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SF in SF with Kim Stanley Robinson and Cecelia Holland

On Sunday, January 22, please join us for an evening with authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Cecilia Holland reading and in conversation with Terry Bisson. 

Kim Stanley Robinson has published nineteen novels and numerous short stories but is best known for his Mars trilogy. His work has been translated into 24 languages. Many of his novels and stories have ecological, cultural and political themes running through them and feature scientists as heroes. Robinson has won numerous awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. Robinson’s work has been labeled by The Atlantic as “the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing.” According to an article in the New Yorker, Robinson is “generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers.”

Cecelia Holland is a grande dame of historical fiction who began writing at age twelve. Her first published work, The Firedrake, arrived in 1966, and since then she has written extensively in historical fiction, modern and speculative fiction, short stories, children’s fiction, and speculative and factual nonfiction. One critic wrote, “What sets Cecelia’s work apart in the genre is not just her productivity but also her versatility; she has the unique ability to make most any historical period her own.”

Doors and cash bar open at 5:30 – Program begins at 6:30. 

$10 donation at the door (no one is turned away for lack of funds). As always Borderlands Books will be on hand with copies of the authors’ work.

We hope to see you here.

Learning Sewn Endbands

This past autumn I had the opportunity to take Bookbinding Level II through the Canadian Bookbinding and Book Arts Guild (CCBAG). During level two one of the things we learned was how to do sewn endbands. Previously in level one we had done endbands made from cord and cloth wrapped around it. These are known as “stuck on endbands” and they have been used as far back as the 1800s. I recently bought some prior to level two; they come in useful for a quick work!

Image credit: Arielle’s Bindery

Above is a picture of what they can look like. As you can see, all a binder would need to do is snip the endband to the correct size and stick it on with a bit of glue to the spine of the book at the head and tail.

Just to note, I’ve used the term endband to imply both bands at either head or tail of the book. Specifically, the band at the head is called a headband and the band at the tail is called an endband, however many people use either term to refer generically to both head and tail and often don’t specify. During class we called them endbands and so in this post I will refer to them as endbands.

Endbands are decorative and structural in function. The endbands can add strength and support to a binding. Sewn endbands consist of a core with either silk or linen thread wrapped around it. A core for an endband can be made from: cord, rolled paper, rolled leather, or a combination of leather and vellum. The core is generally thin, though you can create more elaborate endbands from double cores. In level two I learned how to do a two-color endband and a foundation endband. You can see these below. The two-color endband is number seven and the foundation endband (also called conservation endband) is number one.

Image credit: http://www.artesdellibro.com

Endbands can get even more creative and artistic than the variety shown here. Here are some found on the web:

   

Image credit: lilbookbinder.wordpress.com

Another style of endband is the Coptic endband. This endband has the weave going continuously from board across textblock and back to other board.

Image credit: henryhebert.net

Learning the endbands wasn’t as difficult as I imagined it might be, though it did take practice! We worked with silk thread and went around cord. The thread was probably the hardest to manage, being silk. Keeping the tension tight for the length of the endband was also something that required practice. In order to learn Dan (our teacher) had us practice on old telephone books. This allowed us to work with a larger cord and a larger textblock. Below is an photo of the two-color endband that we learned.

Image credit: Arielle’s Bindery

The endbands get sewn into the textblock and when working on a telephone book that proved to be tricky. Often times pliers were needed to help the needle along through the thickness of the book, when it came time to sew our actual textblocks it was much easier. As a result, the back of the phone book looks a bit messy from lots of practice attempts. Looking online though one can see many examples of sewn endbands that look very neat and uniform on the spine! Below is an image of the formation endband.

Image credit: Arielle’s Bindery

I find sewing endbands to be rather relaxing, other binders find it tedious. It certainly adds to the appeal of a book, I think. It’s certainly something that requires a bit of practice to get them really looking nice, and with so many styles to learn there is a lot to practice!


Guest blogger Arielle VanderSchans is a linguist and librarian living in Canada. She currently studies bookbinding through the Canadian Bookbinding and Book Arts Guild. You can follow her as she learns the trade here: https://ariellesbindery.com

A Factory Girl at The Dickens Fair

In over a year of giving tours at the American Bookbinders Museum, I have spoken about the women in mid-19th-century binderies who sewed books, day in and day out. Speed was of the essence: By the mid-1800s many of the time-consuming processes of binding had been mechanized, increasing production capacity hugely. The bottleneck? Sewing. So compromises were made in the way books were sewn in order to move that process along faster. A skilled worker on the sewing floor was expected to sew 200 books a day.

Think about that. In a ten hour day, that’s twenty books an hour.

In order to do that, the sturdy practice of sewing around cords was replaced with sewing past them: notches were cut in the spines of books and the book-sewer ran the thread into a signature, out the notch, in back of the cord, back into the notch, and so on. When pulled tight, the thread pulled the cords into the notches. The rub, in terms of quality, was that there was nothing to hold the cord there; if a thread broke, the cord could pop out and the book fall apart. Still, it was fast. Twenty-books-an-hour fast.

Which is where I come in. For five days this fall (spread out over five weekends), as a way of piquing interest in the history of binding and in the ABM, I appeared at San Francisco’s Dickens Christmas Fair in the role of one of those workers. My first conclusion: If paid by the piece–which one often was–I might have starved to death before I reached any decent speed. Even with five days of working at my new skill, I was unable to do more than eight books an hour. As with many hand skills, the process is much more complex than it looks, and attempting to do it properly takes focus.

Focus comes hard when you’re sitting on a busy by-way, talking about binding to everyone who comes by. Parents with children–especially very small children–would stop to watch. A startling number of people who took bookbinding in middle-school (who knew?) came by to reminisce. Older kids sometimes seemed jaded about the process until I pointed out that, because of the “new-fangled machinery,” books were becoming inexpensive enough that even a poor Factory Girl like me could own one. Some people just wanted to sit on a nearby bench and watch for a while. Many people took photos or video, some asked me about the paper and thread I was using, or thought I might be tatting. In character as Annie, an Irish bindery worker, I answered all the questions I could, and steered people to the ABM brochures you can see in the basket on the left.

Staying in character and yet trying to give some of the background on where sunken-cord sewing fit into the history of 19th century binding, I sometimes had to resort to my character’s Celtic second-sight: Dickens Fair is set sometime around the 1850s, and the first successful book sewing machine would not be patented until 1871. “This is the only way it’s done now, but in a decade or two, you wait. They’ll find a way to build a machine to do the sewing too.”

In order to conserve materials, I would wait until I had used up all my signatures, then pull them off the cords, cut the threads, and start all over again. Even for that I had a story: “We’ve a new girl at the bindery, just learning the work, and sometimes I have to take her books apart and sew ’em again.”

It’s not often you get to be the problem and the solution.

 

 

 

ABM Holiday Schedule

Planning on visiting the Bookbinders Museum over the holidays? Please note the ABM will be closed:

     Saturday, December 24 through Monday, December 26

     Saturday, December 31 through Monday, January 2

All other days we’ll be open for business and giving tours at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm.

Looking forward to meeting you!

 

 

Holiday Shopping at the ABM Bookstore: Some Recommendations

Having a hard time finding a gift for the book lover in your life? Why not do some of your holiday shopping in our bookstore? After all, we’re offering 10% off all bookstore purchases on the two remaining pre-Christmas Saturdays! Here are some recommendations from ABM staff members.


Madeleine says: My daughter is planning on traveling this spring, and asked for a nice journal for Christmas. Clearly she came to the right parent: In the ABM bookstore we have a number of lined blank books with facsimile covers of early, famous bindings, and others that mimic the style of bindings from a variety of times and places. But which to choose? I looked through them all — 19th century and 15th century, Middle Eastern, French and British. Finally I went with my gut.

I am partial to the Midsafaviddle Eastern designs, and settled, after an extensive and deeply conflicted survey of the ABM’s bookstore stock, on Paperblanks’ Safavid Ultra, a nice-sized journal with a wrap-around magnetic cover and really gorgeous detail. With what I have learned about embossing and gilding books since coming to the ABM, I am astonished by the skill, patience, and steady hands it would have taken to create such an object. Add in the lacquer-work which gives the cover its jewel-like color, and it’s rather heart-stopping.

When you’re sending a beloved child off to have adventures, it’s nice to give them a talisman of sorts. May she rejoice in its beauty, and fill it full.

safavid-book-cover-2Lest you think that this journal owes all its charm to modern mechanical techniques, here’s a Savafid-era book cover, which would have been created entirely by hand. The sheer volume of detail is amazing.

 


 
 

 
fahrenheit451
 

Madeleine says: “It was a pleasure to burn.”

Not only is that a brilliant opening line, but to anyone who loves books, it is a genuinely chilling one. The bookstore at the American Bookbinders Museum has a lot of fascinating non-fiction works about the technique and history of binding and related trades, and about books themselves. Fahrenheit 451, a work of fiction, is one that talks about what books are for: mementos of people gone before, vehicles for carrying wisdom from one time to the next, from one place to another. In Ray Bradbury’s bleak future, books are burned when they are discovered, lest the information, the stories, the heart they contain, awaken a populace with a short attention span and a willingness to be controlled. It’s a beautifully written book, curiously timeless and yet timely. If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it in years, may I recommend Fahrenheit 451?


Elspeth says: I loved my history of the book classes in grad school, and still can’t get enough of the topic. I’m currently reading one of the books from our store called The Book: A Global History. While I loved history of the book classes, they were almost invariably Western-focused, and this book is truly global. It’s a dense and fascinating read that explains everything from the development of written language to the impact of the digital book. A fantastic choice for the cultural history nerd in your circle.


Stephanie says: One of our fabulous volunteers, Velia Villa, made Johannes Gutenberg magnets! Makes a great stocking stuffer.

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Holiday Joy, 10% Off

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Looking for the perfect gift for the book-lovers on your list? Look no further! The ABM Bookstore has books (of course), apparel, and other gift items ready for purchase. Buy a hoodie, an ABM mug, books on letterpress, binding, book history of various kinds, or one of our limited edition letterpress posters for “Books and Mud,” the Bookbinders Museum’s exhibit on the Florence Flood.

As an extra incentive, Saturdays in December everything in the bookstore is 10% off!

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Information Professionals Open House

Are you a librarian, archivist, museum specialist, or other kind of information professional? On Tuesday, November 29, from 6-8pm, The American Bookbinders Museum is having a reception just for you in order to share our exhibit on the Florence Flood of 1966, entitled BOOKS AND MUD: THE DROWNED LIBRARIES OF FLORENCE.

Come join us – check out the new exhibit and schmooze with your colleagues!

 

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A Brief Introduction to Leather

A brief introduction to leather

I recently took part in a course through the Canadian Bookbinding and Book Arts Guild (CBBAG). This course is one of the many they offer, and is a prelude to their level three bookbinding course, in which students learn to bind in leather. Our instructor was Dan Mezza, a well known and highly sought-after bookbinder in the London, Ontario area. Taking lessons with Dan is always a pleasure as he truly knows the topic! Dan was a paper maker before he became a bookbinder.

Our introduction to leather was a three-day long course spanning a weekend. In this course we learned a bit about the history of leather, the types of leather used in bookbinding and how to properly pare leather and apply it to the board. We made a plaquette in the end for demonstration purposes.

Before we got started, we discussed what leather was, and the process used to make the leather we use for binding books. I’ll share a little of that here.

Leather is skin, common to all animals. Dan even showed us a book from fish skin and kangaroo skin. Leather is created by removing the hair, hair root and epidermis (surface layer of hard dead cells). These three layers are removed in tanning and the following are kept for leather: grain (outer layer from surface to hair root), corium (large fibre bundles interwoven at a higher angle towards the surface), and the junction of the grain and corium (this is different for each animal and the size of hair in an animal determines the strength of the leather).

image1A cross section of cowhide to give you a better idea of the layers (Image credits: vanderburghhumidors.com)

There are two different processes we discussed for how leather is treated: tanning and tawing. There is also the process of turning skin into vellum/parchment.

It is important to note that tawing is not tanning and the hides are treated differently. For tawing, the hides are treated with aluminum salts plus egg yolk, flour, and other ingredients. This technique was used in Egypt before it became widespread in Northern Europe in the Middle Ages. It has good handling properties, and is generally left white. This is where the term “White Library” is from, as before the 1500s everything was bound in tawed leather. “Brown Library” came after when tanned leather began to replace tawed. If the tawed leather gets wet it turns into rawhide, so as long as they don’t get wet, the bindings in tawed leather can last hundreds of years.

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Example of alum tawed (image credit: https://guildofbookworkers.org)

The tanning process is rather different; Dan argues that the best leathers are from the early 1800s, as anything after the Industrial Revolution begins to face deteriorating problems. Before the 19th century most leather was tanned with oak or other vegetable tannin. From the 1850s to the 1920s cheaper catechol (no longer vegetable oil, but chemicals) tanned leathers began to be produced which resulted in the problem of red rot.

Traditional tanning follows these steps: limed and dehaired, delimed, drenched in bran and citric acid, placed in a vat with tannin in it while progressively upping the strength of the tannin, dried, split and then finished. Modern methods of tanning are less time consuming. They involve stronger liquor (chemical in the vat), mechanical action to speed tanning, pH control, and a precise control of acids and salts.

Tanning is subdivided into vegetable tanned (used in historical and traditional work) and chemical tanned (often called chrome tanned and used in clothing), and then combination tanned (provides the flexibility of vegetable tanning and the longevity of chemical). The objective of tanning is to render the hides and skins resistant to decomposition or bacterial decay and to provide it with tensile strength, flexibility and abrasion resistance.

As for vellum and parchment, it is a semantic nightmare. The meaning of the word can vary with country origin, language, period in which the term was used, the animal it comes from, the usage to which it is being put, or a combination of any of those! In the European continent, the term parchment, according to Dan, is used as a generic term for any skin processed in a manner for binding. Whereas the term vellum, which comes from old French, may indicate thin material finished on both sides and used for writing.

In England specifically though, vellum refers to skin that is finished on one side only and used for binding, and parchment is finished on both sides and used for writing.

Both vellum and parchment are made by stretching skin and scraping it over and over again.  Vellum is very stable: it’s almost a neutral pH level.  Often times the term “limp vellum bindings” is heard and this refers to an old form of binding used to make the cheap “paperbacks” of medieval times – it’s very durable though!

It does caulk easily with water, so relative humidity effects it a lot.

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Example of limp vellum bindings (image credit: andrewhuot.com)

This was just the beginning of information we received at the workshop. We also covered what makes leather quality good, how to tell goat skin from pig or calf, and what type of leather is good for bookbinding. It was a very informative workshop and provided a good introduction to leather and to leather-working as we also covered paring knives and how to pare the leather.


Guest blogger Arielle VanderSchans is a linguist and librarian living in Canada. She currently studies bookbinding through the Canadian Bookbinding and Book Arts Guild. You can follow her as she learns the trade here: https://ariellesbindery.com

Apprentices Out of Order

At the turn of 1636, Sir John Lambe was presented with a series of complaints by a group of journeyman printers. Lambe was serving as a member of the Court of High Commission, an ecclesiastical court set up by Queen Elizabeth in 1559, whose duties included some degree of oversight of the early modern book trade. It was in this capacity that Lambe found himself weighing in on a list of what the bibliographer W. W. Greg pithily summarised as ‘Apprentices Out of Order’.

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Floods and Disasters: 1966 and 2016

Fifty years ago last night, the Arno River in Florence burst its banks and flooded the city, reaching depths of 18-22 feet. Water raged through the streets at some 30-40 miles per hour, tumbling cars and even newsstands as easily as if they were children’s toys. Shops on the famous bridges of the Arno looked as though they had been hit by bombs. Basement furnaces leaked and exploded, and the pressure of the water blew out the sewers. When the waters receded after a few days, the city was covered in a thick, foul slime of mud, sewage, oil, and waterlogged detritus. 

Our exhibit, BOOKS AND MUD: THE DROWNED LIBRARIES OF FLORENCE looks at the damage and recovery effort in a single library in Florence, the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, in which nearly 100,000 precious early modern volumes were left waterlogged and mud-caked. It has been up for two weeks, and many of the visitors who have come to see it have some memory to share of the 1966 flood. Some remember hearing about it and wishing they had gone to help, while others tell us a bit about being on the scene. 

The technical achievement of the restoration workers is, of course, vitally important and interesting to study. The methods the skilled men and women who saved the books developed informs much of the way water-damaged books are managed even today. 

That said, the part of the story that seems to lie at the heart of everyone’s memory of the Florence flood of 1966 is the part where thousands of young people came from all over Italy, Europe, and many parts of the world to volunteer their time and labor as angeli del tango: mud angels. They formed lines to the basements of museums, libraries, and palaces, passing books, artwork, and other treasures one at a time to the fresh air and the hands of the professional restorers. They took shovels and buckets and dug mud out of stores, homes, and streets. 

The raw film footage and photographs of these mud angels, most of whom remain unidentified in these visual records, is moving and heartwarming. It is beautiful to see the way they move through the streets, filthy and tired, doing what they can to restore the everyday life and priceless treasures of Florence. In the well-worn phrase, it gives one faith in humanity.

As I write this, Italy is once again dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters. In the past few months, nearly 250 medium-strength or greater earthquakes have rocked the country. Nearly 300 people died as a result of the August 24 earthquake around the town of Amatrice. The town of Arquata del Tronto has been more or less destroyed. Those wishing to aid the relief efforts can donate here. The Italian Cultural Institute here in San Francisco is also offering the chance to donate via an artist’s exhibit and auction. The auction will take place at the Institute on December 8, 2016, from 6-9pm. 

We have also kept track of floods in 2016 as part of the exhibit, or at least, as many floods as we’ve been able to track down. We have a world map on display with color-coded pins indicating flood frequency and severity, and it is updated daily. 

Recent major flooding in the United States has of course caught our attention. West Virginia, Louisiana, and the Carolinas have been particularly affected recently, and all have put out appeals for help in rebuilding the public library collections and those of the public schools. Baton Rouge school librarian Trey Veazey’s blog post on the subject spread around social media, but aid is needed all over the affected areas. Most have lost most or all of their collections, and rebuilding is expensive and necessary. Veazey writes:

We are relocating. We’ve been ushered over to a building that was built in 1937. That means my new school is the same age as And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. It also means that, in my first year as a librarian, I have a library without any books. 

Access to books is the key to educational success. Our library doesn’t have books. Our classrooms don’t have books. Many of the homes of our students don’t have books. Like the tears that rolled down our faces both in silent & violent measures, they became a part of the flood before being swept away as we looked toward rebuilding & recovery.

Most of us can’t go dig these places out of the mud and sweep away the flood waters, but other ways you can help may be found here:

Rebuilding School & Classroom Libraries in Louisiana

Flood-damaged West Virginia Libraries seeking help to rebuild

West Virginia Libraries Pick Up the Pieces

Book collection underway for libraries destroyed by Hurricane Matthew flooding

Floods in 2016

Floods in 2016

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