier to handle/work on.
  • Less "full" bindings, more 3-part bindings, that thing I call the modified Bradel binding (Gebrochener Rücken) as component parts can be easier to handle.
  • DON'T blame every problem on the disease/condition. Everyone screws up/has accidents at some point. Learn from them, recover if possible (or start over), and move on. Questioning everything not healthy...
  • Exhibits, maybe not so much anymore... Less pressure can equal more fun. Find other outlets for sharing work and experiences. 

Cathryn Miller of Byopia Press recently published a fantastic post on this topic on her blog. In it she describes many of her hacks and adaptations that allow her to keep working on her books.

I'm going to keep at it, binding that is, but have also gone back to my trains and building kits such as the pigeon shack. LOTS of detail work to keep the fine motor skills on notice, but not as costly when screw-ups happen.

H0 (1:87) birds for the pigeon shack below...

Pigeon shack with those birds - Detail work!

The articles shared on this blog about vocational rehabilitation, mostly of WW I veterans with lost limbs have given ideas for hacks I may try at different times. Likewise articles in the popular press like "We Are the Original Lifehackers" from the NYTimes. There is also the "Disabled List" is a disability-led, self advocacy organization that is creating the opportunities in design that we always wanted. The Disabled List is a curated list of creative disabled people who are available to consult, and the site has enough images to give ideas for adapting. Then, there are our future surgeons - scary and bemusing at the same time. Made me remember a retired surgeon who was also a bookbinder and sewed the most amazing endbands. [Edit: See also this op-ed from the LA Times, Op-Ed: When my fingers stopped cooperating, I had to rethink making art, 7/28/19]

Taking advantage of opportunities for growth at work, developing other (related) interests such as writing (I love my ergonomic keyboard) and contributing that way have also been sustaining and satisfying.

Looking back 30 years, watching an older binding student with Parkinson's sticking with it despite the challenges was almost like looking at my future self without knowing the details of progression. Almost like the ending of the "Fairy Tale for Bookbinding Apprentices:"
... This made the Meister very sad and depressed, so much so that he never wanted to create another masterpiece. He didn’t even want to teach anymore... His hair grayed, his vision deteriorated so that he saw his gilt lines double, and his hands shook when he held the type-holder over the stove.. He rubbed his hands over his eyes and dreamt that the wise Bone Folder was still in his pocket where it had always rested. In his dream it spoke to his heart, “don’t be sad great Meister. You shared your talents before they could leave you, and your generosity was so great that you even let me go. Now, I still shape beautiful headcaps, but in someone else’s gentle hands. You still live though. Rise up, and continue to tell all the stories you told me. Then I will be with you in spirit and can help you. Your pen is your new tool now.”
This made the Meister perk up. Once again, the wise Bone Folder was right. Everyone has something to share and pass on. Meister Franz’s gifts will enable others to sustain themselves. He will keep nothing to himself until he closes his eyes for the last time, and then he will go, satisfied to have lived for his art and craft, and those that practice it.

Maybe too dramatic? Maybe not? What are your stories? Though the details may vary there are always similarities, and hacks. Let's share.