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.