The Journeyman Bookbinder

Just a Journeyman Binder of Books Working from town to town A craftsman old, of an ancient guild With graying hair and wrinkled frown.   He binds the books in leather and cloth, Tools them in letters of gold Some printed thoughts that come to naught, Others of priceless mould.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

American Publishers’ Bindings at the Rare Book School

I was looking for someone, and I had been here before. Staring down the long aisle, I blinked hard, and looked at the slip of paper in my hand. A bunch of letters and numbers, written in pencil. A call number. I squinted at my own jagged vertical printing. “Is

Continue reading

Bookbinders Soup-No Bookbinders Required

Googling for something entirely different, we came upon the words “Bookbinders Soup.” Well, that was arresting.  It was with a mix of relief and disappointment that we learned no bookbinders are harmed in the making of this soup: the name comes from Bookbinders Restaurant in Philadelphia, where it was originally

Continue reading

The Clash of Man and Master

In 1740, when James Fraser (seen left) was born, the route to being a master bookbinder was clear, if not necessarily easy. Start in your mid-teens as an apprentice, survive apprenticeship and receive your journeyman papers, and finally–with luck–become a master. Apprenticeship, during which time a youth was trained (and

Continue reading

Don’t Cross a Bookbinder – A Bookbinder’s Curse

In honor of National Poetry Month, a bookbinder’s curse in 10 stanzas. One wonders what “Particular Occasion” caused Mr. “Burnisher” to vent such spleen. Solemn Curse Pronounced by Ben Burnisher upon a Master Bookbinder upon a Particular Occasion May rats and mice devour your paste, Your paper, and your leather.

Continue reading

Bookbinding and the Working Woman

One of the by-products of the Industrial Revolution was a change in the status of women working outside the home. Working from home–doing piece work in and around all the other jobs that were part of running a home, or being part of the “seasonal work force” for her husband’s business–had been

Continue reading

Who Wrote the Book of Trades?

One of our favorite illustrations at the American Bookbinders Museum is an engraving from 1694 done by the Dutch artist Jan Luyken (or Luiken). Seen at left, “De Boeckbinder” (The Bookbinder), is one of a hundred trades detailed in Luyken’s Het Menslyk Bedryft (The Book of Trades).

Continue reading

The Ruler, a Bookbinders Poem

The Ruler by Samuel O. Spaeth Down by dot Hiccough ruling machine Der bindery ruler stands. Mit six days’ viskers on his face Und ink all ofer his hands.

Continue reading