Friday, August 10, 2012

Ancora de Salvacion, 1865

This is Ancora de Salvacion o Devocionario by Jose Mack, (Barcelona, 1865) It has a set of beautiful clasps that I wanted to share with you. I've seen tons of book clasps in my career, and I especially love those tiny clasps that come with small antique photo albums or miniature Bibles like this one. I wish there are more craftsmen and women who specialize in REAL book clasps in the world, but I know they are hard to find now days. (Please contact me if you are such a craftsman/woman!) As you know, there are all sorts of "crafts" of old days that involve in the trade of bookbinding, i.e. letterpress printing, calligraphy, carpentry, painting, paper making, marbling, leather crafting and metal crafting. So, as a bookbinder, it's always good to have the knowledge and actual skills of all of those trades that contribute to binding books. But  unfortunately, it's such a luxury to be trained in every trade, let alone to excel at them all. One thing that you might be surprised to know is that having some skills in working with metal is very useful when it comes to bookbinding and restoration. You might think metal craft would be the last thing you should know in bookbinding, but it's not so. You should know how to work with metals if you are a conservation bookbinder anyway, and it will vastly expand your visions if you're an artist. I was tutored by an experienced jewellery maker years ago and got all the basic metal crafting skills from her, and have no regret spending time (and money!) on the education. Well, by the way, just so you know that you can make your own book clasps easily by having only a few basic metal craft tools. (No molding, soldering or engraving involved, Yey!) All you need is a bench pin, a sawing frame with a blade, a flax shaft (for making holes), few grades of sand papers and a sheet of metal. If you wanna make your own rivets, you're gonna need a ball-peen & cross-peen hammers and a metal rod. These tools and materials aren't expensive at all. Shown on the picture (right) is an unfinished clasp that I started making several years ago. (became too busy and forgot about it..haha.. ) As you see on the picture, they are put together by only rivets. (See my design lay-out sketches. The visible one's are dome rivets, the invisible ones are flush rivets. This process that doesn't require any "heat" as to soldering & molding, is called "cold connections".) Obviously, it's missing the key and needs to be polished/executed better, but you get my point. You can make your own clasps in a few hours with only the basic metal crafting skills! But first, you should get an instructional book on metal crafting to know how to use those tools, etc.


  1. Hi MHR!

    Lovely post and great handiwork on that old unfinished clasp!Have you created any others?
    By the way dear bookchronicle followers if you decide to venture into small scale metalworking as MHR rightly suggests take caution with that jeweler's saw, one wrong stroke and the finger's bone is the blade's next stop. You DON'T want that, trust me...

    I had in mind for some time now to make a post about how bookbinding is a collective craft but you got there first! It's one of the things I love most in this art, the fact it is an amalgam of so many ancient crafts most of which date back to the beginning of civilization. And all come together to protect and beautify what the human mind has created so far. How can you beat that?..

    By the way your design notes look just like out of an inventor's journal from a fictional story. Nice tidy pages, numerous sketches that balance between strict forms and a sense for aesthetics and interesting handwriting that shows a disciplined mind with strong artistic tendencies. Sherlock out! So envious, my tool-making notes look like an ink bomb destroyed the page.

    While it is true that it's really hard to excel in many crafts renaissance showed us it's not impossible. It (just!) needs a combination of a creative mind a curious spirit and able hands. Homo Universalis ftw!

    Not sorry for the terribly long comment! I was sleepless and terribly bored and this post got me excited!

    1. Hi Dimitris,

      Yeah,the micro blade will cut through a bone like a butter! One wrong stroke will do it. Looks can be deceiving! And no, I haven't made book clasps for clients so far. After all, things like custom made book clasps aren't cheap! I have, however had to make a brass edging for an antique photo album which original edging was missing pieces and falling apart everywhere, thusly couldn't be saved. Mostly, my knowledge on metal craft becomes useful on restoration. If I had time, I'd very much enjoy playing with metal though!

      One of the most attractive virtues of this trade is its collective aspect and the fact that you must posses all the other skills and knowledge to be a true master of this craft. After reading your comment, I'm excited to know that there are indeed people like you whose way of thinking seems to correspond to mine and it seems that we are on the same boat in terms of the idea of mastery! And YES, we can excel at all the crafts if we keep at it!

      I'm a visual person and pictures make more sense than texts, so whenever I'm brainstorming designs and ideas, I draw pictures! One thing people don't know is that part of my backgrounds is in Industrial design, and that might explain the way I write and draw. A little "mechanical" and also, my nationality must be playing a role abit.

      Thanks for your comment, Dimitris! I always enjoy and appreciate your input!