Monday 29 October 2018


For several happy years in the 1980s, I'd spend most Tuesday evenings in the basement of the University library learning the ancient craft of book-binding. It was immensely satisfying because I made readable some ratty books that I had bought [cheap, at yard-sales] for their content rather than for their striking good looks. After many weeks, I was able to produce reliably a functional 'library-binding' that held all the pages together and allowed the book to open. I liked very much the revelation that all the materials and steps in the process were important for the engineering of the book. Rounding the spine with a gurt big hammer, for example,ensures the book stands on its tail.Even the gold-leaf, which could be a mad extravagance, is used because it is durable when applied to leather. You need to know what book is on the shelf so a title is handy.
Many ancillary crafts are important for feeding book-binders with their materials. Here's Chris Rowlatt from Gloucesterrshirre marbling paper. You mileage may vary, but I can't stop a sharp intake of breath when he brings a gorgeous sheet off the marbling bath. Irish carrageen moss from Galway Bay is an essential ingredient of the marbling water. I love the random-but-not-chaotic nature of the product. As he says, marbling could be an end in itself but Rowlatt prefers to take-the-bell-through and use his papers for endpapers and covers of books which be binds in his atelier. The language is suitably archaic and specific for an ancient craft: head, tail and forage [fore-edge]; forwarding; nipping press; rounding and backing; sewing frame; mull; kettle-stitch. Kettle is from Old German Kettel = small chain: same root as catenary.
Did someone mention books? You know my latest obsession is putting pixellated bookshelves under the microscope. Here's one created by Dau.I the Librarian:
All those books are the scripts for plays. There is a certain amount of good-natured competition among the librarians to create a "display table" - which is up for a month - that results in more books being borrowed. No surprise that 'murder mysteries' outstrips 'scripts for plays'. I am predictably delighted by the random, anything-goes aspects of this task. Maybe Dau.I could take a leaf out of Elizabeth Sagan's Arty book-obsession:

1 comment:

  1. Can't imagine the library would pay Esme to lie on the floor sorrounded by her favourite books... Although if she sold it as an art installation... Hmmm