Thursday, December 19, 2013

Miniature Holy Bible w/ brass edging & a clasp, 1860

I love brass clasps and edging, especially when they are on miniature books. I posted some pictures of one of those books about a year ago, and I could see that others love them as much as I do. (based on the large number of visitors to the particular post.) So, I'm posting another one here. This is a miniature Holy Bible, published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in 1860. This humble black leather Bible turned into an eye candy of a treasure with a brass uni-clasp and ornate edging, - the design of which feels as though it were influenced a bit by William Morris or a precursor to Art Nouveau of England. It's very pretty.

As for the restoration, client asked for a simple re-backing with false-raised cords on the spine without any gold lettering. A trouble we normally encounter when dealing with a book with metal edging is the lifting or removing of the edging pieces in order to re-back or re-hinge the spine. For this Bible, because it wasn't wise (or possible) to remove the whole metal pieces, I lifted small sections up enough so that I could do my job, and they were gently hammered back to the original state. I'm so glad it's done in time.. I personally have only a couple of more Christmas orders to go, Yay! ;-)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Money is a mere object

On my post on Cook's Voyage, my friend and colleague, Mihai from Romania, left a brief, yet commissarial comment about a daily dilemma that "common" bookbinders have to face, which prompted me to write this post. The following is his comment, (copy-pasted);
Very very beautiful! In my experience, I m faced with a dilemma: doing the best restoration job I can or listening to what the client wants. I ve often volunteered to sew a book on my own time when the client just wanted it glued, so it would cost less, because the book was worth it. I feel bad doing a cheap job, but I realize not every client affords intricate and laborious solutions. That s why now I tend to be less critical of poor bindings I see from older binders, because I realize that even if they wanted and knew how to do better, the clients would have refused and stuck with the cheap versions. Thank you for sharing!
This matter is so close to home to me as a "common-public-serving" restorer that I wanted to fly to Romania on the first flight available just to be able to put my hand on his shoulder, and say "I hear you, man..". (haha...)

We, the common binders, serve mostly for the ordinary folks often with limited funds, so we have to balance and find a solution as to what's best for the client and what's best for the book. Like Mihai, although my clients wouldn't know this, I often end up doing way more than I'm paid for because I can't possibly do less of a work just because the money's not enough. Money, after all, is a mere object. My dignity as a craftswoman and the destiny of books I handle, aren't.

This, rather old fashioned sentiment of mine sometimes can't really apply when the uncompromisable required labor exceeds well beyond the client's budget, resulting the client to lean towards an "option" that totally undermines the quality of work. In a rare case like this, my answer always is and has been and will be; I could not possibly put my name on a kind of job that you are asking me to do. Take my word or leave it.

A situation like this is rare yet has happened before, but clients always understood where I came from and chose to go with my direction though I, of course, spent extra labors each time. The bottom line is, I always take any job regardless if my belief and sincerity are received, and do the best and right thing for the book despite my labor, every time.

Remember, "You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you." Again, money is a mere object, guys. ;-)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Custom made Camel bone folder

About two months ago, someone stole one of my beloved bone folders that I crafted to fit my hand perfectly when I first started apprenticing over a decade and half ago. I loved that bone folder. It was entrusted to me by my master, and I fashioned it in a particular shape and etched my initial on it. The bone folder was amber in color and somewhat transparent, and I loved that about it, too. Well, some god damn bastard took it. I don't blame him/her though, because the bone folder was really nice looking.

Normally, when I lost something, or something was taken from me, or something bad has happened, I'm always like, " Well, I'm glad it wasn't my wallet that was lost." or "I broke my legs, but I'm glad my arms are alright." or "Maybe, the person who took my $20 hadn't eaten anything for a week, and was desperate. I may well have saved his life." The point is, I sort of take matters like these real easy.

But, this bone folder incident had been bugging me so bad that I just couldn't get over it. I even dreamed about it, too. It was that serious. Losing something so personal and special to me is bad enough, and keeping myself feel miserable over it is even worse. So, I decided to give myself another bone folder. - It's similar to giving a new pet to someone who can't get over the death of their pet in order to recover from the grief.

I never like commercially available bone folders which have no character, so I bought a couple of pieces of Camel bone, and made a new bone folder today. I choose Camel bone because it's off white and has a really nice translucent caramel texture. Bone folders are super simple and easy to make. - All you need is a saw, file, different grits of sand paper from rough to fine, a piece of leather to polish at the end. It should only take about an hour and half to two hours to make it, so, you should try it, too. ;-)
For in-depth insights on bone folder: Folder or Bone knife

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean by Captain Cook

We happened to have three sets of three-volume-set Cook's Voyage in the bindery from different clients, so I thought it might be of an interest to you to see different editions of this well known publication. I'm posting two of them here.

This particular one is a 1785, second edition of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, by Capt. James Cook (vols. I & II.),  and James King. (vol. III), printed by H. Hughsm for G. Nicol and T. Cadell (London). It was bound in full pasta espanora leather with stone marble endpapers. For these volumes, I was asked to insert all the missing maps, thus consequently, I had to redo the previous binder's re-backing job. (It's because the thickness of the books would expand due to the inserted maps.) As for the spine lay out, I had no choice but to "recreate" what the previous binder tried to do because I didn't know how the original spine of this particular edition of Cook's Voyage looked like. So, I dyed the leather to match the boards, and did facsimile labels based on the few original labels left by the previous binder. Also, to replace the cheap n' ugly machine made headbands that he/she used, I examined the folds of signatures to find out the original colors of sewn headbands, (which turned out to be red and green.) and sewed them. Other restoration involved replacing the internal cloth hinges and minor repairs on the edges and corners.

This is a 1784 edition of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, by Capt. Cook, Clerke and Gore, printed by W. & A. Strahan for G. Nicol, published by T. Cadell. (London) It was bound in a quarter leather with a beautiful french curl marble and a humble set of green sewn headbands. The client asked for a minimum restoration on these volumes, so the restoration involved here was re-hinging on front hinge for one, partial hinge repair on another, recreation of a missing skiver label, and repairs on the corners.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sawn sewing holes

One of my dear YouTube subscribers contacted me regarding the use of a saw to create sewing holes on the spine. Somehow, someone else has risen similar questions as his before, so I thought I should as well share my answers to his questions here, in case someone out there is also wondering about the same thing.
NOTE: The "Q", the questions, are the exact phases given to me, - copy/paste-ed on purpose.

Q: Why do you saw-cut the holes for stitching so deep? 
A: It isn't deep. It might appear to be deeper than that of an awl due to the visible incision of the outer sheet of a signature. - The saw cuts through to the inner most layer of sheet in a signature, while the awl would pock through to it. So, the depth of the hole is basically the same in both cases.

Q: Doesn't that (deeper outer-layer incisions) affect the pages inside?
A: No. But, you don't want the incision to be too radical (especially for a normal size book), or the glue might get inside the pages and the holes might become too visible when the book is opened. (ugly!) So, it's very important not to put too many sheets in a signature, (relative to the size of your book.) and important to consider the weight of the paper you are using, and that each sheet of folded paper is tightly jogged to the fold, so to minimize any unnecessary depth of incisions. Also, do make sure to check how deep you need to saw to get to the inner sheet before you start sawing, or the incisions on the outer layers of sheets could become unnecessarily too deep.

Q: I've been stabbing holes in my signatures but the sawing looks so much easier.
A: Needless to say, no professional bookbinder would poke holes one by one by hand, simply because it's time consuming and it isn't precise, (etc). Also, sawing by a saw allows each hole to have a minute width (of which depends on the width of the saw teeth) so that the thread wouldn't catch the paper around it. And, the width of the holes is necessary for various cord-sewing.

Q: Could you use a knife instead of a saw?
A: Yes, but I wouldn't recommend it. If you just create simple cuts by a scalpel or an Exacto knife (etc.), the hole is too tightly closed and doesn't have a comfortable opening to accommodate the thread, causing an excess "flare" of paper inside the pages (like the look of a flower.) as the needle and thread are going through it. So, if you really need to use a knife, make each incision in a slight "V" shape. - Make an incision in a slight angle, and trim the other in an angle. (The second diagram on the graphic. It's hard to see, but incisions are cut in V shape.) But, I wouldn't recommend using a knife because of its inconsistency of lines, depth and cleanliness, as well as the time it takes to do it perfectly. In conclusion, there's no need to use a knife unless you have no choice but to use it. :-)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Holy Bible by A. J. Holman, 1877

It's been almost two years since I started this blog, and I thank all of you for your continuous support and having given me such generous comments and encouragement about my work. I would have never imagined that my blog would attract so many visitors, let alone would gain 79 followers!?

Out of nostalgia, I was checking the works I've posted on my blog over the couple of years, and noticed there were posts that were incomparably more popular than others. Naturally, posts that contain my videos have attracted many visitors, but amongst the very popular ones, Holy Bible by A. J. Holman & Co. has proven to be a great interest to many. A. J. Holman & Co. is an American Bible publishing house from Philadelphia that was established in the 1870's, and had produced many of the large Family Bibles in this country. So, there are lots of folks whose families own a Bible by them. (I'd say, about the third of large Family Bibles we handle here, rather than portable personal ones, are by this company.) So, I decided to post another A. J. Holman with a different design, here on my blog.

This one was published in 1877, and has the owner's name custom-embossed on the front cover. The restoration on this Bible was a straightforward re-hinge, replacement of the internal cloth hinges, repairs on the edges and corners, some paper mending and the reproduction of family record pages.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A matter of honor

NOTE: I'd like you to know that this was bound / created over a decade ago by an amateur, - me. So please don't be critical about the workmanship. :-p
I think it was back in 1998~2000 when I somehow decided to make a miniature book out of scrap materials that were scattering around on my work bench. I used to spontaneously do those non-work related things just for fun or to regain focus on actual tasks I was assigned to do. I had a tiny bit of scrap leather that I dyed to antique for a job, and a small block of notepad that we made out of excess paper of blank journals that we had to bind previously. Out of those scrap materials, I bound a 2"x 3" (5cm x 7.5cm) miniature blank book with a small piece of an antique marble paper that was discarded from a book sometime ago. I still had a big enough piece of the leather left, so I also made a full leather slipcase with the same marble paper inner lining for the tiny book. I dusted the edges of the text block to make the book look older, too.. (Stupidly and meaninglessly meticulous? I know... haha..) Anyway, the bottom line is, this whole thing meant nothing other than me taking a break from work. I nonchalantly placed it on the corner of the display table the following day, behind the array of other normal-size books, and forgot about it, completely. 

I was writing a reply to an email from a bookbinder friend of mine, Mihai, in the backroom yesterday when my master gingerly approached me, and asked me how much I'd want for the small book I made years ago. What small book? It took me a moment to recall what it was, and it also took me as a surprise that anyone could find it on the table, let alone wanting to purchase it.. Well, because I'd never thought of selling it, I couldn't put a price on it, needless to say. So, I asked the man who wanted to buy the tiny book how much he'd pay for it. 

$25, he said. :-)

You see, I would have been more than happy to give it away because this tiny book really meant nothing to me, and it had been forgotten for over a decade in the first place. I would have given it to him because the workmanship on the tiny leather bound and slipcase isn't the greatest as it was a work of an amateur, after all, that I couldn't possibly charge him for. (I started an apprenticeship in 1997, by the way.). But, most importantly, because he liked the book. But, somehow, I got curious as to how much it would worth to him, and decided to ask him. I heard the number, 25 bucks, and he said he didn't know it was in leather, and because it was so tiny and he thought it was something like he'd find in a common gift shop or rather, he thought the price was adequate. I found myself saying no to him, then. It's totally understandable, really. In a modern world we live in, if I didn't know anything about this craft and/or the field of antiquarian books, et al, I would probably have said the same thing. It just looks like a tiny decorative object that a grandma would keep in a glass case shelf along with tiny miniature porcelain dogs and cats. But, something reflectively made me stop from giving this book to him, for free or not. 

I know it's definitely NOT because I was offended by the number, or anything like that. I'm not that sort of assertive or proud S.O.B. Then, what was it? This question has been occupying my mind since he left, and I came to a conclusion that I must have instinctively felt let down by the fact this age old craft with prestigious history was actually compared to some insignificant run-of-the-mill products. I guess I just simply wanted this tiny book, whether or not it was done by the master or the amateur, to be with someone who could appreciate this craft that I love and respect.

NOTE: This man was very nice, polite and amicable. This whole thing has nothing to do with his character.

UPDATE: 10/23/2013
**This miniature blank book has a new home!**

One of my binder friends through my blog told me she really liked it. So, I'm sending it to her. It'll be flying over the Pacific Ocean tonight~~. :-)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A few bad apples ...

A regular client of ours, Easton Books from Mount Vernon, WA, dropped off a 9 volume set of The Writings of Thomas Jefferson awhile back, asking us to repair rat damage on the spines of two volumes, and a brand new facsimile binding for one volume. If you are a book restorer, you know inquiries like that, wherein every volume except for one or two is in perfect condition, so as to restore only the few damaged ones without making them look out of place amongst the set. Yeah, you know, The Bad Apple restoration. It's actulally a very tricky thing to do, to say the least. Especially, these particular bad apples were difficult, mainly because of the kind of leather I'd have to imitate and seriously heavy molding on one volume, which has infected all the way through to the middle of the book. Naughty, absolutely naughty. So, I had been putting this work aside, and letting myself wait till I felt "right" and mentally ready to tackle it. But, about a week ago, the client called and asked us to finish it up because they wanted to take the set to the annual Antiquarian Book Fair.

So, here they are. I finished them last night, at last. I did all my best to make them look as invisible as possible and naturally blended in among the other volumes. I hope the client approves my work.. and hopefully it'd find a new home during the book fair. **

This is  The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited by Henry A. Washington, published by J. C. Ricker, Taylor & Maury in 1856.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sophocles : Oedipus Coloneus, 1885

We've had an unusually dry, spectacular summer this year, but it looks like the rain is catching up with our luck. An introvert like me wouldn't mind a gloomy rain, in fact, I'd rather prefer it to a persistent glare of sunshine. But, it appears that all the debt of rain have concentrated in the last few days and it's been pouring like a crazy river with a strong gust that resulted in flood and fallen trees in some parts of our state. I heard there was a tornado here today as well... Tornado!? It normally doesn't happen here. I hope no one got hurt... What an insane weather it's been, though... So, I've been leaving all the craziness outside and cocooning myself with a calmness of dusty old books in this century old basement.

This book I chose to work on came in several months ago and has been on top of our backlog list for quite sometime. So I have been fully aware of this book, - not that I had forgotten about it or anything. What the client asked us to do is to create a brand new leather spine with facsimile gold tooling, as the condition of the original spine leather was deteriorating to the point when it was touched, it fell apart. The reason why I have been putting this book aside until now was because I wasn't one hundred percent sure how to deal with the former restoration. As you see, it had been rebacked and hinged previously with the original spine leather glued back on. For some reason, I just couldn't decide whether to leave parts of the visually obvious previous restoration as is and restore the book accordingly, or rid all of it in order to set the base to a default so that I could make my restoration work seamless and wouldn't look obvious. Anyway, I chose the latter because it's the right thing to do despite of the difficulty of matching the leather perfectly to the pasta espaƱola. I had series of tools that were pretty similar to the original, so everything went smoothly after having made up my mind about the direction. (The removing and cleaning of the previous restoration of superficial internal cloth hinges was nasty though..)

This is Sophocles, the plays and fragments, Part II. Oedipus Coloneus, by Richard C. Jebb, published by Cambridge University Press. (London, 1885) The restoration involved a rehinge with custom-dyed leather, facsimile gold tooling, internal cloth hinges and restoration on the edges and corners.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cruise of the USS Dolphin, 1831

One of our returning clients dropped off this book last December and asked us to create a brand new leather binding with a custom design on its cover. Master had been holding this work for several months due to his preoccupation, but decided to entrust me with it back in June-July. When it comes to custom designs, most of our clients already have particular and clear designs they want, so all we have to do is to simply "materialize" it for them. But this work was different. The client had very vague ideas as to how he wanted it to look; however, he was certain that he wanted the design to be very simple and somewhat abstract. - Art Deco-like, yet to represent the subject of this book in some way. (like using a harpoon, whale, ship and ocean the basis of the design.) Humm... you see, it took me a while to get myself into his mind and precisely come up with the design that he had envisioned. I was so relieved that he liked the design I submitted very much. (whew!) As much as I admire old fashioned Rococo-Victorian designs in binding as a binder, I also adore Art Deco. So, it was actually fun to brain storm in sketches and visualize his wish. He won't be able to pick up this book until December, but because it turned out to be exactly the same as the design that I showed him in graphic, I think he'll like it. One thing I kinda regret is that I didn't use a smaller wheel for the curved lines, so the lines became a bit inconsistent. But hey, they are supposed to be waves, so shouldn't slight wobble be alright ?!? :-p
UPDATE 11/02/2013 : The client later requested for a custom slipcase with a matching marble inner liner, so I just added the picture above.
This is Journal of a Cruise of the United States Schooner Dolphin, by Hiram Paulding, published by G. & C. & H. Carvill. (New York, 1831.) The restoration / rebinding involved a complete resewing, recreation of a frontispiece map, a sewn upper headband and a new full leather binding with French curl marble endpapers and a gold tooling of the custom design.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Innocents Abroad, 1869

It's rather embarrassing to say, but I've never read The Innocents Abroad, Twain's most popular work, featuring the narrative of his travels in Europe. I'd certainly enjoy his humorous cynicism and ironical observation of the unjust contradictions that the righteous would proudly justify, and his timeless critique of the all-too-human society. But I haven't read it. I feel like an illiterate fool. If the client of this book was reading this, he'd certainly be disappointed!

And boy, was I disappointed in the previous restorer of this book. I put the pictures up here, so I don't think I need to point out what I don't like about it in detail, but the strange and sloppy patch-up job on all four corners and the hinge with an unmatched material which needlessly got broken prematurely made me let out a big sigh for sure. Depressing as hell. Anyhow, I re-did what was supposed to be done in the first freaking place, but there are always some sort of problems when it comes to fixing someone else's job, that makes my job imperfect, which pisses me off big time. And the crap he/she left underneath had to stay forever. Don't I just loath it.

Anyway, as you can sense from my whiny rant above, I'm not in a cheery mood lately. Sorry about that. It's just that I'm under pressure and stress that I thought I should let it out a bit.. sigh..