Saturday, December 29, 2012

Family Record Gallery !

I've started working on a couple of large Family Bibles, and as usual, the clients asked for new family record pages added after the originals which have been filled by their ancestors. I scan the records and clear any written names and dates, clean up the dirty surfaces, print them out and put them in the Bible. I often say this on my blog, but I strongly recommend people who are fortunate enough to have their Family Bible to do this: Keep the tradition alive for your future generations. I thought I should show you some of the beautiful Family Record designs I've collected over the years, hoping that it might encourage people to consider preserving their family heritage for years to come. This will be my last post for the year 2012, and I wish you all a Happy New Year! P.S. I had to make these pictures really small to post on my blog, so they aren't crystal clear. I apologize for that..

Friday, December 28, 2012

Report on The Art of War in Europe

I don't seem to post my works on cloth binding restorations here as much as leather bindings, so I decided to put this up. It's Report on The Art of War in Europe in 1854, 1855, and 1856 by Colonel Richard Delafield, under the order of Jefferson Davis, printed by George W. Bowman. (1861, Washington D.C) The client asked to preserve everything, including the written names of Jefferson Davis and George B McClellan, along with a bookplate depicting firearms on the front endpaper. (The picture on the right. I wonder if it was one of those official Army's book plates in the Civil War era.. I have to ask Mr. Jaffe about it.) Restoring cloth bindings is way trickier than that of leather bindings' because aged cloth is extremely fragile to work with and matching the color and texture of new material to the original cloth perfectly is time-consuming and difficult. Well, troublesome jobs always end up being on my table, so no surprise there. - (Master would say things like "Oh, your tiny fingers are perfect for an intricate job like this. *grin*"...) Anyway, as I examined the original case, the entire edges were worn out horribly in a way that convinced me that the book needed a brand new case. (Pictures on the left.) I could patch them up and rehinge it, but for this book, I knew that the extremely fragile cloth material wouldn't react well with rather intense restoration process, resulting the end product to look terrible, let alone the fact it wouldn't have enough integrity to last long. By creating a new case, I needed to peel off the entire front endpaper with the written names and a bookplate, so that I could put it back onto the new endpaper. I antiqued the new endpapers as well, so that they match the original endpaper and don't shout out "NEW!". (The picture in the middle.) The original spine, the front and back covers were inlaid back onto the new case. Well, everything turned out as I expected it to be, and I thought I was done there... then, I remembered there were dozens of folded maps in the book....You see, normally, folded maps and graphics are crumbled and torn and need repairing. In this case, there were DOZENS! Well, I just finished mending them at last, and the book will be on the way to the East Coast soon.
--------About the Bookplate---------
Mr. Jaffe said: "The item in question is a universal bookplate. They are made so the owner can write his or her name in the blank space.Unfortunately it has very little value."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lemprière's Classical Dictionary, 1804

I haven't posted any of my works over a month on my blog, so maybe, you thought that the winter finally got me and I suddenly took off to the Caribbean, and was chillaxing on the white sand in a bikini, sipping a coconut shell filled with mojito on hand. Noooo. I'm still stuck here! I just always forgot to take pictures of my works, "before" or "after", so I couldn't post anything on my blog. Well anyway, here's the update:: Probably because I didn't put out annual Christmas flyers extensively this year, (I got lazy..) things have turned out to be much calmer than I thought it would be, thus Christmas orders are basically all finished. So I've started digging out the oldest orders from the shelves and started working on them. My task now is to finish everything that's came in before September by the end of this year. The oldest one I saw was from April. (!!?!WTF!!) This one, shown on this post, came in in July.... (Ouch!) It's A Classical Dictionary : containing a copious account of all the proper names mentioned in ancient authors : with the value of coins, weights, and measures used among the Greeks and Romans, by John Lemprière, D.D, printed for  T. Cadell & W. Davies. (1804 Edition) I find Greek / Roman mythology fascinating, so this seems to be a great dictionary to read or flip through in my spare time and is something I'd like to add to my library. No, I won't run away with my client's property, so don't call the police! haha. Anyway, the client asked for a new leather spine re-hinged with a facsimile gold tooling, and edges and corners touched-up. The leather's dyed to match the original. The bottom headband was missing, so I've sewn it with a thread that I dyed to be close to the remaining top headband's.

On the side note, I see this publisher's name T. Cadell every so often, so I googled him out. It turned out that his shop was located right next to John Chapman's, who was a physician and a renown publisher who had relationships with George Elliot and other avant-garde writers on the Strand, London. Also, sounds like Chapman was the "homeopathic doctor" of Charles Darwin? hummm Homeopathy.... I remember a good documentary on Homeopathy by BBC Horizon.. (My favorite TV program!) Before you spend $ on this so called "pseudoscience", you might want to check this out.   

Sunday, December 16, 2012

To be or not to be...

I recently received an e-mail from a person, who's thinking about leaving her professional career and starting a business based on a craft that she's been doing as a hobby and that she truly loves. She asked me for some advice. Well, I'm certainly not the best person to give advice to anyone about such an important matter, but since she wasn't the only person who has asked me similar questions this year somehow, I thought I should copy-paste what I wrote to her here on my blog, in case there are others who are trying to make a similar transition in their lives, and want to ask me (!!) my take on the matter. Anyway, it's long, so you needn't to read it if the subject doesn't apply to you.
I truly apologize for getting back to you so slow, - I've gotten quite a number of e-mails from Youtube / blogger folks lately, and have become inundated with replying to them. 

So, how I got into this profession? Humm, to make a long story short, I happened to stumble upon this craft when I was a freshman at a college, and started my apprenticeship at the bindery I now work for. No, I didn't go to "bookbinding school" nor do I own a degree in conservation. My knowledge and skills are obtained by the good ole' traditional way of this trade, - apprenticeship. I'm from a stereotypical rigid Japanese family of bureaucrats which believes "arts are for dreamers and losers", so in my circumstance, there was absolutely no way for me to pursue an actual academical education relating to bookbinding &/or conservation. As I had no intention of becoming a lawyer or doctor or anything that my family wanted me to be, and I refused to be controlled for the sake of their face value any longer, I went hundred percent independent from my family and I took a longer and harder road to get where I am. By doing this, I chose my emotional happiness over materialistic satisfaction that we tend to think of as the essential factor of happiness. This means, I knew that I wouldn't be able to live in a million dollar house and cruise in my own yacht in the future. In exchange, I've gotten a life full of "tangible happiness" in a true sense. I have a roof over my head, and a job I love & respect. What more do I need?

Over the years, I've seen dozens of "want to be a bookbinder" come and go from this bindery. They never made it in a professional field, except for one who's now moved to California, continuing her education as a conservator. Most of those were young, in their early~mid 20's who were in search of a direction of their lives. Or, in the 40's~50's who started to reexamine the true meaning of happiness and began to reflect the lives of their past and dreaded the inevitable future of the mundane. I believe that those who had professional careers for a long time, like yourself, could afford the time/ resouces to establish their new "business of their passion". I think you can live off being a craftswoman if you commit to it 150%, (I've been doing it for the past 16 years without any financial issues.) but I cannot say it will give you as much salary as you've been earning from your current job. The reward, however, is that it will give you an excitement and meaning in your life. It's your choice.

That being said, if you decide to alter your life's path, you certainly have to be more than "excellent" at what you do in order to live comfortably. I'm very sure you are excellent at what you do, but when you start charging for your products, you have to be better than excellent. I just mentioned that most apprentices never made it to live as a professional bookbinder. That's mainly because they all tend to overestimate their abilities so that they became too comfortable with their own mediocrity which they misunderstand as "good enough". They all lack of patience and diligence. As an extreme instance, I remember one of them, who used to be an executive of a company somewhere, decided to leave the high-life and to learn the trade of bookbinding. After just a few months of staying at the bindery, she somehow decided that she was so good at bookbinding (which was far from good in truth... sigh... delusional was what she was..), and because she knew how to run a company, she purchased all those expensive bookbinding equipments that she barely knew how to handle, and started her own bookbindery from her spare garage. Well, needless to say, the "business" failed.

The mentality required in any arts and crafts, in my opinion, is to keep seeking for the perfection, thus to never get satisfied with your work. And if your priority becomes to be money making over your excellence in your trade, you will eventually fail. Please keep this in mind.

Those I know who are in an art/craft related business/profession normally function fine if they are married. When their business is slow, there's always someone who's keeping them afloat financially or emotionally. If you are single, I think you have to work twice much harder to sustain a kind of life you seek.

Well, because I don't own this bindery, I don't need to worry about actually running the business. All I have to do, basically is to bind the darn books! No paper work, no restocking supplies, no dealing with grumpy clients!! So, the situation is a bit different from yours. But looking at what my master has accomplished, you can do it, too!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Annual Christmas Crunch !

Christmas is near and we've started feeling the usual tension of the Christmas Crunch. Though you might say, "Oh, C'mon! You still have over a month until Lord's birthday!", we are in fact already slightly behind on schedule. Considering there are many "last minute shoppers" in this country, full of hard working people who can't finish the holiday obligation till the very last minute, you can understand the nervousness I feel! Believe it or not, quite a number of people show up at our door step just a few of days before Christmas! If we have enough time to do it, we accept, but sadly, we often have to decline many of those last minute orders. Somehow, we always manage to get things done on time, but that's because we close the door as soon as we figure that we are up to our necks! We set the Christmas order deadline to be the 20th, but there's no guarantee as to when we stop taking rush orders! The thing is, we, bookbinders can't turn a pumpkin into a golden carriage in a matter of a second! What we do takes time! So, if your Christmas gifts involve bookbinders, plan ahead and you'd better contact them immediately.

Anyway, we get a lot of Bible restoration jobs around this time of the year. (Bibles R Us!) Here, on the picture, are some of the large Family Bibles that I'll have to restore by Christmas.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dr. Harvey's New Philosophy, 1663

One of the books I restored recently was Dr. Harvey's New Philosophy. (Archelogia Philosophica Nova or, New principles of Philosophy, Containing Philosophy in general, Metaphysicks or Ontology, Dynamilogy or a Discourse of Power, Religio Philosophi or Natural Theology, Physicks or Natural philosophy, to be exact.) This is one of Gideon Harvey's works, published in 1663. (First Edition) This is the first publication that mentions the word "ontology".This book somehow reminded me of the Voynich Manuscript, of which the assumed contents were related to medicine / science based on the pictorial depictions of plants, herbs, and astrology and some implications of alchemy. I looked through this Harvey's book on metaphysics, and felt some similarities with the Voynich in a conceptual way.

Back in '99, one of our regular clients told us that he had acquired a partial copy of Voynich Manuscript, and was planning to bind it by himself. (Bookbinding is one of his spare-time hobbies.) At that time, I had never heard such a document existed, but was immediately intrigued by its remarkable history and the mystery surrounding it. Since then, when I can't sleep at night or just need to chill out or something, I sometimes stare at pictures of its mysterious writings and its ominous drawings on the internet, and wonder if I can somehow make sense out of the seemingly legitimate yet rather gibberish contents, to no avail... Nobody has ever been able to decipher it, so how could I! Well, my grandma would say "If nobody can decipher it, it most likely has no meaning." So, I think it's just mumbojumbo, and according to a recent segment on Voynich Manuscript by National Geographic, "Book That Can't Be Read", my grandma's saying might turn out to be true. Though, I know I would never be able to find out what the book actually says, I find the manuscript inspiring in many ways. It's like one of those "idea books" or something. Anyway, I recently got a hold of a complete digital copy of the manuscript, and have thought of printing it out and binding the darn thing for my personal library. But, the scanned images are all askance and need to be cropped to be printed, so I've been fixing them in my spare time. (Over 200 of them! duh!)

Anyway, the client of this book asked for a brand new facsimile binding with mottled leather to match the original case. Based on a partial remain of the original headbands, they used to be in white and blue which aged to be tan and greenish over time, so that's what I've used for sewing the headbands. The top of the title page was torn, so I dug out a sheet of antique paper from 1600's, and patched it instead of using a conventional mending paper, which didn't quite match the paper texture of the original. In case someone's interested in what I mean by patching the paper without mending paper, I took some photos of the process.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Skin Graft of a Burnt Book

I have been working on simple, mindless, straightforward jobs since last week to recover from the trauma caused by La Merope ordeal. I just needed some time to heal my mind a bit. One of the jobs that gives me calmness and sereneness is what I call a "skin graft operation". It's basically a cosmetic repair on books that have gotten severe disfigurement issues caused by relatively common occurrences such as "Sh*t, my dog just ate my book!" or "They burnt my Harry Potter, god dammit!" or "Stop throwing books at me! I didn't sleep with your BFF!". Well, whatever injured those unfortunate books, I like doing this procedure because all I have to do is to just sit there and focus on the part I'm "operating" on! No need to move around, look around, carry heavy things around and it's very meditating to me. But most importantly, I like getting a "Wow!" from clients who didn't think the complete transformation was possible. Anyway, this is a 1862 Bible in German. There's a large hole on the back cover that appears to be caused by fire. I can see that the edges of the hole were shrunken and melt, and there are some surface damages on the surrounding area as well. Maybe someone knocked over a candle or left a cigar on it? Anyway, I transplanted a new skin from a new hinde which was cut exactly the shape to fit into the damaged hole, and colored and put the exact texture to match the surrounding. The seam is still visible if you look close, so I was disappointed a bit. But considering how bad the original condition was, I think this is the best any book doctors can do!

Friday, October 12, 2012

La Merope Tragedia, 1818

Wow,, it's been over a month since my last post!?! I've been juggling too many things at once lately, and have totally forgotten about my blog. Well, I suck at multitasking, so when there's more than one thing I must do with a deadline, I get confused, overwhelmed and start making the stupidest mistakes that lead to further mistakes if I keep working in the same atmosphere. This book here I just finished is a perfect example of that. My master handed this job to me a couple of months ago, requiring me to finish it by the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. The client, Mr. Collins of Louis Collins Books asked for a binding that's super rich in gold tooling, like the ones of 17th~18th century's. No problem, I thought at first. But no sooner had I started tooling the leather than I realized the shiny new gold made the cover look rather like a cheap souvenir from Asia or something. ( I can say it without sounding like an ass because I'm Asian!) I designed, redesigned and re-redesigned the cover to meet Mr. Collins inquiry, but to me, the cover that's totally covered with new shiny gold still look rather cheapish no matter what. So I decided to simplify the design, yet with enough gold to satisfy Mr. Collins' vision. By this time, I'd discarded a few leather cases for my experiments and had only about a month till the deadline. I felt pushed, so I knew I'd make the usual "stupidest mistakes" if I wasn't careful. Well, guess what. I ended up redoing the binding a couple of times again. First stupid mistake: After finishing the tooling, the OCD side of me started telling me to refine some parts of gold tooling. I screwed it up! Second stupid mistake: I knocked over a bottle of leather dye and ruined the case. The third binding is shown on this post. I can't say I personally like the design as a whole, so if I had a few more days, I'd probably redo it. But If I say it, master would think I'm crazier than he previously thought, so I keep my mouth shut. Well, tomorrow is the book fair, and my master will go there to deliver this book to Mr. Collins first thing in the morning. Sigh... I hope he approves my work.. Am nervous..

This book is La Merope Tragedia by Scipione Maffei, published in Livorno (New Edition. 1818) The leather is custom dyed to create a faint texture and depth for a slight antiqued effect. (though the picture doesn't really show it.) A headband is sewn only on the top as the bottom of the book is rugged. The end paper is blue Italian marble, was hand-marbled by Galen Berry.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lutheran Family Bible by E. Gately & Co.

I think many of you have seen Christian Bibles with masonic symbols used in the designs, but in case you haven't, I'm posting one here. Curious, isn't it? Well, this is a Lutheran Bible in German, which should give you some explanations as to why, if you know a bit about Freemasonry, and remember the history of Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther, for that matter. Masons can be Christians, but just not Catholics, I guess. Anyway, this is Heilige Schrift (Holy Scripture, Illusterated Family Bible in German), published by E. Gately & Co. in 1882. The restoration of this Bible involved external & internal re-hinging, repairs on the edges & corners. Very straight forward tasks.

The cover is filled with masonic symbols: TOP - Hourglass (mortality, human life) Arc of the Covenant (relation to the Knights Templar) The Sun & the Moon, (Gods in pagan belief & relations to astrology) Solomon's Temple with the letter G (G signifies God, the Great Architect of the Universe, Geometry, the Universe's fundamental law). RIGHT: Three Pillars (Wisdom, Strength, Beauty) Anchor (hope). The dove with an olive branch (The emblem of the deacon that signifies the messenger & innocence) Ark (faith) Gavel (authority). LEFT: Pot of incense (pure mind), Jacob's Ladder with seven rounds (Progress towards perfection, and seven steps derived from Mithraism). CENTER: The Masonic blazing star (God). The square & the compass with the level ( The square: virtue & morality. The compass: wisdom of boundaries, The level: equality) BOTTOM: Beehive (industry) Eye of Providence (Eye of God) over the Masonic alter. Whew, ... did I miss anything? I've scanned the cover so that you can check them out yourself!

Monday, September 3, 2012

De L'esprit des Loix, (The Spirit of the Laws), 1758

When I was a teenager, I came to the United States as a part of a school trip, and paid a visit to The National Archives Building while in DC. Although I had only about 15 seconds to get a glance at each founding document of The United States, it was one of the most moving experiences I had had in my youth. All those documents and manuscripts looked so fragile with almost invisible, faded texts in dimly lit displays, and their humble statues contrasted to the idea of the most powerful country in the world. I remember I was thinking of Montesquieu at the display of The Constitution. Well, little I knew that I'd come to handle his master work, The Spirit of the Laws, some twenty years later. This is a three volume set of De L'esprit des Loix (Esprit des Loix) by Charles Louis de Montesquieu, published in Amsterdam in 1758. (Nouvelle Edition.) As all the original cords were still attached to the covers intact, and the original endsheets had to be fully preserved as they were, the conventional re-hinge method couldn't be performed. The alternative re-hinge method used here is normally conducted on medieval bindings wherein the spines are glued to the book, yet they must be preserved. It's partly superficial, so it had to be done with the most care in order to get the maximum integrity and to make the repairs as invisible as possible. The top and bottom of the spine were worn out, so I had to recreate them as well. Original ribbons are ironed and reattached, the hinges of the endsheets were mended and the corners are repaired.