Sunday, March 24, 2013

Le Cuisinier Royal, (1834~1835?)

If I look back at my life, though I'm not trying to be an arrogant snob here, I must say that I seem to have been good at most everything that I put my hands on. (except for physical things. I had a severe asthma. An excuse?.. probably.) I’ve never quite have been the best, unfortunately, but always excelled well beyond the standard. Good consistent grades at school, enough musical skills to get into competitions, natural ability to draw, paint, sculpt and build anything without much instruction, and I even was good at singing and acting. But there is one thing that I never can get my head around, - cooking. I suck at it. I totally, unequivocally suck at it. I have over a dozen cookbooks of various kind at home, giving me an illusion that I'd someday be a master of cooking, which never happened and never will. I'm just not a natural born cook. My taste buds must be 50% less than normal human beings', but I don't know what tastes good, first of all. If someone put dog food on a plate, nicely garnished like a fine dining meal, I'd say, "um, Most Delicious!" and would mean it, like an idiot. Secondly, I'm not a multi-tasker. I burn things because of it, and I hope my landlord isn't reading this. Thirdly, my head starts spinning with all those alien ingredients when reading cookbooks that I obsessively collect and ambivalently neglect. This is why I worship chefs. Chefs, who can do something that I can never do.

Recently, my master told me to talk to one of our clients in person, who's left us with several, old books on french cuisine. Master's schedule has been so up-to-neck that he decided to forward her books to me. She turned out to be a professional chef, (Ah! the Goddess!) and does actually use these books instead of just collecting them. This reminded me of one of Chef Heston Blumenthal's TV shows wherein he recreates ancient cuisines with his eccentric twists based on old manuscripts. (Yes, I'm into all those cooking TV shows. Also, I must confess, I have a secret crush on Chef Ramsay. ** I mean, British version of Chef Ramsay... He seems to be more "humane" in his native land..) I know firsthand that you have to go back to the roots if you want the excellence in any arts. And remember, just like what Chef Blumenthal does, old can be new!

Anyway, this is one of her books, Le Cuisinier Royal. It doesn't have a title page, so I don't know exactly which edition it is. But based on the "recycled" paper that was used for the spine reinforcement, it must have been published in 1834~1835? (As you probably know, we bookbinders don't throw away printer's overruns and mistakes. See the picture on the right.) This book needed a re-hinge, and internal cloth hinges to preserve the marble endpapers. Also, as the corners were so worn that I suggested to do a set of leather corners instead of just reinforcing them with glue. (Someone tried to patch-up the corners with green tapes, so it wasn't a good idea anyway, to keep them as they were.) One tricky thing was to match the exact color and texture of the new corner leather to the original spine leather. They had to perfectly match, or the new corners would look out of place. I think it turned out to be as if it were originally bound with corners. Whew!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dedication of My Subscriber

One of my dear YouTube subscribers, Ernesto from Mexico sent me some pictures of his binding work and a sewing frame he's built by himself. What  dedication! A sewing frame is very simple in construction, but costs a lot if you try to purchase it commercially. So, I'm glad to see that someone is dedicated enough to have built it from scratch! You can do it, too, my dear subscribers! One of the troubles you might face when building a sewing frame is the threaded wood that requires a threader to make. So, like he did, you can use commercially available threaded metal rods with wing nut screws. He also sent me a picture of his laptop showing my YouTube video. Wow, ... I know there are thousands of people from around the world watching and trying out what I've shown on my videos, but seeing it firsthand is rather emotional. It's a pleasantly strange feeling, to be honest. Thanks Ernesto for taking time to send me these wonderful pictures! You've made my day. *NOTE* Pictures are shown here with his permission.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Holy Bible by Collins' Clear-type Press, 1950

There's a time when something clicks in my head, out of blue, like lightening and triggers a strong urge to restore only the same category of books. It could be cookbook or dictionaries or, of course, Bibles. The strange "impulse" happened little over a week ago when I had a sip of my master's cabernet sauvignon that I secretly poured for myself without telling him. - The Wine Thief!!. Might have been the idea of the sin, but I put the glass down, approached gingerly to the "backlog shelves", and started digging out only the humble and ordinary, black yapp personal Bibles to work on. (Like the one on the right and left.) Ah, the wine thief! Repent Thyself! <---- must have been a message from above! These personal Bibles can be tedious to restore because they tend to be so worn out due to the heavy use, yet the restoration task is always very mundane - nothing fancy or challenging, to say the least. Maybe that's why I found a good number of them. Not intentional, but I guess we've unconsciously avoided mundane works.. (Human, all too human...) So, for the last week or so, with a feeling of guilt, I've been working on those poor (neglected!?!) Bibles. After hours and hours of ironing the crumbled pages and repairing torn paper, I've completed a hand full of those Bibles. (At one point, I got confused as to which Bible was whose, because they all look similar.... ) No sooner did I feel that I was basically done with the "humble, ordinary, black yapp personal Bibles" than I found a tiny shiny Bible on my work bench, marked "Urgent". That's this pretty Bible here. At last, something with a *Bling* to work on! This is The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments by Collins' Clear-Type Press. (1950) Miniture, vigesimo-quarto Holy Bible by Collins' Clear-Type Press normally have wood boards as a cover, but this one has seashell-like material in mosaic. I've worked on this particular version of Collins' Clear-Type Press vigesimo-quarto a decade ago, and I remember it was missing a couple of mosaic pieces. This one, however is complete. Very beautiful. The restoration for this Bible was to do a facsimile leather spine, replacement of endsheets, and restoration on the original ribbon. Very simple job on an eye-candy binding. - Exactly what I needed after a week of repentance!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Britannia Depicta, 1736

I love maps and atlases in general. I like looking at them, pondering and dreaming about the world I haven't visited. But old maps and atlases are the most fascinating to me. You can see the parts of the world that didn't exist or weren't discovered yet when the map was manufactured, or no longer exist today. I wish I had a really old antique globe at home!

We often get antiquarian map books here, but I'd say this one is one of my favorites and the most intriguing of all. It's  Britannia Depicta or Ogilby Improv'd, printed & sold by Thos. Bowles. (The Fourth Edition, 1736) This is one of the first pocket maps of Britain, and shows roads and landmarks in compartmentalized beautiful woodcut vertical maps, along with a description of each city. I just finished restoring this volume, and finally got a chance to take a good look inside. What a gem of a book!

The client did not want me to perform anything beyond the front cover rehinging, reconstruction of the top & bottom of the spine, and a simple glue reinforcement on the worn out corners. So, as for the restoration, it wasn't so labor intensive. One unconventional restoration method used for this book is the rehinging. This is a medieval binding wherein the spine is directly glued onto the spine of the book. So the spine couldn't be lifted or the leather would fall apart if attempted. In a case like this, one of the ways to preserve the original spine while reattaching the cover to it, is to rehinge, partially superficially. The new leather is glued underneath the original leather of the cover, but the extending new leather is glued over, not underneath, the spine slightly without covering any of the gold tooling. It has to be perfectly blended to the texture of the surrounding original leather. This type of rehinging has to be done with the most care because it's not as strong as a conventional rehinging. 

I hope the client likes my work. He's a regular client of ours, so I don't want to disappoint him!