Dec 202015
 
The book I made in the workshop.

The book I made in the workshop.

I like Drum Leaf and similar types of bindings. I’ve read as much as I could find about making them, and I’ve seen a video of Tim Ely making one, but mine sometimes have bumps where I don’t want them and other unintentional features that displease me. When I saw that John DeMerritt was going to be teaching a Drum Leaf workshop the week I was going to be at the San Francisco Center for the Book anyway, I jumped at the chance.

John turned out to be funny and nice, and made the class a delight. By this day, I was so tired I glued some of the wrong pages together and even managed to … ugh … slice a finger and drip on my book. Fortunately, it was on the end page and was not going to be visible once the book was finished. But my classmates were going to see it. I was embarrassed. But John turned this into a light-hearted moment too. (Among other things, he told us he used to have a sign in his bindery that advised, “Don’t bleed on the work.”)

It was such an educational class. There were a few times when John would show us something or share a tip, and that one thing alone was, to me, worth the tuition in itself.

We made the spines out of Cave paper. John had us pare the paper along the sides, using our scalpels and sanding blocks. I must say, it had never occurred to me to pare paper before. He also taught us a handy trick for turning-in the cover papers over the board edges using a little squeegee tool, which creates a neater edge when gluing.

We also were given nice materials — aside from the Cave paper, we also got handmade Saint-Armand papers for the covers, and enough materials to make two books. Yum.

There are piano hinges in front of the wing that open out to reveal much more inside.

There are piano hinges in front of the wing that open out to reveal much more inside.

Immediately after the workshop, Paul Johnson was back to give a talk about his work. He showed us his amazing, big and long accordion-style sketchbook, which he invited people to spread out around the room (alas, I didn’t get any photos of it). He talked about his father, who’d been a talented amateur artist, and showed us slides of some of his father’s drawings. He talked about his own work and about how the environment in which he’d grown up — in the shadow of the nearby cathedral — had influenced his work throughout life. Afterwards, we were invited to go up to a display of his magnificent sculptural books. I did get a few snaps of these, but they barely convey the complexity and size of his wild, multi-layered creations (for one thing, most were so big when opened out that it was impossible to get more than detail shots in that crowded space). I noticed later, after downloading the pictures, the childlike looks of wonder and joy in the faces of my fellow adult attendees as they circled the display. As I say, the photos don’t do them justice.

Close-up of one of Paul Johnson's Books

Noah's ark (opened)

Noah’s Ark, unfolded.

Close-up of Noah's Ark

Close-up of Noah’s Ark.

PS: Twenty years ago, John DeMerritt and Dominic Riley made a video about the history of bookbinding that was shown on San Francisco’s Public Broadcasting Station. I thought I’d post a link in case you haven’t seen it. It’s a half-hour long, but is much fun. Around the six minute mark they transition into historical costume…

 

 

Dec 262014
 

Front Row: The Art of Book Cover Design

BBC Radio 4’s Front Row just had a half-hour program “The Art of Book Cover Design.” I suspect many of you will find it as interesting as I did. From the official description:

John Wilson explores the art of book cover design and meets artist Suzanne Dean, who has been responsible for more Booker-winning covers than any other designer. Writers Ian McEwan, Tom McCarthy and Audrey Niffenegger discuss the art that represents their words and Telegraph books editor Gaby Wood provides a reader’s perspective on what makes a book stand out in a bookshop. As more of us than ever read books on e-readers, is beautiful design the key to the survival of the physical book?

Follow the link above to listen on their website.

Oct 032014
 

Thanks everyone for your kind support during my last and latest IT crisis. Much appreciated. It’s fixed now. I tried to thank my web host, InMotion Hosting, for finally figuring it out. Alas, the last message I sent them bounced back to me. From what I could tell, their own server (or spam program) thought their own address was spam. Hmm…

And good luck to those of you still suffering from the update to WordPress 4.0. I know I wasn’t the only one. I wish I knew what my web host did to fix it, but it’s honestly incomprehensible to me. Sigh…

At any rate, I’ve started to collect new materials to make pages for my next sketchbook/plaything. As part of that, I’ve been browsing some favorite online places for high-quality, public domain printable stuff. These are listed under “Free Picture Resources” on my links page, but I thought I’d explain a little.

You'll be busy for a while…

The Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr account will keep you very busy if you like vintage images of nature and the physical world. All of their images are provided under under a Creative Commons license. I find that I usually need to touch them up in Lightroom/Photoshop to make them more to my liking, but you could probably also just download and print if you don’t care as much about such things. If nothing else, it’s a great visual reference resource.

Speaking of downloading, it came to my attention recently that not everyone I know is familiar with how to download images from Flickr (on accounts that allow it). It can vary by browser, but I think with most current and supported browsers, it now works like this:

 Click the arrow symbol on the bottom right:

Click here

This will make a little menu appear…

Click here next

Almost always, choosing “original size” will ensure the highest quality for printing. You can always shrink it down later. Click on that, and the picture will be downloaded to your computer.

Another fun browse is brought to us by a professor of the History of the Book at the University of Amsterdam. This account, found at http://www.flickr.com/bookhistorian is filled with detailed scans of fancy initials, ornaments and fragments from manuscripts.

History of the Book on Flickr

Of course, there are plenty of other Creative Commons resources on Flickr and the wider web. Photos from the US government, for instance, are generally not under copyright. So… looking for a nice NASA space image or something from the Library of Congress? You might want to start here.

And, thanks to Amy, I recently discovered some terrific, high-quality maps (among other things) at The Old Design Shop. It is claimed that all of the images here are in the public domain. These are, in my so-far limited experience, unusually excellent quality and ready to print without any digital fussing. I printed out some maps on plain Strathmore 400 Drawing paper and they look great.

Another site popular around the web is The Graphics Fairy, which leans heavily toward Victorian and Edwardian-style imagery.

What favorite sources for printable public domain imagery have you found?

Feb 192013
 

The Miniature Book Society’s news page has a couple of links to videos of miniature movable books that dates from their Conclave last year in 2012 . I especially liked this one by Larry Seidman showcasing views of modern miniature artists’ books. Alas, it doesn’t say which book is whose, nor are all of the artists listed, which can be a bit frustrating. Even so, you’ll want to have a cup of tea in hand and settle in. You’ll be glad for the 11:31 minute break. Trust me.

May 102012
 

I came across this rather nice slide show featuring a selection of Mary Delany’s flower collages, with appropriate soundtrack. After clicking the play arrow, be sure to enlarge it to full-screen view (middle button on the bottom right). Keep in mind, it’s all cut paper.

I’ve written before about my Mary Delany fascination. She has her own separate entry if you scroll through “Categories” on the right, or go here and then scroll down.

Mary Delany’s Flowers

The person who put it together is identified only as Debra (thank you, Debra.).
If you like these, there are more images of Mary Delany’s work at the British Museum’s website.
Apr 222012
 

Everyone knows that white cotton gloves should be worn when handling precious books and manuscripts, right? Well, it turns out that the need for white gloves is just as based in fact as all those Eskimo words for snow you’ve been told about. The British Museum, for instance, does not want you to wear white cotton gloves when you are handling most of the items in their collections. I know this from personal experience. When I spent time in their Prints and Drawings Students’ Room some years ago, I was not made to wear gloves, and, in fact, they were not offered. I’ve always been curious about that. And now I know why. It turns out that materials are more likely to be damaged if you are wearing gloves. Awkward cotton gloves reduce dexterity and make you clumsier. The risk from bare skin against precious items is overblown. Clean hands are preferable.

From the British Library's Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog.

According to a 2005 article by Cathleen Baker and Randy Silverman, Misperceptions about White Gloves, in International Preservation News:

…it appears that cotton glove-use spread to the rare book and archives reading room only in the last decade of the twentieth century, suggesting this practice is less than 20 years old. This development was probably driven by the good intentions of some curators with ready access to archival supply catalogues in which vendors have increasingly represented glove-use as a standard component of library and archival practice. Yet, while many curators remain convinced of the efficacy of glove-use for patrons in reading rooms, others do not…

In other words, it’s mostly marketing. I love it when accepted wisdom gets turned on its head.

Mar 032012
 

I suspect this won’t be available past this week, but I wanted to mention a BBC Radio 4 program called The Stationery Cupboard. It’s about why people have such a deep attachment to stationery and office supplies. I thought my fellow paper fetishists would enjoy listening to it as much as I have. It’s a half hour long. [Update: as of May, it’s still available.]

From BBC Radio 4

Jan 032012
 

An overall view of the paper copy of the Gutenberg Bible held at the British Library. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018wy46

This week Melvyn Bragg is having a special series on BBC Radio 4 about the development of the written word and how it has shaped our intellectual history. Each episode looks interesting, but the second episode especially so:

In the second instalment of his survey of the written word, Melvyn Bragg traces the evolution of writing technology from the time of classical antiquity to the invention of printing. He discovers the origins of the book, and encounters the earliest surviving intact example in the Western world.

The entire episode, along with other installments from the series, can be listened to online. I haven’t had a chance yet to hear it myself, but it was highly recommended to me. I wanted to pass along the recommendation. [Update: I finally had a listen. It’s good!]