Welcome to Part 2 of our historical rebinding of Johnson's Dictionary Improved by Todd, published in Boston in 1828. Last week, at the close of Part 1, our dictionary had been removed from its original decrepit covers, washed, guarded, mended, and reassembled into the neat little textblock pictured above. This week, we finally moved our project from loose leaves back into a bound state, and what a pleasure it is to be back in one piece!
Just as the leaves began to change here in Boston, swashing an already beautiful skyline with a whole new set of colors, our studies at NBSS transitioned from the millimeter bindings of the early 20th century to the full calf bindings of the 18th. Sewn on raised or recessed cords, trimmed in boards, covered with undyed skin and stained with mild acids after covering, the structure was as foreign as it was satisfying to complete. After a few models to get a hang of the processes, I decided to dive into my own collection and rebind a sorry volume of my own from the early 19th century in this style, repeating many of the binding processes that it had first undergone nearly 200 years ago.
Anyone who handles old books knows the above images well: the spine lining, glue, or endsheets on that 20th-century case binding have finally given out, and the textblock has all but ripped itself out of its covering. If the cloth case is also in tatters, a cloth re-back is often the surest course of action to get the book back into working order. Oftentimes, however, when it's only the cheap mull or excessive hide glue that have loosed the book from its place, the case itself is in more or less perfect order, and it seems a shame to carve it up to complete a full re-back.
Enter the Cloth Re-casing, a sort of modified reback procedure that offers the strengths of a full reback while maintaining even more of the original case materials, resulting in an almost invisible repair.
At long last, a classic dust jacket is freed of its pressure-tape mummification and returns to its corner store display a little more lively than it was a month ago.
I'm currently in hot, slow pursuit of a dairy-related enamel sign screwed to a seemingly decades-unused wooden door in an alley on Boston's North End, less than a block from the North Bennet Street School. While making my way back from yet another attempt at first contact, I spied this familiar title, in a sorry state, through the window of souvenir shop next to The Paul Revere House. A damaged book with a story based in Boston, during my first month in the city for a book restoration program? They say there're no such things as coincidences...
A couple years ago in San Francisco, a friend and I stumbled across an antique storefront's going-out-of-business sale in a warehouse in SOMA. It always fascinates me to think about how all these strange objects from across huge swaths of time and space and culture can end up sitting side-by-side, to consider their converging histories. Maybe a thing is a new arrival to the shelves and crates, just recently pulled from circulation, or maybe it's been sitting there since the beginning, waiting to be recognized for something - usefulness, beauty, novelty, curiosity - once again. I found a couple of black cloth, gold-stamped photo albums in less than fair condition, pasted full of black and white images from the ~1900s-1930s. That potentially permanent recorded evidence of so many single moments in time, with all the context packed into those pieces of paper, is a time capsule, proof of existence, for whatever that's worth. The doers - the picture takers and takees - felt it valuable enough to record, and I have a strong reverence any figment of personal creativity actualized, for the inspiration potential of any publicized idea. I bought the albums, a few dozen memories of ancient strangers, with the intention of cleaning them up a bit and giving them a place to stay for a while.
While in DC, a friend put me onto this fascinating volume, the so-called 'Jefferson Bible'; Thomas' own re-interpretation of Jesus' teachings extracted from Greek, Latin, French, and English versions of the New Testament. Jefferson's Bible focuses on Jesus' moral lessons and almost entirely excludes passages regarding divinity or the supernatural, ie the philosophy rather than the dogma. With beautiful red leather boards, edge-gilding, and marbled endsheets, this will be a perfect candidate for a leather reback - reusing all the original elements - once I've settled into my new home in Boston and can retrieve my tools and materials from storage!
It seems only right to christen the inclusion of my typewriter collection and repair antics on this blog with the first machine I ever purchased, a 1919 Underwood Standard #3. This model features a 16" platen and an extended frame to support it... as such, it weighs about 60 lbs and is far from a 'portable' model. I received it in pretty decent shape, albeit with some dust, sticky keys, and a missing ribbon.
New protective endsheets added
Brown cloth case and title label recovered from the original paperback back cover. Nothing will stop the paper in this mass-produced volume from acidifying, browning, and eventually turning to dust, but until then, I can rest easy knowing that it has clothes enough to thrive in the hands and eyes of a few more readers.
On a recent walk through Washington, DC, I stopped at a Little Free Library (and how could I not?) and picked up a worn paperback edition of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Having recently moved to the city, I've been desperate for a reason to pick up a bonefolder again - here was my reprieve!