Introducing: The Beachey Folder*

Even though as of yet I’m not quite equipped enough to work on books in my new home studio (I am (this) close!), I have been steadily making tools for bookbinding to take on the road with Jim Croft next month (more on that later). In particular I’ve been experimenting with riveting wooden handles on bone, and I think I’ve finally come up with something good.

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The Beachey Folder. Measures 14.0 L x 2.5 W x 1.6 H cm

I based the design and name off of some paring knives I’ve seen made by an obscure late 20th/early 21st century New York-based bookbinder, independent book conservator, and toolmaker.* The handle is hickory, with epoxy and brass rivets fixing it steadfastly to the tool stock (elk leg bone).

Beachey3The sturdiness and flexibility of the bone, ergonomic handle and 13 degree bevel angle all make it ideal for various lifting and scraping operations. Already I’ve used it to scrape a sale sticker off a desk lamp! I anticipate a revolution in the bone tool business very soon…

*****Please read the disclaimer below before you find something more interesting to look at!*****

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*DISCLAIMER: I make no claims to the design of this tool. It is more or less a direct model of Jeff Peachey’s (who is not particularly obscure in the book world) paring knives, which are the best on the market and worth every dime, incomparable in function and beauty. Though I was pleasantly surprised by this tool’s comfort and function, I primarily made the Beachey Folder and its companion blog post as an idle exercise in fun.

Home, Sweet Home (Studio)

It has been almost two months since my last post, and a significant portion of that is a result of my recent relocation to Bloomington, Indiana, where I have happily followed my wife as she pursues a new educational opportunity. It turns out that orienting a replacement, ditching most of your possessions, moving to your in-law’s for a week, driving several states, and starting a new life are not too conducive to book-themed blog posting regularity. That being said, those combined experiences are very exhilarating, especially when you get your own studio out of the ordeal. Here is a picture of cette studio, as it currently stands. Thanks Ikea!

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From left to right: flat files and a little solid wood work surface, Francesca (see below), and a little Ikea drawer shelf thing and kitchen island  – a nice feature of which is the long semi-hidden shelves in the back which I will be using for rolls of leather, cloth, paper, mylar, etc.

Already since this picture was taken I’ve acquired a few more small ceramic crocks to hold my brushes and other small tools, cut and sanded some birch pressboards, and I’ve even gone so far as to order some stock supplies for when the commissions and orders start pouring in (a joke). But still, my pride and joy is Francesca, my little boardshear/lying press combo who actually made the move with me from Charleston.

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Here stands Francesca, in all her radiance. Oh la la!

For such a tight little space I was really delighted to see how it all came together, from the abundant natural light right down to the lifting caster wheels I installed on Francesca so I can scoot her out at the beginning of the day. I also have an alternative workspace/tool and stock nook at the end of the hallway that is impossible to photograph, so you’ll just have to trust me.

This kind of space economy is crucial in a small studio, especially when your studio is the majority of your modestly-sized-at-best apartment living room. To give you some scale, the rug in the photo only measures about 6×8 feet (also a joke – that rug is ENORMOUS).

And for the record, I haven’t been entirely idle in my online posting – last month I was really excited to contribute to the intrepid Erin Fletcher’s Swell Things page on her website (which, with or without my contribution, is a great read every time). Here is a little teaser compilation image from the post, just to wet your palette. I love how she formats these things.

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Images from the second half of the post. Now you have to check it out, right?

Happy Fourth of July; I’m on Instagram Now!

Hey everyone! A few days ago I decided to take the plunge and join some form of social media. Why? I’m still not sure. But I did it. So, if any of you who are following me on this humble WordPress site are interested in seeing a combination of works in progress, new bindings, quirky historic books that don’t quite deserve a full post, and the occasional picture of my dog, feel free to follow me @bhbeidler. Below is just a taste of what the Gram can offer:

InstaPallet

Simple decorative pallet for gold tooling book spines, with highlights of the process along the bottom.

Happy Birthday America!

Book Curses: Implicit and Explicit

In case your not familiar with them, book curses* are my favorite and perhaps the only non-physical way outside of basic human decency to protect your books from theft. I’ve recently acquired (through honest means) two books** that employ book curses, one blatant but rife with grammatical complications, and the other a bit more subtle but all the more menacing:

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My as-is transcription: “Dont Steel This Book My Onest Frends for fear the gals Will be En(?)d”  – ‘gals’ I think is short for gallows, though originally I thought it was ‘gods’ – see below.

and

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I had a really hard time transcribing the first and more overt of the two, but I believe it to be poorly spelled and abbreviated variation of the somewhat popular medieval book curse:

Steal not this book my honest friend

For fear the gallows should be your end,

And when you die the Lord will say

And where’s the book you stole away?[1]

The second of the two, though more of a borrowing limit than a curse, by employing a patchwork of bible verses at the very least hints at an unspoken ‘OR ELSE’  should the borrower not respect the heaven-ordained limit.

So, if you’re feeling adventurous, just let me know and I can lend it to you for 15 days and we’ll see what happens.

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[1] Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 41.

*Here’s a nice article article I dug up that discusses book curses: https://medievalbooks.nl/2015/07/10/chain-chest-curse-combating-book-theft-in-medieval-times/

**Also, my two books containing the above-mentioned curses, in order of their photographs:

J. N. Select Lessons in Prose and Verse, from Various Authors, Designed for the Improvement of Youth. 11th ed. London: Howard & Evans, 1807. Print.

Hort, W. Jillard. The New Pantheon or an Introduction to the Mythology of the Ancients for the Use of Young Persons to Which Are Added an Accentuated Index. London: Longmans, Green, 1867. Print.

Early Bookbinding in Charleston

Sometime last fall, the Library Society’s Curator and Historian Debbie Fenn showed me a letter from October of 1960 written by Hannah French and addressed to Virginia Rugheimer, then a librarian at the Library Society. In her letter, Hannah requested information ‘concerning binders at work in Charleston up to the year 1820,’* with the intent of eventually including this information in her 1986 publication Bookbinding in Early America (this is confirmed in a letter from 1976 that Debbie came across about a month ago).  From what I’ve been able to gather, and from the fact that no Charleston binders are featured in her book, Hannah’s inquiries did not result in anything substantial enough to include.

Inspired by this correspondence, and the fact that the Charleston Library Society is the second oldest circulating library in the country with some decent colonial holdings (it’s not all the Civil War here), sometime last fall I began searching through our card catalog for early South Carolina imprints in the hopes of digging up some early South Carolina bindings. Well, needless to say things got off to a promising start, with a ticketed binding[1]:

And on the inside of the front cover, a glorious, though far from golden, binder’s ticket:

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Ticket Measures 6.7(W) x 4.6 (H) cm

Despite its significance as one of the only pre-1800 ticketed Charleston bindings currently known, and the fact that the ticket even tells us where David Bailey is originally from, there are so many things I love about this binding. Here is a short list:

  1. As the identity of the binder is made plain, many of the structural and decorative elements of the binding provide a baseline that will hopefully allow me (or other researchers) to identify other Bailey bindings.
  2. The funky bubble-feather helix roll used to tool the panels on the front and back cover. Who came up with that design?
  3. The little ‘palmetto tool’ impression on the spine, which served as the inspiration for this year’s Standards of Excellence Seminar logo.

This book, along with the short but steadily growing list of other pre-1820 Charleston bindings I’ve located thus far, will be featured in an article on early bookbinding in Charleston that I’m working on for a future volume of Suave Mechanicals (If you haven’t already checked them out, the first and second volumes, along with pretty much everything the Legacy Press publishes, are incredible). I’m sure I’ll be posting a lot more about this project as it progresses – apologies in advance!

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*1820, though seemingly an arbitrary cutoff, represents the a huge nail in the coffin of the small craft binderies in the days of yore where every step of the process was done by hand, because shortly thereafter in 1827 William Burn invented the first true machine used in bookbinding: the rolling press. Over the next 80 years or so following this invention, virtually every aspect of bookbinding was mechanized and the once-small workshops replaced by large-scale factories.

[1] Mills, Thomas. A Compendium of Latin Grammar. Charleston: Timothy & Mason, 1795. Print.

GBW Standards Registration Now Open!

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As of May 1st, registration for the Guild of Book Workers’ annual Standards of Excellence Seminar, to take place September 15-17, is officially open. I am particularly excited because it is to take place in my home town of Charleston, South Carolina, and I am the Local Host for the event. Aside from an all-star list of presenters, there is also a great assortment of vendors and a Mentor-Mentee Happy Hour to help facilitate meaningful relationships between some of the top practitioners and those just entering the field. If you can swing it, I really hope to see you there!

Also, in case you are wondering, the inspiration for the logo (pictured above) came from a tool used on a 1795 Charleston binding, which is unique because it also happens to be the only pre-1820 ticketed Charleston binding I’ve come across so far (and believe me, I’ve been searching). I like the tool because it looks like a abstracted hybrid of a Palmetto tree, fountain, and pineapple, all of which are quintessential icons of Charleston. Here is a picture of it on the original binding:PalmettoTool (1)