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Bookplates or book labels?

There are many examples of ornate and beautifully engraved bookplates. Collectors covet those engraved by Paul Revere or other prominent designers. But there are also those plates that are actually better described as book labels, since they are set up or designed by the printer. Here are a few examples, ranging from 18th Century to late 19th Century.

Most of these are letterpress labels, with designs built up with lines, dingbats, decorations, and type. A few are engraved.

dingbat label

Categories: 18th Century, 19th Century, Binder's Tickets, Book labels, Bookplates, Uncategorized.

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19th Century velvet photo albums.

When I started bookbinding, I didn’t go into it thinking, “I want to work with velvet and padded bindings.” Even today I don’t seek out velvet and padded bindings. But an interesting development in the history of bookbinding is represented by exactly those two things. The 19th Century saw much innovation and stretching of the parameters of traditional binding, and with the proliferation of photographs there was an increase in the demand for albums to house them, and producers of albums seemed bent on outdoing each other in extravagance.

The book arts trend in the past few decades in many ways changed how we look at the book. The book as codex, developed centuries ago has remained essentially unchanged. The trend to see the book as an art object really formed and developed throughout the 20th Century when artists and binders began to see the book as more than a codex, and to view it as an art object. Essentially, a codex is a group of leaves joined in some way on one side and bound with a cover material. Material and decoration are peripheral elements, and don’t change the essential nature of the codex. What makes the book not simply a codex is the alteration of the essential structure, beyond the alteration of material and decoration.

Experimentation with book structures, though, began before the wave of book artists in the 20th Century. It was the 19th Century photo album that received this burst of attention, and though many albums were still some variation of the codex, there were also albums which exhibit experimentation where other structures were incorporated into the object, bringing the album outside the confines of the codex to the book as object.

Below are two examples of newly recovered velvet photo albums which incorporate elements beyond the scope of the codex. The first is a swiveling album on a stand where the album swivels up before it can be opened. It’s awkward, because one has to steady the album to view it, as it wants to flop to whichever side is heavier, but it is a wonderful example of innovation, and of designers thinking beyond the codex to to the book as object. The next is an album/music box.

Scroll down the page to see more pictures of these albums as well as picture featuring the swiveling album before during, and after restoration.

19th Century photo album on a swivel stand with decorative bosses.

Freshly restored photo album. Scroll down for before, after, and process pictures.

music box photo album.

Here is a music box photo album with a clasp that has a spring inside of it to keep it tight on the hook. Newly covered in velveteen and antique decorated printed paper.

music box interior

The musical element is mounted inside the box, and the album pages lift up as if away from the back cover.

damaged velvet photo album with disintegrated velvet

The wear and tear of the years is evident in this photo of the album as it came into the bindery. The velvet had virtually all disintegrated, and the covers were falling apart.

clips on swivel bracket

A view of the swivel bracket onto which the rear board of the album is mounted with clips. Happily all this was present.

victorian album parts

The album is completely disassembled and all the individual parts are repaired.

victorian album parts

The base is cleaned and recovering begins with fresh velvet.

19th century photo album stand

The completed base.

book clasp being attached to velvet album

The lower clasp (pictured) was missing from the original. I happened to have on in my “brass parts” drawer that fit. How did that happen!? It was a little rough but it worked.

19th Century victorian velvet photo album with brass decorations

With the clasp attached, the bosses and fake hinge wings are laid in place and ready to be nailed in. The nails are pushed through the cover and bent over before the endpapers are attached.

swivel clip to hold 19th century victorian photo album to swivel rod

The brass swivel clips are set onto the rod. This one stamped with the patent date of July 15, 1890.

19th Century Victorian swivelling album restoration completed

The Album is attached to the clips, and rests on the angled base.

19th Century Victorian velvet photo album on swivel stand

The album as it would sit if one were looking at the photographs.

Categories: 19th Century, Albums, clasps.

Melville’s Clarel matched binding.

Herman Melville's poem Clarel in two volumes. Titling and cover design were digitally copied from the original mismatched bindings. Bound in antique grained cloth with beveled boards.

The original soiled bindings. The two books were married from other sets, so the cloth didn't match.

Categories: Grained cloth.

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Ledger binding. Court records.

Back when binderies were prolifically producing bindings in leather, the springback ledger binding was a common result. With cost cutting and streamlining came less attractive bindings, but sometimes it is necessary to reproduce a good looking ledger binding. Below is an example of original ledger bindings as well as newly produced bindings.

Late 19th Century springback bindings of Police Records. Note the heavy raised bands. These bands are decorative, and serve no function except decoration.

Three bindings to match the style of the period in three-quarter calf and heavy raised bands.

Categories: Uncategorized.

BoxBook for Knox’s Historical Journal, 1769

Here are a few pictures of another historical style BoxBook for John Knox’s An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North-America, for The Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760: Containing The Most Remarkable Occurrences of that Period; particularly The Two Sieges of Quebec, &c. &c., London, W. Johnston, 1769.

General view of the BoxBook. Cherry box, with calf spine and hand marbled paper boards.

Box joints or finger joints add strength and beauty and a classic solid feel to the box. Each box is made to fit so there is little room for "jiggle" inside the box.

When opened, the spine falls away from the box and exposes the books for easy removal. The spine is of a matching cherry wood, lined with felt to protect the books from any offgassing of the wood.

Another view of the books in the box. Hinges are lined with cloth, which add strength and flexibility.

Another view of the books in the box. Magnetic closures can be seen which keep the lid or front cover snug when closed.

The spine is worked up in a simple style of the period in genuine gold, ensuring that the gold will be bright for many years. The hand marbled paper is made by Iris Nevins, and is marlbed in classic 18th Century style.

Categories: 18th Century, BoxBooks, Boxes.

BoxBook; or, a box that acts and looks like a book.

After a two years of designing, developing, and fine tuning a design for a compelling and functional box for books and pamphlets, I’d like to introduce what I call the BoxBook. My goal was to develop a box that I enjoyed making, and which incorporated the best elements of history, craft, and beauty. The box I imagined also needed to be easily opened, and be able to stay closed when moved around.

After making many clamshell boxes, which are perfect where super protection is needed, I realized that the type of protection the clamshell box offers is overkill for the needs of many books. An uncomplicated enclosure, beyond the slipcase (which abrades the book each time it is inserted or taken out) was what I was after.

And to be honest, the multitude of cuts and folds in a cloth clamshell box was driving me mad.

Enter wood. Since wood is acidic and off-gasses harmful chemicals indefinitely, it is generally not recommended for archival storage. Thus measures need to be taken to protect the wood from adversely affecting the enclosed material. All boxes have a polyester sheet lining as well as polyester felt to protect the book from abrasion.

Each box is constructed as a cased-in book might be bound, with boards, a spine and grooved hinge. The box stays shut with strong neodymium magnets, and the wood frame is joined at the corners with strong and attractive box (or finger)  joints. Each frame is hand finished in a ten-step process.

Every box is be designed to fit the historical style of the enclosed item, from early leather bindings to cloth bindings with decorate gold work. Below are a few pictures of an 18th Century style quarter leather box, enclosing The Annual Register, London, Dodsley, 1777.

A quarter calf binding with labels, gold and blind decorations in the style of the period. Tool designs are based on original designs from the 18th Century.

View of Annual Register volume in open box.

Detail of box joint and magnet closure. This frame is made of cherry.

Categories: BoxBooks, Boxes, Uncategorized.

Binding style question.

Is there a standard or accepted name for this type of binding?

Categories: Uncategorized.

Copperplate text

Categories: Uncategorized.

An 18th Century style binding.

Stedman’s History of the American War:

The spine is of hand dyed leather to match the original, and the original designs of the spine were digitally reproduced and dies made. New labels are stamped in genuine gold.

Categories: Uncategorized.

A matched grained cloth binding on Horatio Alger’s Telegraph Boy.

Here is a before and after of Horatio Alger’s The Telegraph Boy from the Tattered Tom series.

A tattered Tattered Tom.

The new binding done in antique grained cloth, and genuine gold stamping.

Categories: 19th Century, Grained cloth.