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.

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Hunting the elusive bookbinder

That’s All She Wrote In 1941 Hannah Dustin French of the Wellesley College Library published an essay entitled “Early American Bookbinding by Hand.” In the essay, she makes mention of American’s first bookbinder: Bookbinding was one of the very early crafts to be practiced in this country, but where the

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The 18th Century, Thomas Jefferson and Book Binding

“I am not so regular in my sleep as the Doctor (Rush) says he was, devoting to it from five to eight hours, according as my company or the book I am reading interests me; and I never go to bed without an hour or half an hour’s previous reading

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For a Common Good

The history of unions in the US is firmly rooted in the much older Guild system that arose in medieval Europe (and which in turn may have sprung from the collegia of the Roman Empire). It’s easy to forget, with all the anti- and pro-union rhetoric that gets slung around

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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

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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

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YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: Book Curses (And Cursed Books)

Christ’s curse upon the crook Who takes away this book.* Until relatively recently in human history, books and documents were valued both for their contents and for the prodigious effort involved in their creation. Book production in a pre-computer age required a high level of literacy, as well as many

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The Macabre of Bookbinding: Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

Not too much about book history can be considered ghastly or morbid. But as you gear up for Halloween this year, don’t disregard the rumors lurking in the stacks: Some books throughout history were bound in human flesh. Anthropodermic bibliopegy, the academic term for books bound in human skin, fascinates

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Printer’s Devils

On February 28, 1963, the television series The Twilight Zone aired an episode entitled “Printer’s Devil,” based largely on a short story by Charles Beaumont entitled “The Devil, You say.” In this episode, the editor of a failing newspaper makes a deal with a stranger who offers to fund the

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The Mirror of Marriage

Have you ever wondered what advice to give young people about to get married? In the second half of the sixteenth century, the book market abounded with guidebooks about how to live – how to travel, how to write about travel, how to be a prince, how to be a

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