Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Three children's books

I've been working on three children's books since Saturday. They're all for a same client. They are Five Little Peppers published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co. (1909), Honk A Tonk Takes A Trip published by McLoughlin Brothers Inc. (1937) and The Little Colonel Stories published by L.C. Page & Co. (1913). I think I mentioned about the "my dog ate my book !!" sorta thing before, but this time, one of these book was eaten by a rat! It's Five Little Peppers. I didn't take pictures of the rat damage, but the board and the back of the spine has been horribly chewed up, so I had to tissue mend papers. But, why the heck do rats eat books!? I mean, paper doesn't sound so nutritious to me! But I guess it was the animal glue on the spine that was irresistible! Anyway, the client wants new cases for these books with the original front cover graphic inlaid only for The Little Colonel Stories. Insignias must be preserved as well. They are simple jobs and I'll probably finish them in a day or two. Will update.
 // For the completed work of these books, go to my latter post: Three children's books, complete


  1. I stumbled across your blog doing research and wanted to let you know how beautiful it is.

    I found this particular page doing research for my next book which has some very evil rats devouring discarded library books in the storage garage. I need to know if rats actually eat paper, so it was interesting to discover that it's more likey the animal glue on the spine.

    Can you tell me a little more about animal glue? I'm assuming it's not used any more, but I'd be interested in when it was used.

    Rahma Krambo | Author
    Guardian Cats & the Lost Books of Alexandria

    1. Thanks for your comment. Based on my experience, most books ,that were bound with animal glue I see, are usually from early ~ mid 1900’s. I’m sure some bookbinders still use animal glue, but I’d say it isn’t common now a days. We normally use plant based glue or synthetic glue called PVA. And yes, rats eat paper, and as they seem to prefer eating the spine to other part of the book, I’d assume they were attracted to the animal glue to begin with. Book worms do eat paper, but they also always eat the spine part of the book, more so than other part of the book block. I loathe restoring books with animal glue… It’s stinky when it’s wet (smells like puke…) and normally doesn’t come off easily, which is probably the result of the heat applied to the glue during the process. – They are usually sold in solid state, and you have to “melt” it to use it as glue. Well, I don’t know if it helped you in anyway, but this is basically what I know about the nasty glue. (When we see a book with animal glue, we are like “I ain’t gonna work on it, so you do it!” “NO ! YOU do it!” and keep pushing the book around. Hahaha!)

  2. MHR: Thanks for letting me into the world of bookbinders. I left a reply to your reply a few days ago, but it seems to have disappeared in cyberspace.

    Maybe you could help me with another thing. This is coming from my writer's curiosity. Say you were writing a mystery and there was a clue in a book and you needed to know where the book was bound. If it was animal glue, would that tell you something about the general location or region where the book was bound?


    1. Hi Rahma,
      Normally, you can't tell where the book was bound based on the glue point of view. (Maybe mouse and rats could tell by how it tastes like!?) Although most of books with animal glue I see are American, Europeans used it, too. I live in the United States, so needless to say, I see more American books, whether it's bound with animal glue or not. It's usually the title page that mentions where and who published and/or bound the book. IF, however the book was missing a title page or didn't mention the publisher, you could tell the origin of the book and its era based on the binding styles and its design. (And of course, the contents and the language.) Also, I just happened to mention about leather dyeing on my blog earlier today, and the type of dye texture and design could tell where the book originated. I briefly mentioned a dyeing technique called Pasta EspaƱola on the post, and this particular dyeing method could tell the origin of the book. This technique was developed in Spain, and each city and region originally had the distinct design and texture of their own, for example Pasta Valenciana is from Valencia and so on. But the technique was spread to all over the Europe later on, so it might not give you a definite answer as to the origin of the book. There's one of a strange "ego" sort of thing I've seen a couple of times regarding bookbinders. Typically, the bookbinder's name is mentioned either on the title page or usually on the back side of the endsheet (front or back) in micro type. However, I've seen it mentioned on a piece of paper once and once on a piece of velum, both times hidden within the cover. (you have to take the cover off the book block to see it.) For the one on the velum, it wasn't a name, but a phrase or some sort in Latin. I don't read Latin, so I didn't know what it said, but one thing for sure is that the bookbinder who bound the book put it there. I thought it was a fun idea - only when the book is broken hundreds of years later that the hidden message is revealed! I thought of putting my name on books I bind like that, but haven't done it. (Just the thought of "vanity" in me stops me. Egoism is sin! haha..)

  3. Hi, it was interesting to read you story. I found a copy of Honk-a-Tonk Takes a Trip at our local recycle center (the dump). Copyright is 1947.By Special Arrangement with Milton Bradley Company. The book is in excellent shape, no rats snacking on it. Wondering if it is worth anything. Also if the person who you are doing the work for would be interested in a nice copy.

    1. Hi DebbieO,

      Sorry for my late reply. As I'm not a bookseller, I don't normally know how much used/antiquarian books are worth. But based on the information on abebooks.com Honk-a-Tonk Takes a Trip is selling for $15~30 average.

      Well, many of our clients bring in books that have sentimental values to them. They know it's often a lot cheaper to buy a new copy instead of restoring their copy, but because those books are special to them and cannot be replaced, they come to us. So, I don't think the owner of Honk-a-Tonk Takes a Trip that I fixed is interested in replacing her copy with another copy even if it's in a better condition.

  4. Hi MHR:

    Just a thought and a word in favor of "signing" your work. Bookbinding is a art and books have value. On a painting the artist signs the front of the painting but usually certain museums stamp or mark the back if they have shown it. It gives the history or providence of the work. I imagine that is also the case if restoration is done. If the signature/mark is hidden and only for someone else in the trade to see if later work is done wouldn't that be the same. The original binder has their signature on the title page or end paper, where ever, as the original artist, but if later the book needs restoration shouldn't the artist that does the restoration merit discrete note? A way of giving the book history and letting any future bookbinders know the who and when. Just a thought but I think it's really interesting to think of some of my old books having secrets.