When bookbinders got together in the 18th and 19th century, they talked shop over a pot of ale, or several pots of ale. Sometimes songs resulted, often full of puns on bookbinding terminology, and always celebrating the craft that elevated printed words into something “improved.” Later, the songs were more likely to be hymns of solidarity with bookbinders unions.
We have collected a number of bookbinder-related songs, and will share them here from time to time.
The Bookbinder’s Song
To prove that we binders some talent possess
We receive all the knowledge that springs from the press.
If it was not for us, authors scarcely could move,
And our greatest delight is their works to improve.
Derry down, &c
To the works of the poet, the wit, and the sage,
Of philosophy deep, and to history’s page,
To divinity’s truth and the laws of the land,
We all, as you know, give the finishing hand!
The statutes by us are bound firm and strong,
Or else, by the by, they could not last long!
To science’s system, and arts calléd fine.
We first give a polish before they can shine.
If satire be keen, we can safely allege,
No scruple we feel just to take off the edge;
But one thing we own, and don’t call it a sin,
The very best authors we clothe in calf’s-skin.
In short, grammar we forward and learning we gild.
In letters and marble we are most of us skilled;
And one Hymen, a binder the world understands.
To bind lovers more closely will provide silken bands.
Songs of the Press
Townsend, Mary Elizabeth: Heart and Home Songs, Original and Selected, London: Hatchards, 1876, p. 143.