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Color Our Collections 2017

It’s that time again! It’s Color Our Collections week, a project hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine, in which museums, libraries, and archives around the world create coloring pages inspired by items in their collections. Officially it runs February 6-10, 2017, but really, you can print our pages and share them whenever you want. We’ll be happy to see your creative work!

This year we’re sharing most of the pages we made last year, and adding in some new ones. Feel free to print them, share them with your kids and your friends, and color them in however you want – all we ask is that you share a picture with us on social media. Tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and share your pictures with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections!

Find our coloring pages here: bookbindersmuseum_coloringpages2017

February is Book Fair Month

Two major events in the Bay Area this month for book lovers and book artists.

Codex 2017 is part of the 6th Bienniel International Book Fair and Symposium at the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbor Way South, in Richmond. The Book Fair is open to the public, and runs Sunday, February 5 through Wednesday, February 8. Multi-day tickets are $30; Single-day tickets are $10; Student tickets (with ID) are $5. The Codex Book Fair brings the “Best of the Best book artists and fine press printers from around the world to share their work, explore new and old concepts, and to start an on-going conversation about the fate and future of the book as an essential art form.”

The 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be at the Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, from Friday, February 10 through Sunday, February 12. The Fair allows attendees an incredible opportunity to browse and buy books from nearly 200 booksellers from around the world.

In addition to booksellers, the Antiquarian Book Fair features special exhibits, seminars, and presentations, all of which are free to the public with a paid admission. Look for a special group of “book arts” related exhibitors–including The American Bookbinders Museum, displaying binding, letterpress printing, calligraphy, and ephemera. Tickets are $23 for a three-day pass and $13 for a Saturday-Sunday pass; with Student ID a three-day pass is $20, and Saturday-Sunday is $10.

 

 

 

 

 

Books and Mud Exhibit Extended

If you thought you missed the Books and Mud exhibit at the Bookbinders Museum, there’s still time. The exhibit has been extended through February 18. 

“Books and Mud: the drowned libraries of Florence,” examines and commemorates the 1966 Florence Flood, the international corps of volunteer “Mud Angels” who came to help, and the tools and techniques that were created to reclaim and restore hundreds of thousands of books and documents devastated by the flood. The flood marks the birth of the modern conservation and restoration movement.

Now, more than ever, the lessons of Florence can not be ignored.

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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