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2009 RBS Scholarship Awardees Announced

[ 6 October 2009 ] The great generosity of our benefactors has enabled Rare Book School to award scholarships to a bumper crop of new students of the history of books and printing. There were an enormous number of applications and the judges found their task incredibly difficult. Many highly qualified applicants did not receive aid. Those who did should be justifiably pleased and proud. In general, the RBS Scholarship Committee preferred applicants who are at the beginning of their professional careers and those who had not previously attended RBS. For a list of recipients, see 2009 RBS scholarship awardees.

See the RBS Scholarships and Fellowships page for a description of the school’s scholarship program.


RBS Directors Scholarship Fund triples its goal

RBS Directors Scholarship Goal Thermometer

[ 29 June 2009 ] In late April 2009, a group of friends and colleagues of Terry Belanger mailed out letters to Friends and other friends of Rare Book School, soliciting contributions to a scholarship fund established in honor of his retirement as founding director of the school, and in order to help get RBS and its various student constituencies through the next couple of years, which are likely to be tough financially.

The stated goal of the Directors Scholarship Fund (DSF) was $30,000. On 29 June, contributions to the DSF passed the $110,000 mark, headed north. Many thanks from retiring director Terry Belanger, incoming director Michael Suarez, and the RBS staff to the more than 500 persons who contributed to the DSF!

The Fund will be spent out in scholarship awards over the next few years. Contributions will thus be immediately useful, and Michael Suarez will be able to focus on other matters before turning to the fundraising for further RBS scholarships that will inevitably be part of his job.


Michael Suarez to head Rare Book School

Michael F. Suarez, S.J.
Michael F. Suarez, S.J.

[ 18 June 2009 ] Michael F. Suarez, S.J., will be the new director of Rare Book School (RBS), a bibliographical institute based at the University of Virginia. UVa President John T. Casteen III announced the appointment this morning during his keynote address at the 50th annual preconference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association, being held in Charlottesville this week.

Suarez, 49, succeeds the retiring Terry Belanger, a 2005 MacArthur Fellow who founded RBS at Columbia University in 1983 and brought the school to UVa in 1992. Like Belanger, Suarez will be a University Professor at UVa, a senior rank that gives its holders unusually broad opportunities for teaching and research. He will take up his new position beginning September 1, 2009.

Suarez currently holds a joint appointment as J. A. Kavanaugh Professor of English at Fordham University and as Fellow and Tutor in English at Campion Hall, Oxford University. A Jesuit priest, he is both co-editor of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume 5, 1695-1830,” to be published in September, and co-general editor of “The Oxford Companion to the Book,” expected in January 2010. He is also co-editor of the eight-volume Oxford University Press edition of the Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, in progress. A former president and long-time board member of the Northeast American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, he has published an edition of Robert Dodsley’s “Collection of Poems by Several Hands (1748-58),” the best-selling poetry anthology in 18-century Britain; the selected essays of D. F. McKenzie (“Making Meaning: ‘Printer’s of the Mind’ and Other Essays”), and he has written many articles on various aspects of 18th-century English literature, bibliography, and book history. He has held research fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Rare Book School is an affiliated foundation of UVa, with its own endowment and board.

“Michael Suarez is admirably qualified to take on the RBS position,” said William T. Buice, III, the chair of the RBS Board of Directors, and a partner in the New York City law firm of Davidson, Dawson & Clark. “I was impressed by his intelligence, enthusiasm, and eagerness to lead RBS.”

The search committee for the RBS directorship consisted of three members of the RBS board and three members from the UVa community.

“The search committee was greatly impressed by Suarez's insight into the part that RBS has played in humanistic research over the past 25 years,” said chair Beverly P. Lynch, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. “We liked his ideas about continuing RBS’s traditions while expanding the ways in which the school can be useful.”

A former Marshall Scholar, Suarez has won several awards for his poetry, as well as for bibliography and literary criticism. He holds bachelor’s degrees from Bucknell University and Oxford University (first class hons.). He has a D.Phil in English literature from Oxford University, where he studied with D. F. McKenzie, and he holds M.Div and Th.M degrees from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

RBS currently offers short non-credit courses for adults on subjects ranging from medieval bookbinding structures to modern fine printing. Each year, about 250 students take courses at the school both in Charlottesville and in New York City, Baltimore, and Washington DC. Admission to the school's five-day courses is competitive. RBS is noted for the excellence of its faculty, many of whom are world-renowned in their fields.

RBS students include curators and rare book librarians, academics, antiquarian booksellers, book conservators and binders, and book collectors. About 6,000 students have taken courses at the school since its founding in 1983.

The school employs a widely admired — though rarely imitated — course evaluation system in which attendees write detailed prose accounts of their experience at the school. Their comments are then mounted permanently and in their entirety on the school's website.

Suarez brings an unusually varied background to RBS. “He will fit right in here,” says retiring director Terry Belanger. “At RBS, our theme song is ‘other duties as required.’ I’m honored that a person of Michael Suarez’s distinction has agreed to take over the directorship of the school.”

‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ and other RBS summer lectures

Exit, pursued by a bear: Reflections on Libraries, Wall Street, and Things that Last.
RBS lecture no. 515, “‘Exit, pursued by a bear’: Reflections on Libraries, Wall Street, and Things that Last,” takes its title from the famous Shakespearean stage direction in The Winter’s Tale.

[ 14 May 2009 ] Rare Book School is pleased to announce its schedule of 6 pm public lectures during its summer sessions in Charlottesville. The roster of speakers includes Stephen Enniss (8 June), Roger Stoddard (22 June), Mark Dimunation (20 July), Stephen Greenberg (27 July), Andrew Stauffer (3 August), giving RBS lectures nos. 515-519. All lectures will begin at 6 pm, and most of them will be held in Room 201 Clemons Library, with a reception following each lecture in the first floor Alderman Library staff lounge (check the RBS website Lectures and Events page for last-minute changes).

8 June 2009 in Charlottesville

Stephen Enniss, Eric Weinmann Librarian, Folger Shakespeare Library: “‘Exit, pursued by a bear’: Reflections on Libraries, Wall Street, and Things that Last.”

22 June 2009 in Charlottesville

Roger Stoddard, Department of English & American Literature & Language, Harvard University: “B. H. B. in Retrospect: Bernard H. Breslauer, Bookseller of the World.”

20 July 2009 in Charlottesville

Mark Dimunation, Chief, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress: “I Cannot Live Without Jefferson’s Books: Rebuilding a Foundation Collection at the Library of Congress.” The 2009 Sol. M. and Mary Ann O'Brian Malkin Lecture.

27 July 2009 in Charlottesville

Stephen Greenberg, Coordinator of Public Services, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine: “They've Got WHAT? Hidden Treasures of the National Library of Medicine.”

3 August 2009 in Charlottesville

Andrew Stauffer, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Virginia: “Are Digital Editions for Real?”

Support our cemetery

General Grant (made from a scan of the steel plate)
General U. S. Grant (made from a scan of the steel plate)

[ 4 March 2009 ] Rare Book School has recently acquired a set of three American steel-engraved plates, each about 10" x 7", made (perhaps in Philadelphia) in 1864-65. They show vignetted head-and-shoulders portraits of Generals U. S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, and William D. Whipple. The steel plate used for Grant is stamped with the name of the platemaker on the reverse: John Sellers & Sons | Sheffield. The plates used for Hooker and Whipple are stamped on the reverse: W. Dougherty | Philadelphia.

The plates have almost identical captions: “Sold for sole benefit of the National Cemetery | Chattanooga, Tenn.” All three images are identified in the plate as having been drawn by A. F. Brooks [in fact, all three derived from photographs easily found online] and engraved by R. Whitechurch. In small letters at the bottom of each of the plates is the boilerplate legend: “Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1864 [for Grant; the date is 1865 for Hooker and Whipple] by Rev. Thomas B. Van Horne in the clerks office of the district court of the United States in and for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.”

General Grant (made from a scan of the steel plate)
General William D. Whipple (made from a scan of the steel plate)

According to information provided by the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Thomas B. Van Horne was the chaplain placed in charge of the cemeterys development:

In a report of May 14, 1866, the chaplain indicated that one-third of the cemetery site could not be used for burials due to large rock outcroppings. As a result, he suggested a design dictated by the rocky terrain. Much was accomplished during Van Hornes tenure at the cemetery. Flowering shrubs, evergreens and other trees were planted to replace a portion of the dense forest of oak trees that had been cut down as a part of the battleground. Each interment section consisted of a central site for a monument surrounded by plots for officers with the graves of enlisted personnel arranged in concentric circles around them. In 1867, it was designated Chattanooga National Cemetery. (excerpt from the Chattanooga National Cemetery website, accessed on 4 March 2009).

One supposes that Van Horne developed an idea of selling prints taken from our plates as a money-making venture to support the cost of creating the cemetery; but we cannot find a reference to these prints or, indeed, anything at all about the venture. Given the generals chosen for this project, it appears that the cemetery was used for Union, not Confederate, soldiers. The 120-acre plot in central Chattanooga is still in active use as a national cemetery. Can anyone provide us with additional information?

The three plates arrived in excellent condition, coated with a layer of protective wax (weve left the wax coating on General Hooker, for teaching purposes).


Tanselle bibliographies now online

[ 2 March 2009 ] G. Thomas Tanselle's Introduction to Bibliography: Seminar Syllabus and Introduction to Scholarly Editing: Seminar Syllabus are comprehensive guides to the literature of these two fields, including suggestions for basic reading and chronological lists of the writings on specific topics. Through the generosity of their compiler, the two volumes are now available free in their entirety for consultation or downloading online.

The two guides have been published in hard copy (as substantial paperback books of 370 and 258 pages respectively) by Rare Book School's publishing wing, the Book Arts Press, since 1990 (for the Introduction to Bibliography) and 1998 (for the Introduction to Scholarly Editing). Hard copies of the latest version of each, dated 2002, may still be purchased from Rare Book School. The online versions also have a cutoff date of 2002; Tanselle hopes eventually to update them.

G. Thomas Tanselle retired in 2006 as senior vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is co-editor of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of the writings of Herman Melville; among his other book-length publications are Textual Criticism and Scholarly Editing, A Rationale of Textual Criticism, Textual Criticism Since Greg, Literature and Artifacts, Royall Tyler, and The Life and Works of Fredson Bowers. Each year since 1963 [sic], he has contributed an article, many of them of fundamental importance to the study of the history of the book and related subjects, to "Studies in Bibliography," the annual publication of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia (of which he is the current President). He is a former president of the Bibliographical Society of America and of the Society for Textual Scholarship. He is an old and very good friend both of Rare Book School in particular and of the history of the book in general.

Save the date: Belanger farewell party on 20 June 2009

2007 caricature of Terry Belanger by Ismael Roldan
Caricature of Terry Belanger by Ismael Roldan (2007)

[ 4 February 2009 ] This summer, Terry Belanger (founding director of Rare Book School, UVa; University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia; and 2005 MacArthur Fellow) will be stepping down from his position as RBS director in order to ensure a smooth transition in the future management of the school. We will miss the leadership of Terry, who has indefatigably championed the school, its faculty, and students since the school's inception in 1983.

To honor Terry's contributions to the school and its associates, we will be throwing a farewell party for him during the late afternoon and early evening of 20 June 2009 in the auditorium of the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. The party will follow on the heels of the 50th Annual Rare Books and Manuscripts Preconference here in Charlottesville, and we recommend that those who wish to attend the party consider making hotel reservations in Charlottesville for Saturday night. Future details about the party, including information about sending RSVPs, will be posted to the RBS website soon at the Belanger farewell webpage.

Forthcoming fall and winter courses in NYC, Baltimore, and DC

[ 2 September 2008 ] This fall and winter, RBS will be running courses in New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. At the Freer/Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, Ellis Tinios will inaugurate a new course on “The Art of the Book in Edo and Meiji Japan, 1615-1912,” running Mon-Fri, 20-24 October 2008. In the same week, but at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City, Roger E. Wieck will offer his course, “Introduction to Illuminated Manuscripts,” which he will be teaching for the sixth time. In Baltimore, at the Walters Art Museum and Johns Hopkins University, Terry Belanger will give his “Book Illustration Processes to 1900” course (taught annually since 1983), and Albert Derolez will offer his “Introduction to Western Codicology” (taught most years since 1987), both running Mon-Fri, 3-7 November 2008. The Tinios, Wieck, and Derolez courses are sold out; there are still a couple of spaces open in Belangers course.

In January ‘09, RBS will return to Baltimore. Paul Needham and William Noel will co-teach “15th-Century Books in Print and Manuscript.” Jan Storm van Leeuwen will again offer his “Seminar in the History of Bookbinding.” In 2007, seminar topics included (among others) c16 French and German bibliophile bindings, c17 English Restoration bindings, c18 Dutch and French luxury bindings, and c19 special publishers' bindings in Europe and America. Both courses will run Mon-Fri, 5-9 January 2009.

Application forms for the fall and winter sessions are available online.

Summer schedule of RBS public lectures announced

Location of John Feely's farmhouse, Madison Township, NJ (1876)
Location of John Feely's farmhouse, Madison Township, NJ (1876)

[ 3 June 2008 ] Rare Book School is pleased to announce its schedule of 6 pm public lectures during its June and July Charlottesville sessions. The roster of speakers includes Steve Beare (9 June), William Noel (16 June), Sumner Stone (18 June), Alice Hudson (7 July), Russell Johnson (9 July), Richard Kuhta (21 July), and Andrea Krupp (28 July), giving RBS lectures nos. 506-512. All lectures will begin at 6 pm, and most of them will be held in Room 201 Clemons Library, with a reception following each lecture in the first floor Alderman Library staff lounge (check the RBS website Lectures and Events page for last-minute changes).

9 June 2008 in Charlottesville

Steve Beare, Independent Scholar: “John Feely Meets Samuel Dodd: The Use of Internet Databases in Studying the History of the American Book Trades.”

16 June 2008 in Charlottesville

William Noel, Curator of MSS and Rare Books, Walters Art Museum: “Writing Off Archimedes: Ten Years of Work on the Archimedes Palimpsest.”

18 June 2008 in Charlottesville

Sumner Stone, Typefounder, Stone Type Foundry: “Warp & Woof: History, Craft, Concept and Culture in Early Digital Type Design.”

7 July 2008 in Charlottesville

Alice Hudson, Chief, Map Division, New York Public Library: “Alice’s Top Ten List: Rare Maps: Keeping Them Under Control, Letting Them Go Public.”

9 July 2008 in Charlottesville

Russell Johnson, Archivist/Cataloger, Special Collections, Louise Darling Biomedical Library, UCLA: “More Baby Books than You Can Shake a Rattle At: Building a New Collection for Research in the History of Infant Development.”

21 July 2008 in Charlottesville

Richard Kuhta, Eric Weinmann Librarian, Folger Shakespeare Library: “The Future of Research and Rare Book Libraries (and What It Will Take for Them to Have a Future).” The 2008 Sol. M. and Mary Ann O'Brian Malkin Lecture.

28 July 2008 in Charlottesville

Andrea Krupp, Conservator, Library Company of Philadelphia: “Nineteenth-Century Books Up Close: Bookcloth Grain Patterns.”

Danielle Culpepper joins the RBS Staff

Danielle Culpepper with RBS's collection of Bobbsey twin series books
Danielle Culpepper with RBS's collection of Bobbsey twin series books [approximately 160 titles]

[ 10 May 2008 ] Danielle Culpepper started work as RBS's new administrator at the end of April, succeeding Carolyn Cades Engel (who has accepted a position on the program staff of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities). As RBS Administrator, Culpepper will be responsible for supervising the school's finances, procurement, events programming, and part-time support staff.

Culpepper has a B.A. in history from Lewis and Clark College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from UVa. Most recently, she was a CLIR postdoctoral fellow at the George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation: "Court, convent, and counter reformation : Ursulines in the Farnese duchy of Parma and Piacenza, 1575-1731," examined the role of the Ursulines in the world of the Farnese, and the roles gender and religion played in a courtly society. She has taught courses on early modern European history at the University of Mary Washington, Miami University, and at UVa.

Culpepper joins Terry Belanger (Director), Barbara Heritage (Assistant Director and Curator of Collections), Ryan Roth (Program Director), and Kenneth Giese (Assistant to the Director) on the full-time RBS staff.

Book Arts Press Address Book, 25th year edition

Matt Kennedy working on BAP Address Book mailing
RBS staffer Matt Kennedy working on the BAP Address Book mailing

[ 9 April 2008 ] Approximately every two years since 1989, Rare Book School and its publishing arm, the Book Arts Press, have published a directory of RBS attendees, ABAA members (in alphabetical order by owner), and others with a connection to the school. The directory is distributed gratis to Friends of Rare Book School. We are pleased to announce the publication of the 10th edition of the Address Book, bigger than ever and with a number of new bells and whistles included as part of the celebration of RBS's 25th anniversary. This edition contains a new history of RBS, a list of a list of BAP/RBS lectures nos. 1-500 together with an account of this long series, a current list of ARL senior librarians. Copies of the Address Book are available to non-Friends of RBS for $30 per copy plus postage.

Directory of ARL special collections librarians

[ 2 April 2008 ] Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 123 large research libraries in the US and Canada. In recent years, the ARL has become interested in rare books and special collections, and its website contains useful material about the ARL Special Collections Task Force, the Hidden Collections initiative, and related matters.

Two years ago, the RBS staff compiled a directory of the principal librarians, curators, directors, and the like working in member institutions of the ARL. The list sets forth the names, addresses, and contact information of persons who have (or might appropriately have) the words "rare books" or "manuscripts" or "special collections" in their titles but who report to a person who reasonably does not and would not have these words in their titles.

Some ARL libraries in our directory are represented by a single person - typically the case with smaller institutions, and those with a tight, system-wide hierarchy. Other ARL libraries are represented by several persons who are in different administrative hierarchies within their institutions (e.g. the heads of special collections in their law and medical libraries).

We annually email a copy of the directory to those listed in it, in order to improve its accuracy and keep it current. We've recently completed a correction cycle, and (thanks to demon RBS webpersons Ryan Roth and Joseph Ennis) we have now mounted the directory on the RBS website and provided a geographical index to the institutions listed. Let us know if you find it useful.

Board changes

New RBS board chair William Buice
New RBS board chair William Buice (click image to see full-size)

[ 29 February 2008 ] In January 2008, RBS Board of Directors chairman Hans Tausig completed his second and final term on the board, as did the board's vice-chair, Peter Herdrich. RBS is grateful to them both for their many years of service to RBS. Hans Tausig has taken 15 RBS courses since 1994; he is enormously knowledgeable about the school's programs, and as the first chair of the board he made an extraordinarily effective contribution to the success of our undertakings; it has been an enormous pleasure working with him. Peter Herdrich has been associated with RBS for more than two decades; he was the director of all three Book Arts Press video presentations - From Punch to Printing Type (1985), How to Operate a Book (1986), and The Anatomy of a Book: Format (1991) - all of which still have brisk sales, by the way.

Neither Tausig nor Herdrich has seen the last of us: we hope that Tausig will join the board's advisory committee when its establishment is approved at the board's summer 2008 meeting; and Herdrich remains the chair of our development committee.

The new chair of the RBS board is William T. Buice, III (RBS board member since 2002); since 1971, he has been a partner at Davidson, Dawson & Clark, LLP, in New York; the picture shows him at RBS last July, when he and his wife Stuart took Sue Allen's course on publishers' bindings. The new vice-chair is Robert A. Gross (a board member since 2004); he is James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History at the University of Connecticut. The board's new treasurer, Joan Friedman, CPA, has been connected with RBS since 1983, when (as Curator of Rare Books at the Yale Center for British Art) she began to co-teach "Book Illustration to 1860: Techniques in Context" with me. Beverly P. Lynch (Professor, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA), continues as secretary of the board.

William P. Barlow, Jr, remains on the RBS board for another year, but he has stepped down as treasurer, a position he has held since 2002. He has been connected with RBS since 1993, when he began to teach courses at the school. He will be co-teaching "Donors and Libraries" with Susan Allen at the California Rare Book School this summer; we hope that the Allen/Barlow course will alternate between the two coasts from now on. Barlow's collecting interests are well-known; but he is also the proprietor of the Nova Press, an imprint that has published a number of titles having to do with water skiing. Barlow was elected to the Water Ski Hall of Fame in 1993, and he has held practically every office there is to hold in the American Water Ski Association, including terms as president from 1963 through 1966, and chairman of the board of directors in 1966-69 and in 1977-79. He has been honorary vice-president of the Association since 1980.

James Reilly to teach Photographic Print Process ID at UVa

[ 30 January 2008 ] James M. Reilly, the Director of the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will teach a new course on The Identification of Photographic Print Processes, assisted by Ryan Boatright (also of the IPI). The course will offer instruction in the identification and dating of all the major photographic print processes. It will also touch on the evolution of photograph technology, considering the major processes in chronological order. For a full description, consult the I-35 course page.

Rare Book School now has a Facebook group

Image of Rare Book School's new group profile
An image of Rare Book School's new group profile on Facebook (click image to see full-size)

[ 31 October 2007 ] Rare Book School has recently formed a group on Facebook, the online social networking site that allows members to share news and announcements, photographs, contact information and more. With a growing demographic that includes working professionals and students, Facebook has become a useful tool for staying in touch with both friends and colleagues. For more information about Facebook, visit the Facebook home page or see the Rare Book School group page.

As an RBS group member, you will receive the latest updates from RBS in your newsfeed. Members can upload and tag photos, share links and videos, post shout-outs on our wall, participate on our discussion board, and even poke Terry Belanger. This is an open group, which means any Facebook member can join and invite others to join. Nominations for group officers are welcome!

The RBS website (where you are now) will remain the primary site for information about the school and its activities, but Facebook groups tend to develop a life of their own. We hope students will find the group useful in connecting with each other outside of class. Now if you lose your Vade Mecum, you'll have a place to ask where the nearest laundromat is!

Anybody seen my hammer?

Beating gatherings; from Diderot
Beating gatherings; from Diderot (click image to see full-size)

[ 19 March 2007 ] In 1997, RBS acquired a stack of printed but unbound folio sheets intended to make several volumes of early c19 British House of Commons committee reports. The sheets were roughly folded for storage shortly after printing in bunches of several gatherings each, and then warehoused. If the books had been bound shortly after the dampened sheets were printed, the binder would as usual have had to flatten out the bunches and refold the individual sheets more accurately, in order to even up the gutters and get the text pages squarely one on top of the next (the imposition is folio in 2s). He would then have had to beat the folded sheets with a binder's hammer, several gatherings at a time, in order to consolidate them and make them lie flat and snug, one next to another.

The beating process is illustrated in one of the copper-plate engravings accompanying the bookbinding entry in Diderot's Encyclopédie (Paris 1751-65), a relevant detail from which is reproduced here. We're looking for an actual example of a hand-press-period binder's hammer used for this purpose, the earlier the better: does anyone know anyone who has one? If so, please email < > with information about it.

There is an excellent picture of a binder's hammer on the Mainz Gutenberg Museum website. The head of the hammer, presumably made of (cast?) iron, is probably similar to what the Encyclopédie artist drew, but his copper-plate engraver (who might not himself have been familiar with the object depicted) misread some of the detail.

Zaehnsdorf's “Art of Bookbinding” (1897) also shows a picture of a beating hammer.

Here is a description of the beating process, from George Cowie's Bookbinder's manual (London, c. 1828; facsimile edition [ed. Sidney F. Huttner, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990] as the second of Two early c19 bookbinding manuals):

Such books as are intended for the process of beating, require a large stone, with a smooth surface, and a hammer (somewhat in the shape of a bell) weighing from twelve to fourteen pounds; having these in readiness, the books are beat in the following manner: — About a dozen sheets (or sections) are held at a time, between, and near, the ends of the fingers and thumb of the left hand, while with the right hand the hammer is raised about a foot, and must fall with rather more than its own weight on the edges of the sections, which should be continually moved round, turned over, and changed, in order that they may be equally beat. During this process, the sections should be occasionally examined, to ascertain whether they have set off; if such be the case, they should have no more beating. If the work have cuts, a leaf of tissue paper should be placed between these and the letter-press. [pp. 8-9]

Contemporary bookbinding manuals like this one are an important source of information about the techniques of hand-press-period forwarding — that is, the process of folding, beating, and sewing the sheets, and attaching the boards or other covering material, before finishing — that is, decorating — takes place.

In 1747, R. Campbell published The London Tradesman, a guide to parents looking for advice on the choice of a trade into which to apprentice their children. He had little to say in favor of bookbinding:

The Bookbinder is a Dependant on the Bookseller. He receives the Book in Sheets from the Bookseller, and his Business is to bind it, and cover it with Leather, Vellum, or otherwise, as he is directed. The Trade of a Bookbinder has no great Ingenuity in it, and requires few Talents, either natural or acquired, to fit a Man to carry it on; a moderate Share of Strength is requisite, which is chiefly employed in beating the Books with a heavy Hammer, to make the Sheets lie close together. The Profit of the Trade is but inconsiderable in itself, and most Masters in this Branch carry on the Business of Stationary or Pamphlet Shops. The Journeymen make but a mean Living; they seldom earn more than Ten Shillings a Week when employed, and are out of Business for Half the Year. [p. 135]

Quiz question: Why were c18 London binders out of business for half the year?

Shaggy dog

[ 26 September 2006 ] Rare Book School has recently acquired a large (15 x 18") intaglio plate, showing a head-and-shoulders portrait of a cheerful long-haired dog, engraved on steel by John C. McRae after a painting by Sir Edwin Landseer. The plate [shown below, reversed] is titled “Fritz.” The image size is 13.375" x 10.375":

We have been unable to identify the original Landseer painting (perhaps it is a detail from a Landseer painting), and we do not know the purpose for which this plate was made: the subject seems a bit simple for a framing print, but the image size is a bit large for most magazine or book purposes. Can anyone identify the print or its source? Any information gratefully received!

Sheepish cloth

[ 3 June 2006 ] A couple of months ago, eagle-eyed Vincent Golden noticed an eBay auction featuring an interesting book in a remarkable binding. The book is the fourth edition of Hymns for the Millennium, composed from the prophetic writings of Joanna Southcott and published by her order by Philip Pullen (London: Manbey, Spencer, Haggar, Essom, 1835), The small book (it is about 6" tall) is bound in cloth printed (as we suppose) to resemble mottled sheep or calf, and the effect is pretty convincing , as you can see by the accompanying illustration.

The book has the remains of a paper spine label. In her recent PBSA article on early bookcloth (100:1 [2006], pp. 25-87), Andrea Krupp reproduces (p. 32, Illus. 1: Middle) a smaller section of this printed cloth pattern, taken from an 1835 book published in New York City; but you really need to see a larger color sample to get a sense of the interest of this pattern, which repeats at a spacious 4" intervals vertically and 6.5" horizontally.

Digital target shooting

[ 10 April 2006 ] We recently added a copy of Henry Blackburn's The art of illustration (London 1894) to the RBS reference library. Blackburn informs us (pp. 21-22) that the first systematic attempt at illustration in a daily newspaper was the insertion of a weather chart in the Times in 1875, but that "in June, 1875, the Times and all other newspapers for England were far distanced by the New York Tribune in reporting the result of a shooting match in Dublin between an American Rifle Corps and some of our volunteers." To be sure, "there were long verbal reports in the English papers, describing the shooting and the results; but in the pages of the New York Tribune there appeared a series of targets with the shots of the successful competitors marked upon them, communicated by telegraph and printed in the paper in America on the following morning."

(Click on the thumbnails below to view the full-size photos.)

With advice from Vincent Golden (Curator of Newspapers, American Antiquarian Society) RBS purchased a copy of the 30 June 1875 New-York Tribune, and we were delighted with the result, held up here by Barbara Heritage, RBS Curator of Collections: the front page of the issue is dominated by no fewer than 36 relief blocks of rifle targets, advertised as "a new feature in journalism - the shots made by the riflemen ... accurately shown by cable, through a process invented by the Tribune Correspondents ... the Americans victorious."

The process probably involved laying a thin sheet of graph paper containing numbered rows and columns on top of the targets in Ireland and determining a set of coordinates for each bullet hole. The coordinates could be cabled to New York for replication on similar sheets of graph paper, transferred to individual stereotype blocks reproducing the target squares, and the indication of bullet holes punched into the appropriate positions.