slideshow

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Printer and His Devil.

Some time ago, I made this video.  Of all the Educational Videos I made, this one has the most viewership.  I thought I might revisit it, and describe a bit of the background behind it.

This video shows the lay up and positioning of the second colour run of a two colour business card, a job I was running for a local Optometrist.  I wanted a sound track, and at the time I already had a video out that used a classical sound track piece, Michael Praetorius "Terpsichore Dance of the Seasons."

Germany placed a ban on it!  Ach, was ist loss mit ihnen?  Ahh....SEASAC!"

Yup.  The Euro version of BMI and ASCAP didn't like my use of a 320 year old piece.

So, we decided to do our OWN sound track. I wrote a song, a sort of Historical ballad that has as it's goal the celebration of the American Printer and his/ her role in American History.  Yes, there were printers and print shop owners who were women.  In this song "The Printer And His Devil", I make mention of certain activities that took place during certain episodes of American History, and the corresponding role of the  Printer, who was the village and community  "News Gateway".  The idea of the ballad runs something like this: the listener picks up on the cues in the verse, and deduces the episode in history being described.  For instance, I say "Gettysburg", you think "Civil War".   I say "A Texas Assassination", and you think, hopefully, John F. Kennedy. I promise I didn't go beyond High School American History AH0101.

We recorded this piece using Josh Rustin's digital work studio, Josh at the slides and pan controls doing production. I myself am doing all the instrument tracks, guitars, harmonica, and (pitchy) vocals.  I really don't like my voice, gang.  Never did.  But I didn't have access to a nicer sounding vocal, so you're stuck with me.  Sorry.

Now, one challenge we had from the get go was that this song is only three minutes, but the video is almost eight!  How do we stretch a three minute score to cover this video?  Cheap and dirty solution: a very long intro.  So, actually, this video has essentially two scores behind it: a Musical involving two guitars and a harmonica, then the vocal piece that begins about three minutes into the video.

Whew!  Well, at least we don't have SEASAC breathing down our neck and cutting off my videos from the place I spent so many years as a kid.  Oh, btw, they lifted that ban, finally.  I guess they figured out that the good Herr Praetorius really doesn't care these days just WHO is playing his stuff.

So, here we go.  I might suggest you use earbuds or a head set for the audio, as the recording was actually made for high fidelity, with a wide tonal range, most of which doesn't come through with cheap computer speakers. The lyrics are posted below.





The Printer and His Devil © 2009, G. Johanson

The Printer and his Devil – Are working late tonight
Word came not so very long ago
borne on ships by men in red, a’coming to our shores
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know . . .

The Printer and his Devil – Are working late tonight
News had come not very long ago
That Washington is burned, but Dolly saved a memory
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know . . .


So plane the Forme and cut the Frisket –
Pull the Devil’s Tail
For a Towne without a Printer
is like a ship without a sail
The Midnight Oil is burning in
the Printer’s Shop tonight
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know . . .


The Printer and his Devil – Are working late tonight
A packet came not very long ago
A cannon shot in Charleston took Old Glory from the sky
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know . . .

The Printer and his Devil – Are working late tonight
A dispatch had arrived not long ago
A pistol shot, a frantic chase – had brought the curtain down
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know . . .


So plane the Forme and cut the Frisket –
Pull the Devil’s Tail
For a Towne without a Printer
is like a ship without a sail
The Midnight Oil is burning in
the Printer’s Shop tonight
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know . . .


The Printer and his Devil – Are working late tonight
For a cable came not long ago
The S-O-S that went unheard and ice upon the sea
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know

The Printer and his Devil – Are working late tonight
The Teleprinter spoke not long ago
A sudden shock, a sudden war, a Harbor known as Pearl
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know


So plane the Forme and cut the Frisket –
Pull the Devil’s Tail
For a Towne without a Printer
is like a ship without a sail
The Midnight Oil is burning in
the Printer’s Shop tonight
. . . the Printer thought that you would like to know . . .


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Resurrecting A 328 Year Old Classic

Paper Wren Press Loves Letterpress.

Paper Wren Press also loves Antiquities.  In especially, antique and classic books.  Well, after all, books are the whole reason for Letterpress.  Letterpress was not developed for Polymer plates or Zinc cuts.  Actually, long before Gutenberg, Europe was printing woodcuts, so illustration was not the driving force behind Letterpress.

It is the Art of the Book only - and singularly - that drove Gutenberg.

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In my dreams, I am Indiana Jones, investigating leads to a long lost treasure.  In my case, the treasure is the Printed Word: Books.

Have you ever wanted to Time Travel?  I believe the closest you will ever find reality to this whimsy is through the written word.  Especially if that "word" was written two or three centuries ago.  Imagine, here you are in the Year of Our Lord 2014 (yes, at the Paper Wren, we recognize Anno Domini!), and you are holding a Bible, or a Novel, or a Treatise written and published in 1776.  Say, maybe printed in Philadelphia.  By W. Young, late of Market Street.  You are connected to the very same umbilical of thought and information as the Citizen of the Province of Pennsylvania who was the original owner of that book!  You are taking into the inner most crevasses of your grey matter the very same thing as your counterpart of 238 years ago.  You are engaging first hand, the thoughts that generated the pen that wrote the manuscript that was labouriously set into formes of moveable type, which took months, maybe years to print, bind, and make available to your original counterpart of 1776.

You may draw entirely different conclusions, but you are taking in the same "data stream".  Do you realize that this would be all you would do, in essence, should you be magically transported back to 1776 physically?  Only, your brain would be processing not only communication, but physical aspects, your eyegate, your eargate, your smell and taste.  But above all, you would be in communication with the people.  And in that, to some degree, when you read a book that was also held in the hands and read with the eyes and mind of your Revolutionary War era counterpart, you are engaging in a similar form of communication.

I see a bond with the past here, solid and real.

That's why I love old books.  They transport me.  I hear them speak, and I speak back.  I carry with me the first-hand knowledge...regardless of the veracity of the Speaker...of another human being that lived in another world.  Unfortunately, they cannot hear me.  It's a broadcast.  I will settle for that.





About two weeks ago I purchased a book at the Brandywine Book Seller in Winter Park, Florida.  It was a 1685 edition of Edward Pettit's "Visions of Government", written by a Royalist for Royalists, opponents to the late Cromwell Regime, opponents to the late Republic, to Republican thought, opponents to any such "villainous" concepts such as a Government deriving its just powers by the consent of the Governed.  It was originally written for the perusal of King Charles II, but between the first and my second edition, His Majesty died, and King James II assumed the Throne.  Thus, this book has a Dedication to James, the Noble Prince.

Reading two chapters of this book was all it took to help me understand in a new way why there was a Massachusetts Bay Colony, why Congregationalist Separatists fled, and why they were happy to be on this side of the Atlantic, and the sycophant Loyalists over there on the other. These people fled for their very lives, their fortunes, and yes, their posterity.  The official government railings against these people was not unlike the NAZI party railings against the Jews!  Unbelievable rhetoric. Unimaginable torture. You can read about it in the book "Fair Sunshine".

As such when this book was spied on the book shelf, without attached covers, I immediately recognized a Treasure. Portions of this book was actually quoted by our Founding Fathers, as the very thing we strove to distance ourselves from.  The King, the Star Courts, a truncated government, and the Government Church.

I asked the selling price.  It was missing the spine covering and both covers, (hence referred to as "boards") were detached.  It had a marvellous marbleized covering, with calf skin hinges, corner protectors, and at one time, spine.  The book was available for the cash I had in my pocket.  I purchased it, more pleased than I have been in a long time.

The state of the Marble Paper was admittedly rough, but I love the look of something well used, and that classic comb pattern could still be plainly seen.  I knew I had to retain that look, so from the beginning, the decision was made not to "restore" this volume, but to "repair" it.  I would merely seek to re-hinge the book.

Generally speaking, the book was in nice shape.  It was pretty easy to see through the broken hinges and somewhat "iffy" end sheets to see a marvelously preserved book such as this specimen.  Very little foxing on the pages, the above photo shows the worst of the printed pages.

Its really hard to resist the frontispiece, which is an engraving, executed upon the same paper type as the letterpress printed pages, which is not usual.  Obviously the publisher was cutting some corners.  The image is that of Bonnie King Charlie, the same King that hunted down and rounded up the Scottish Covenanters and hauled them before the Star Courts of Bishop Waud, who pronounced unspeakable death sentences upon them.  The same Charles for which the King Charles Spaniel was named.  The Charles that took over after the decline of the "Crummel" regime.  Here he is seen with his Royal Foote upon the insidious Monster of the Turk, the French, and.......the Protestant Reformer.  Britania looks on while an angel delivers this cool wavy sword via Divine Air Mail Delivery.  Apparently, the Bonnie King was waiting for it.

Since the text block is comprised of 100% linen rag, with no vegetable matter, no wood component, only pure emulsified linen fabric, the pages are not only bright, but supple.  All these books printed before 1800 tend to be this way.  The text block commonly outlives the binding. Many of these ancient volumes enjoyed  several rebindings over the centuries.
 

The repair begins!  The first thing I had to do was figure out how to go about re-attaching the hinges.  I have made case bound books, but I have never repaired one!  Visiting several conservators sites, I arrived at a game plan.  I would use Kuzugami Paper (Hosho Student, courtesy of Sam Flax, Orlando FL), a Japanese long fiber paper used by many conservators to re-enforce and supplement both leather and cloth bound covers.  The technique involves "lifting".  In my case, that meant to somehow separate the leather hinge cover from it's board for a space of about 3/8th, to permit the insertion of the "Japanese Paper" (purchased at Sam Flax, Orlando FL.)

I used a razor blade to do this.  Actually, I used a box cutter!  Using a stab-and-drag motion, I managed to lift the leather from the board.  To establish a space in which to apply the PVA glue, I ran an old Credit Card through the slit, which was actually a great tool to use!  A thick guitar pick would have even been better.  Note to self: get some thicker gauge guitar picks!

Having "lifted" the hinge side of each board, a piece of Kuzugami paper is inserted.  The width of this paper has been premeasured by placing each board on their respective positions, and measuring with either a tape or a piece of string the distance between the two hinges, including the arc of the wrap around the spine and the 3/8 or so inches lifted between the leather of the hinges and the board.

Next is measured another piece of Kuzugami, which will also wrap around the spine under the piece we just measured for the lifted hinges.  This piece will be glued to the inside portion of each board, so a generous amount of overlap will be required.  About two to three inches of overlap on each side of the spine.  As such, the boards will be hinged both by the spliced insert and the piece inside.  You can correctly assume that there will be two sheets being glued over the spine.  The inner hinge paper, and the outer, spliced into the lifted leather hinges.

The spine has glue applied.  A word about this spine.  Part of my research for this project uncovered a bit of interesting trivia.  You know how we love those big leather books with those big bulging cords wrapped around the spine?  Some call this "Medieval Binding".  I call it "Cord Binding".  The "pink of the mode" (the 17th and 18th century expression for "in-fashion" or "in-style") in the latter 17th and prevailing to greater and greater degrees as the 18th century progressed - was to avoid such anachronisms.  They actually did not really like that look!  These people were very modern oriented, and saw no value in hanging on to ancient modes and methods simply because they were old.  Age was not the litmus test of value. Practicality and functionality was.  As such, what became increasingly popular was a smooth, tight wrapped "modern" looking spine.  The cords became less and less prevalent, in the main.  This book actually has paper mâché covering the spine, hardened almost to a plaster.  It absorbs glue, giving a great grip to whatever you glue it to!  The original spine had faux horizontal lines suggesting the position of the cords, but the spine was smoothe and straight.  So, I wasn't about to alter what the original artisans wished to produce.  This spine covering, by the way, is in almost perfect shape!


The interior sheet is glued to the spine.  I left the Japanese Paper and book on the vise for about two hours to insure adhesion. 

While that is drying, I painted the strip to be inserted into the hinges with brown acrylic paint.  This was to minimise any chance of a blaring white piece to be visible in case any part of it should be exposed.  As it was, no part would be exposed, but at this point I wasn't sure exactly how things were going to turn out, never having done this sort of repair before.  I figured that it was a safety precaution.

Taking my trusty expired credit card and going over the lifted 'slit' a few more times, I created a thin channel into which to apply the PVA glue, and then insert the paper.

The painted Japanese paper is inserted, the excess glue wiped off, and then placed in the nipping press in a sort of hard foam sandwich to make sure the leather and board presses against the paper to create a firm bond.  After the boards were removed from the press after a couple hours, I noted a certain discolouraton of the edges of the calf skin.  It had absorbed the glue through to the hide side.  That's what I call thin paring, brother!

Here you can see the boards with the paper glued between the hinges.  Resting atop is the text block with the interior paper waiting to be glued in.  Note the wax paper between the paper and the block itself.  Kuzugami, aside from being as resilient as pared leather, is very absorbant.  I did not want the glue to affect the paper of the text block.  The interior hinge paper is pasted, the board closed atop, making contact with it.  The book is then flipped, the spine glued (atop the first hinge sheet), and the process repeated on the other side of the text block, the interior hinge being pasted to the back board, also with wax paper protecting that side of the text block.  So, we glue both the inner hinge sheet and the outer hinge sheets at the same time.  Then close the book, making sure the boards are straight and the text block aligned within . . . as best as is possible. The original book actually was not perfectly centered if one measures with a millimetre rule.  But you could never tell by eye!


After this, the book is wrapped tightly in wax paper, which is taped into place.  This is to ensure a positive and firm contact with the papers to the spine.

The wrapped book is now placed into the nipping press with a fair amount - not a lot - of pressure.  Enough to make sure the boards do not warp, and positive contact is made between the interior sheets and their respective boards.

The book is pulled out after about two hours, and inspected.  I open the boards to make sure the interior hinge sheets adhered firmly, and without buckles.  This is important, because there will be end sheets pasted over the interior of each board, and we want that covering to be smooth and flat.


Next, I inspect the outer hinges and paper to make sure they also dried properly.  I also double check the alignment of the boards.



You can see by these close ups of the front and back boards that the leather edges have a good, solid adhesion.  I really am impressed by the robustness of Kuzugami paper!  Structurally, this book is even at this stage, structurally sound.  See how in the thinnest spots of the leather hinge, the glue had absorbed through and discoloured the leather.  Make a mental note of this, dear reader, in case you wish to do this yourself.  In my case, I knew this would be covered, so it wasn't an issue.

Now, for the calf skin hinge and spine cover!  Leather is expensive, and usually comes far too thick to use for book binding as a matter of course.  It must be reduced in thickness to fold, splice, taper, and any other of a number of manipulations required for case binding a book.  As such, the edges that I required was less than 0.3-0.5 mm, or roughly the size of the thickness of 60 lb text paper stock.  I had to do more research.  I discovered that special paring knives are used, there is an English style knife, a German style knife, and these knives are expensive.  You need a proper surface to pare leather.  You have to pare at an angle.  You have to develop a touch, you have to feel the leather as you pare.  You pare differently with the grain than you do against the grain.  All this I had to learn, practice, and accomplish in one day.  And I had to somehow come up with tools, too!  Oh, and the leather, too!

Jesus, the Master Book Binder (according to none other than Benjamin Franklin - who am I to refute?) once advised that we never sew a new patch on an old wine skin,  The patch would eventually contract, and a worse tear would result.  Here I was, applying leather to leather, 300 year old leather at that!  

I had an idea!  I had this old leather wallet.  I think it was seventy years old, but in great shape.  It was calf skin, and very nearly the same colour as these hinges.  So, I cut out the back of the wallet and measured it against the hinges.  Perfect!  Exactly the length and width needed!  And . . . I would be applying old, stretched leather onto, well, old stretched leather!

For a paring knife, I found I had an Exacto Knife with a large blade handle that was the same shape as a German style paring knife.  Maybe it would work?  For a surface, I used the chase bed of a 9x13 Kelsey Letterpress, which acts as a portable heavy graded iron surface.

Here is the Kelsey Chase Bed.  Let me tell you how handy this bed has been here at the Paper Wren!  For some years it was my imposing stone for my 8x12 C&P.  It was a surface for linoleum and wood carving, and also served as a brace for at least one engraving.

This is the Exacto Knife blade.  I would not want to try to pare three feet of leather with this, but for a six or seven inch book?  Well, it worked out fine for me.  I pared from the flesh side, and discovered that you can pare through all the flesh, to the point that you think you are about to pare a hole.  I was always stopping and checking.  At one point the "flesh" clears, and you get to the back side of the hide surface.  It's actually kind of white-ish in colour.  It also poses more resistance to the blade than the fleshy membranous matter, so you can actually "feel" the point at which you have pared thin enough.  Eventually, paring became faster as I developed the 'feel'.  I was able to produce longer and longer strokes when paring one direction, but in the direction 90 degrees away, the resistance of the leather was much less, and paring strokes became very short because the leather would buckle.  Mental note: orient your leather so you can do long strokes corresponding to the longest edge.

Here is the calf skin that used to be a wallet (see the fold?), with edges pared.  I am lining it up with the hinge that will be covered.  The edge of the leather must glue flush to the marble paper, align perfectly, and taper smoothly with no lip.  In other words, it needs to look like the original leather.  Not just a piece of leather glued on top on another piece.   Once I had one side aligned and I saw that no extra trimming and paring was needed, I pasted one side down.

It was then placed into the nipping press with a stiff foam sheet placed between the leather and the platen.  This is a stiffer foam, the purpose of which was to help spread the downward pressure of the platen evenly. If I did not do this, all the pressure would come to bear on the thicker part of the leather, the tapered, pared edge would get almost no pressure.  We don't need a lot of pressure, just enough to make sure there is no buckling or warping, and firm contact is made.
After a couple hours, I pull the book from the press, and inspect the hinge so far.  Satisfied, I then paste the rest of the leather over the spine.  The reason why I glued one board first was to provide an anchor from which to stretch the rest of the leather tight.  Once tight, I had to make a way for the spine to dry tight.  This involved a bit of creativity on my part. (I'm sure I got this idea elsewhere. . . I'm not all that creative.)

I happened to have some spare cowhide laying around. (?)  Yeah, don't even ask.  Anyway, having pulled the leather tight, I then tightly wrapped the cowhide leather over the edges of the book, and held it in place with several very long rubber bands that I use for the gripper bars on my press.  I wrapped the leather all the way around the book, two layers thick, to make sure that (A), the bands wouldn't make a depression in the leather of the spine, and (B), the bands wouldn't damage the open end of the boards.

After a couple hours, I unwrapped the book, and being satisfied with the way the leather set on the spine, I wrapped the rest of the leather around the back board, and aligned the edge to the edge of the original hinge, and pasted. Then placed the book once again in the nipping press for a couple hours.  By the end of the day, here is what I had (above).  A very, very nice bind.  Oh, and look at that fold in the leather, where the colour is a bit ligher?  That was the original wallet fold.  Notice that it isn't so pronounced now?  Interesting . . . 

I purposely left the ends to overlap.  There will be two cuts made to separate the front, back and side "flaps".  The front and back flaps will be folded over the board and glued down, the spine flap will be trimmed off to just above the headband.

The flaps, top and bottom on each board, looks like this.  Ideally, this should be a bit longer, but I have enough overlap to provide a good adhesion.  Take a look at that flap.  Can you see how the outer edges are almost white, while the "flesh" membrane away from the edges is sort of beige?  That's the backside of the "hide side" dermis.  That is a 0.1-0.2mm paring.  Razor thin!

Pretty obvious photo of pasting the flap, but what is not shown, and what I should explain, is an unexpected step I had to perform before I got to this point.  After the flaps were cut, I found that before I could fold the flaps over, I had to first glue the flaps to the actual edge of the board!  I couldn't just past and tug, it wouldn't stay put.  So I pasted the very edges of the boards, placed the leather flaps over those edges, and stood the book upright, to apply pressure on the tops and bottoms of each board.  I then placed the book, upright, in the nipping press with foam above and below, and let the book stand in the press for about two hours.  THEN I came to the point where I could to the complete fold-over.  Can you see by the photo that the leather flap is already glused to the edge of the board?  So, the folding of these little flap became a two step process.  At this point I had about 48 hours spaced over one week into this book.

Now, to hold these flaps down so they could adhere firmly, I had to get creative again.  This time I enlisted the services of my padding press, which also served as the vise when I glued the hinge paper on the spine. Now, here I decided to use foam again, placing on board flat on the press table, laying the foam atop the glued flap, the platen being screwed down, exerting pressure to hold the flaps in place.

Here is the set-up.  You can see that I had to do one board at a time.  I used metal "furniture" from the print shop to brace the back of the book.

 After the flaps dried in place, I trimmed the spine flap, and applied a dark, almost cordovan polish to the leather, in order to darken it to match the corner protectors.  I also treated the leather on the bottom and top of the spine where the flap was cut.  This area was both polished and buffed.

This shot was taken after the first polishing of the leather.  Can you see that the lighter area where the original wallet folded is now blended into the rest of the leather?  The nice thing is that this is used and stretched leather, which retains a 'used' look.


The edges of the hinge lines up perfectly with the edge of the marble paper, and perfectly covers the original hinge leather, tapering nicely.  Don't you love that marble paper?  That's something else the Paper Wren will be taking on.


Here is the spine after the third polishing and buffing.  Now, the leather actually matches the corner covers.  This actually looks like a three hundred year old book.  With another three hundred years of life ahead for it.

Here is where the flaps folded in.  The headbands are not obscured, and the trimmed leather of the top and bottom spine edges buffed to a mat polish.

The last phase was installing the end sheets.  For this, I used a faux vellum.  The paper is almost the consistency of tympan paper, and actually looks and behaves like vellum.  It is a vintage stock, long discontinued.  These were installed in the normal manner: the paper is folded, and in this case, trimmed to the size needed.  The edge of the fold is glued in a thin strip, then placed, or some might say "tipped" into the text block.  Technically, tipping in means actually sewing into a signature, but again, I won't argue.  Whatever one calls it, the folded end sheet is glued in.  Then, the side facing the board is pasted, and the book closed with wax paper between the fold to protect the other side of the folded endsheet.  This is done to both sides, and the book placed, once again, into the nipping press for a couple hours.  Upon removal, I found that a little buckling was beginning to happen over the Kuzugami paper, owing to the porous nature of this paper, which allowed trapped air to bubble under the endsheet.  Using a bone folder, I smoothed out all these air pockets, and re-closed the book, and put it back into the press with wax paper between the end sheet folds.  An hour later, I pulled the book again, and the pasted-in endsheet lay nice and flat.

Of course, I sign all my work!  This is done in pencil.  I really wish I had a nice bookplate to put in this book.  Hmm . . . that may be my next project: Ex Libris plates.


Here is the backside of the book.  I love the vellum.  I would have rather have used marble paper, but all in good time.  As I mentioned earlier, that is yet another of the 17th and 18th century book arts that we at the Paper Wren will eventually add to our repertoire of in-house productions.

The repair is now complete.  About fifty two hours spread over a period of about one week.  The book hinges are re-enforced by two layers of Kuzugami paper, a leather covering, and two end papers.  Talk about strong!  The book repair also passed the "Cindy Test".  My sweet wife has a sixth sense about something done well.  Part of that Alabama Cattle Farming lineage.  Boy, those guys do it up tight, and do it up right!  You don't slip in the saddle of a Bama-bread cuttin' horse.  No-sir!
Epilog:
When I purchased this book, the lady who owned the shop asked me to bring it back when I repaired it, she would like to see it.  I plan to do this on the Monday next.  What I am hoping is that perhaps, just maybe, they may have a few more cover-less 17th and 18th century books they may want repaired.  The more I do, the more the skills develop, and Paper Wren Press may actually offer antiquarian book reparation and restoration services.

After all, the Bookbinder was the traditional adjunct to the Print Shop!  The two practices have been shaking hands for over five hundred years!
That's it for now, folks.  Stay tuned for next months installment!






 







Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's New With the Paper Wren? Pocket Journals!


My last post, dated March 31, covered a little bit of what we at Paper Wren Press were just starting to investigate, namely the world of book making.  In that post, I wrote about the changes that had evolved the art and industry of book binding from the 18th century, into and through the19th century, focusing on the Paste Board bound, or should I call it the "Paper-Backed" book.

Writing that post peaqued my curiosity enough to perform a bit of forensics on my 1854 Child's Scripture Question and Answer Book.  The idea was to reverse engineer the construction of that book, to see if we could perhaps create something similar here at the Wren.

One thing led to another, and soon enough I found myself engaged with a lot of Google searching, talking with professional bookbinders that specialise in hard case-binding, and a whole lot of experimentation, running back and forth between here where my shop is, and downtown, sixty mile round trips..

After several stabs at several methods, keeping one eye on the 1850s era Paste-Board bound book that I was using as a model, I finally came upon a process that is authentic, yields authentic results, and is actually do-able from our studio, albeit on a limited scale.

This book (shown above, entitled "The Childs Scripture Question Book", American Sunday School Society, Philadelphia, 1854) served as the model for what has become our first blank Journal.  It has a linen spine covering, with lacquered or waxed paper covered boards.  The inside board covers use the same paper stock as the pages themeselves. The book is sewn through what appears to be four sawn openings at the ends of the signatures.The threading follows the typical in - and - out stitching, with what might be kettle stitched head and foot ends.  The boards themselves seem to be not unlike chip board.  It may be laminated paper boards.  The original 1850s "model" measures about 3-1/2 inches by 5 inches.

Here is how our version turned out.  These books are approximately the size of an iPhone-4, about 2.5 x 4 inches, nominally, thus considerably smaller than the 1854 model.  They contain about 90 pages, sewn in three-sheet signatures.  The backs are linen, the boards are medium mill chipboard, the paper used is Natural White Classic Laid.

I decided not to build a stitching frame, but rather, to entirely kettle, or "ketch" stitch the signatures together.  Smaller books of this size lend themselves to this sort of hand stitching because the stack of signatures, or "text block" can be easily held. Just make sure for clean hands!  In Kettle stitching, the signature above is sewn, or rather, crocheted to the signature beneath using a curved needle. The thread I use is a thinner upholstery thread which I immerse in melted beeswax, "shave" to remove the excess, and re-spool.  This prevents tangling and eases the friction of the threads passing through the punched holes of the signature sheets. Since the signatures are pre-punched with an awl and punching jig, the stitches form straight vertical lines.

This is a good view of the spine stitching. Something I do is "X" the stitch lines together.  I just like the way it looks, but it also provides a bit more "grab" for the mull when applied, and for the signature ends.  More than likely it's just something I think looks cool, and actually has zero effect on anything at all.  But I have a hunch it does add a modicum of support.  Perhaps some of you experienced binders might have a comment to make about this?  What you see above is the text block or "block" resting on it's half finished casing.  I use this photo again further down in this narration.  Notice the number '3' on the block, and the corresponding number on the case's boards?  Each board had to be cut and sized according to the dimensions of the text block that would be pasted into it, which even under the most controlled of conditions, can vary.

Here is the mull covered spine. This cloth, glued over the spine, is called "Mull", and is usually a type of cheese cloth, however I used open weave stiff Muslin.  I don't think it's any different than cheese cloth but it's available.  Lots of PVA glue used, literally painted on the muslin mull.  This will set for a couple hours while I take care of other business, such as finishing the cases. Ever try to find cheese cloth lately?

These are the cases.  Medium mill chipboard with black linen spine lining. I use this, rather than Davey Board, largely to hold down costs, and because I really don't think it's necessary for these types of books.  Time may prove me wrong, but so far on my field "beta" version that I have been carrying with me for a while now, the boards are doing just fine. Later in the process, a heavy paper will be glued over the boards, folded around the edges to the inside, the edges covered with end papers.

The interior of the spine cover is lined with heavy paper, which is glued into the casing, again using PVA glue.  This provides extra support for the spine and hinges.  The paper is rubbed down with a bone folder, then inserted into what is called a "nipping press" to dry. The pressure exerted by the press prevents warping and buckling while the glue is drying.

Here is the whole set-up.  The operation sets atop a very large stack of cheap padded paper.  It makes for a good disposable work surface.  When things get messy, tear off the top sheet!  Shown are the cases (boards), glue, scissors, roller, text block, and cover paper...ready to be pasted in.

Before the text block is glued in, the boards are covered.  This is where "Paste Board Binding" or "Paste Board Covers" get the name.  I use one of two types of paper to cover the boards, both of which are heavier then 25 lb text weight paper, but lighter than 65 lb cover.  One type that I use for cover is white with blue grey fibers woven through the stock, the other is a very nice faux parchment, which actually behaves like a very thin vellum. This "parchment" paper has been discontinued by the manufacture: I purchased it as a close out item years ago.

 
The cover paper is glued to the front of each board, and wrapped over the edges, folded and glued to the back, as shown above. Glue is then spread over the top sheet of the text block, and the board is folded over and closed on the block, the glue adhering the top page to the back of the board.  This becomes the covering for the inside of the board.  The same process repeats on the other side of the text block and corresponding cover.  The closed book is then placed in the nipping press under slight pressure to dry.  The end sheets on either side of the text block are not part of the sewn signatures.  They are glued into the text block specifically for the purpose of becoming the board covers.  This is why they are called "end sheets".

After drying, the book is examined.  Care must be exercised when closing the boards over the glued end papers, to make sure that the text block is square withing the binding and evenly covers the interior of each board.  The hinge of the book is formed by the space between the spine and the board, a gap usually between 1/8" to 3/16" for this size book.  This book, remember, is only the size of an  iPhone.

I also check the spine.  Since these books do not have headbands (they really don't need headbanding at this size, although a headband can cover a multiple of ills!) I need to ensure the signatures are laying evenly, and the spine is straight, not angled. I do this both before and after the books are placed in the press to dry. First, to make sure they are straight, and afterward to make sure I made sure they are straight. The front pasted paper cover covers the linen spine cover by about 1/4th of an inch, and there is a fair degree of even-ness between the front and back.  Remember, a lot of this is done by eye.  This journal came out very nice!  

One of the things I have been doing is "field testing" these journals for durability.  This is my own personal journal.  I carry it with me, and have been writing in it every day since March.  The idea is to identify any problems that may happen in time, with opening, closing, rugged use, bending the spine, carrying the book in my pocket with car keys and Lord knows what, carrying my book in a back pack or carry pack.  I have a pencil rubber banded to the book.    This particular version has three stitches holding each signature, I have since increased that number to five.  Just be sure that there are no prolapsing of the pages. Prolapsing is when a sheet that composes a signature bulges, or pops away from it's place in the fold because nothing is there to hold it in place.  Stitches set to wide apart can cause this.  This is why I added stitch rows, increasing from three rows to five rows.

It takes typically a two days to make four or five books.  They are time consuming and labour intensive.  But they are nice, especially if what is wanted is something a bit more durable than a Moleskin or Field Notes book, with more pages and a lot more permanency.  These books are also, in my opinion, a bit more convenient for modern pockets, which is why I opted for the "Cell Phone" size, specifically: the iPhone.  In fact, they fit nicely into iPhone cases!  Hmm.....maybe I can interest Apple.....

These books are products of the mid 19th century, and literally thousands of these original books are still with us today.  That tells me something about the durability of this method of casing a book.  The diminutive size is also not novel: miniature books and journals have been popular since the 16th century.  In later years they became known as "Vest Pocket" size books, or Waistcoat size books, fitting in the tail pockets of a waistcoat (pronounced "westcut".  Really.  Ask Jude Law.)

As an aside, just what is a Nipping Press?

Here she is, in all her glory.  This particular press is unique, in that it has multiple pressing layers, two are shown, and locking ratched sliding rails.  The whole press is iron and phenol, which looks like wood, but is actually a woven fabic resin developed during WW2 for indestructible moulded casings.  This press was made around 1945.

These books will be made available on our Etsy Shop soon.  More entries concerning these books, particularly the sewing of the text blocks, will be upcoming.  We also have more card designs to show, and some nice shots from our latest show at the DeLand Indie Market.

Stay tuned!

G. Johanson, Printer.