The Magic of Libraries

“The books in Mo and Meggie’s house were stacked under tables, on chairs, in the corners of the rooms. There where books in the kitchen and books in the lavatory. Books on the TV set and in the closet, small piles of books, tall piles of books, books thick and thin, books old and new. […]

“The books in Mo and Meggie’s house were stacked under tables, on chairs, in the corners of the rooms. There where books in the kitchen and books in the lavatory. Books on the TV set and in the closet, small piles of books, tall piles of books, books thick and thin, books old and new. They welcomed Meggie down to breakfast with invitingly opened pages; they kept boredom at bay when the weather was bad. And sometimes you fall over them.” 
― Cornelia FunkeInkheart

 

As I mentioned in the page describing this blog, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is one of my favorite books. I love everything that it has to say about how books collect memories, how they tell you stories rather than you reading them, and how they have live’s of their own.  I love when Maggie describes Mo as a book doctor rather than a book binder. Mostly though, I love how the characters of Mo and Maggie and their relationship remind me of my dad.

I grew up spending time with my dad in an apartment perhaps not quite as filled with books as the house in Inkheart, but maybe that’s because we tried to keep ours off the floor. But make no mistake, several bookcases lined with two rows of books per shelf sat against the walls (just this December we brought the number up to 13), and we did stack books: on the coffee table, the side table, the table by my dad’s chair, the kitchen table, his desk, the top of bookcases, and even occasionally on the floor. Dad passed that love of the written word onto me and I spent my childhood with my nose in a book. (I regret nothing and I love my glasses.) So when I read Inkheart for the first time I was struck by how much the story resonated with me; a girl and her dad who live in a house more library than house, who love to read, and who go on adventures pertaining to books. It was perfect for the two of us.

The latest reading for the class, The Library at Night by Albert Manguel, made me think of all this when Manguel began recounting all of the various ways he tried to organize his own books and how most private libraries are catalogued in an order that is nonsensical to anyone but the owner of said library. Dad organizes the books in the living room the way most people do I suppose, by author and subject material, but my books are in a slightly more…abstract order. I order my books by feel; that is, I group books by how I feel about them or how I think the books themselves would want to be grouped. For example, even though Legion and The Emperor’s Soul and The Cosmere Collection are both written by Brandon Sanderson, Legion and The Emperor’s Soul hangs out by Among Others by Jo Walton and the Four and Twenty Blackbirds series by Cherie Priest, whereas The Cosmere Collection prefers to make its home on the second shelf next to The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny. There is one bookcase dedicated to books that I are from my younger years as well as a few oddball books that don’t really fit anywhere else. There is one bookshelf dedicated to the small, squat paperbacks so that I have a nice line all the way across the shel, but even these are still ordered by my odd “sixth sense” arrangement. It may be nonsensical, but hey, I know where everything is.

While I know that this class focuses mainly on the physical aspects of the book, I cannot help but connect this to my personal feelings about books which is that they’re living things in a way. The video below is a remarkable little animated film which is another nod to my love of books as living things and also to the entire idea of libraries and what books do for people.

 

Bibliography Research

     For this assignment I decided to turn back to the Nuremberg Chronicles, originally written in Latin by Hartmann Schedele and printed by Anton Koberger in 1493. This work to me was the most interesting from a bibliographical stand point because it is actually a block book. Block books are pages of text and […]

    

For this assignment I decided to turn back to the Nuremberg Chronicles, originally written in Latin by Hartmann Schedele and printed by Anton Koberger in 1493. This work to me was the most interesting from a bibliographical stand point because it is actually a block book. Block books are pages of text and images cut into a wooden block and then transferred onto paper. A single block would be used for an entire page. Generally, and in the case with the Nuremberg Chronicles, two pages were printed on one side of a single sheet of paper. This sheet was then folded in half and the two sides were glued together so that the blank sheets on the inside were joined. In this book there are a total of 1,809 woodcuts from 645 blocks. There are a total of 300 pages in the Nuremberg Chronicles and the thread used to bound the 150 sheets shows an obvious case of stab-stitching. MSU’s copy had been so well preserved by the Moore family that the binding and the original leather cover are still intact. Because most block books are undated, bibliographers compared the books watermarks to that of dated documents and determined that mid-15th century Europe was the prime time for this style of press.

   

Although most of what I learned about block books and woodblock printing was through research, the Nuremberg Chronicles gives a visual and physical example of what I had studied. The deep impressions of the words and images are choppy yet soft, helping me visualize the carved block pressing into the paper like a stamp. The paper appears to be woven because there aren’t any chainlines. Because two blank sides of the pages are glued together, I would assume no one has ever seen them but there is no evidence of any of the pages being detached. There are several beautiful two page spread images, including a two paged map of Europe. Most of the book contains elaborate and colorful half sized images which is typical of woodblock press. The edges were all trimmed and only slightly worn but again, the book was so well preserved that it looks virtually untouched.

Sources:

http://education.asianart.org/explore-resources/background-information/invention-woodblock-printing-tang-618–906-and-song-960–1279

https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?pics=on&sortby=1&tn=Nuremberg%20Chronicle

Assignment #2 – A Book’s Beginnings

It’s week two of our SLOB class, and another trip to the archives was called for. This time, we were on a mission; having covered a brief introduction to bibliography, everyone in the class was asked to identify certain traits of a book’s beginnings and figure out the format in which it was made. With […]

It’s week two of our SLOB class, and another trip to the archives was called for. This time, we were on a mission; having covered a brief introduction to bibliography, everyone in the class was asked to identify certain traits of a book’s beginnings and figure out the format in which it was made. With that goal in mind, my partner Mary Haynes and I each grabbed a book and went to work.

I decided to use the oldest book in the Montevallo archives, which we identified last week: The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis, 3rd ed. with sculptures. Published 1702.

 

Binding

This book was rebound by C.F. Rothweiler Bookbinding in Zion, Illinois, but the original binding can be seen attached to the new binding. Also, when rebound they cut out the title from the original binding and glued it onto the new spine.

Original Title Binding

Because they simply covered the old binding, there was no effect on the page margins. Although it is unfortunate that the original binding fell apart, because it happened I was able to clearly see the 5 stitch bindings. Another interesting thing about the binding was how it was falling apart. Upon further inspection is appeared to have split in three even sections, but there was evidence of smaller spitting happening as well. Mary Haynes and I came to the conclusion that this book was probably bound in smaller sections that were put into three bigger sections, and then finally bound together as a whole.

Original and New Binding

Paper

Right off the bat knew that the paper is laid, not wove. We can tell because of the visible chainlines, mostly horizontal but on pages with images the vertical wires can be seen as well. All of the pages are opened and are trimmed. I could not find a watermark despite looking for quite a while.

Horizontal Chainlines

Vertical Chainlines

Signatures?

This is where, in my opinion, things got interesting. There were signatures at the bottom of the pages in groups of four. They were denoted by letters of the alphabet, starting with A, and continued until they had to start over with Aa. The interesting part about it was that the signatures were four on, four off. As you can see in the pictures, the pages followed an A1, A2, A3, A4 pattern but then followed by 4 pages without a signature.

Example of Signature

 

Format

Based on the evidence we found (and a little origami on my part), I’ve come to the conclusion that this book was created using an octavo format. The biggest indicator of this was the signatures and their sets of four. Assuming they used them as a way to make sure the pages were in order when folding, it is safe to also assume that each new set of signatures means a new set of pages. If this is the case, that means there would be 8 leaves and 16 pages, hence, octavo.

 

Illustrations?

There were full page illustrations, generally with a black page on the opposing side. Because of that, I assume that the illustrations were printed separately and then bound together with the rest of the pages, but I did not see any glaring evidence of that so I may be wrong. Unfortunately, it slipped my mind to snap a picture of a whole illustration, but in this picture you can see part of one next to title page.

Illustration on Right

Extras

What caught my attention the most from examining the book was the way the typesetting worked. The first thing I noticed was actually a misprint in one of the signature series, as you can see in the pictures below.

Misprint Signatures

After that I started looking for mistakes, but then stumbled upon something much more telling of the handmade nature of the book. Apparently when a page used too much of a single letter and the printer would run out, they would substitute other letters to make it work, usually with W’s and V’s as you can also see in the pictures.

Ran Out of W’s

Out of everything I found, I think my favorite was something that apparently was a product of the time this book was written. You see, Mary Haynes and I kept finding all of these works with seemingly random f’s where one would assume s’s would go. Having no idea what this could mean, we asked the archivist and discovered that back then, the f indicated a long s as opposed to a short s sound.

F is Now S

 

Overall, this visit was super cool and involved a lot of discovery. I had no idea that the structure of a book could be so fascinating, and I have a feeling I will never look at book bindings the same again. (Nor will my friends, because I’m a sharer when it comes to things like this.)

book body language

On Wednesday, January 25th, Savannah Willard and I paid another visit to the archives of the University of Montevallo. During the bulk of today’s meeting, Mr. Carey Heatherly was in a meeting, so I got to go in and pull the books for Savannah and I to observe and interact with for this assignment. The […]

On Wednesday, January 25th, Savannah Willard and I paid another visit to the archives of the University of Montevallo. During the bulk of today’s meeting, Mr. Carey Heatherly was in a meeting, so I got to go in and pull the books for Savannah and I to observe and interact with for this assignment.

The book that I had the pleasure of looking at was Fables by John Gay, Volume 2, 4th edition. It was published in London in 1746, still in its original leather binding. On the spine, the whip stitching was visible. It was bound together with five whip stitches. The book was in relatively good condition, only the corners of the covers having worn through the leather over time. None of the pages were falling out, and it felt stable as I opened it.

 

The paper was without a doubt laid paper. Chainlines running horizontally were visible throughout the entire book, and on the first one or two pages on either cover you could also see them running vertically. The pages were high quality, neatly trimmed and all of them opened. I could not find any evidence of a watermark, unfortunately.

There were several signatures on the bases of pages. They started at B, and would go in a pattern of letter, letter 2, letter 3, letter 4 (for example: B, B2, B3, B4) on the right hand page for four consecutive pages. They would then be followed by four pages without signatures. Only pages that had text would have signatures There were also images in the book, but they were printed on slightly thicker paper and never had signatures nor print on both sides. They also were not inserted at regular intervals into the book, leading me to believe that they were added to the pages later, after the text content had been folded and arranged. The images coordinated to the fables, and probably had to be inserted afterwards in order to align with the correct fable. When one removed the image pages from the equation, the signatures started every eight pages, except for the last two sets, which were four and two pages respectively.

The typeset of this book had been punched in very firmly. Every single page was ridged with the letters that were on the other side, though I caught very few distortions of ink.  There is a crest on the title page of the book that had been obviously pressed in after the other things, and left a very deep indention.

Based on the above evidence, but primarily on the frequency of the signatures, I would give the guess that this book was made in quatro style.

In learning about these things, I have definitely already noticed a change in my approach to books. Savannah and I were distracted when we went back into the archives to return the old books, looking at old student records accidentally because we thought the book was an old dictionary. I look forward to continuing to interact with the old books in our special collections, and learning more about their history.

Rare Book Examination

  The Notes on The State of Virginia-Thomas Jefferson The book I examined was The Notes on the State of Virginia written by Thomas Jefferson. It was published in November 12, 1794 in Philadelphia. This book was bound using string. The front and back covers seem to be made of a leather material covering a … Continue reading Rare Book Examination

 

The Notes on The State of Virginia-Thomas Jefferson

The book I examined was The Notes on the State of Virginia written by Thomas Jefferson. It was published in November 12, 1794 in Philadelphia.

Binding

This book was bound using string. The front and back covers seem to be made of a leather material covering a type of cardboard-like material. Unfortunately as you can see in the photo the cover edges and spine are wearing away. This is a sign of regular library use as well as general aging. Below you will see an example of the aging as well as the type of binding twine utilized on this particular text.

 

3-D text

I noticed that the print in the book was definitely from a printing press. I noticed 3-D imprint on either side to show evidence of this printing press use. I found this to be very interesting as I never have encountered this type of material before. Also, it is to be noted that the pages are made of thicker paper than books today. As you can see below the 3-D text is visible on the page ahead.

 

Unfortunately because this book was donated by a prominent woman at our college, librarians pasted a donation label inside the cover. Although it was a good thought to know where it came from, in a way it detracts from the nature of the book. However, it does tell us a good bit about the life of this book. We know it came from the Mabel Gardiners collection.

Close Up

 

Probably my most favorite aspect of this book is the notation on the cover page. The inscription reads “Anderson J Henshaw” there is also some crossed out inscription

Inscription

written in brown ink that I couldn’t decode. However I could make out the brown ink “Bought this 24 July, 1901 price 15/-“

 

 

 

Text Variation

 

I also noted the variation in text. In some places a regular “s” was used. Then oddly enough, in the next line it was an “f” used instead. I am not quite sure why this may have been done, however, it is  quite a unique aspect to this rare book.

Finally the last interesting aspect of this book was a foldout chart. It was placed about the middle of the book. It was also made of notably lighter material than the rest of the pages.

All of this information was collected from a book in the rare books collection at Shepherd University’s Scarborough Library.