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  1. Swell Things No. 28

    November 30, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    1. Covered is an exhibit by photographer Alan Powdrill who gives real insight to tattoo culture with this series of double portraits. The first photograph shows the subject fully clothed and the second completely nude (well except for the tattoos from head to toe and from front to back). You can’t judge a book by its cover.
    2. After the tragedies that struck Paris, it was heartwarming to see the rise of love and kindness that emerged. Inspired by the Blind Trust Project after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Muslim men took to the streets in Paris with blindfolds asking people to show their trust in them by hugging them. It was emotionally overwhelming to watch the responses. When people unite in kindness they overcome evil.
    3. More than two million of the Syria refugees are children in desperate need of a home and stability. Photographer Magnus Wennman has met countless people in refugee camps over the year and his main concern has been to capture the vulnerability of children displaced by war as a way to garner support.
    4. Cats in slow-motion.
    5. Have any old VHS tapes lying around? New York-based artist Zilvinas Kempinas created an 80 foot cylindrical walkway from stretched strips of VHS tape in his installation Tube.


    6. I’ve been enjoying the watercolor drawings of Dan Gluibizzi, whose most recent show titled You Don’t Have to be Alone Tonight is currently on display at CULT in San Francisco.
    7. The Newstead Oddities is a collection of marble ‘characters’. Artist Anna Collette Hunt has sculpted these amusing statues and wall plates as an homage to the characters she finds while touring various National Trust Houses and museum like the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
    8. Animation designer Henning M. Lederer has brought life a collection of vintage book covers from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. These covers were beautifully designed with abstract, minimalist and geometrics forms, which Lederer so elegantly animates.
    9. Alison Moritsugu has painted an entire series of traditional landscapes that are lovely and highly detailed. The difference being that her canvas are the cut-off ends of logs. The vibrant and crisp paintings pair so nicely with the rustic edge of raw wood.
    10. This is an older article from Smithsonian Magazine, but still interesting. Biologists have recently come to the conclusion that the paintings found in eight caves in France and Spain may have been created by women. They’ve deduced this from the length of the fingers of the handprints left on the walls. Quite fascinating and rock on cave dwelling ladies of the past (pun intended).

  2. Conservation Conversations // Tape Tricks

    November 12, 2015 by Jacqueline Scott

    Tape, once an innocent medium used to laminate middle school notebooks with drawings and pictures of my favorite boy band members, has become one of the great horrors of my life.

    Courtesy Eliza Gilligan, UVA Libraries

    The horror!!! Courtesy Eliza Gilligan, UVA Libraries

    While I might be exaggerating a tiny bit, tape is most certainly very bad for paper and books and has lead to many hours spent hunched over a bench or under a fume hood trying to get the stuff off. A convenient household repair material, it has long been misused by well-meaning folk in last ditch attempts to fix their beloved tomes. However, this seemingly convenient repair material always does more harm than good. Not only does it look horrible, often obscuring text and discoloring the object it is stuck to, if left on an object for too long it can fuse itself with the paper fibers, making removal of the adhesive and resulting stain very difficult and time-consuming.

    Pressure-sensitive tape ages in very distinct stages. In their 1983 article for The Book and Paper Group Annual, Merrily A. Smith, Norvell M. M. Jones, II, Susan L. Page and Marian Peck Dirda describe the aging process:

    Initially, there is a period of little alteration, an induction time. During the induction time, removal is relatively easy. As oxidation progresses, this stage is followed by a fairly abrupt change in adhesive consistency and color. The adhesive mass gets very sticky and oily, perhaps, in part, because of the breaking up of the rubber polymer. It also starts to yellow. Apparently during this stage various components of the adhesive soak into the paper, rendering it translucent. Some components probably remain, at least temporarily, on the surface. In this oily condition the adhesive mass can penetrate the paper entirely and move into adjacent sheets.

    Its components can also begin to affect certain media—particularly printing, typing, and ballpoint pen inks—causing them to bleed. Removal of tape during this very sticky period is usually still possible, but is more difficult.

    The adhesive, having permeated the paper, continues to oxidize, and gradually loses its adhesive properties. The carrier may fall off, and the adhesive residues crosslink, becoming hard, brittle, and highly discolored. Once it has reached this condition, the adhesive residue and the stain it has created are very difficult, sometimes impossible, to remove.

    Tape on vellum, the saddest of tragedies.

    Tape on vellum, the saddest of tragedies.

    So, what to do? There is a plethora of ways to attack tape removal. I am going to touch on a few ways to remove the carrier (the material that physically holds the adhesive, usually either cellophane or paper) and the remaining adhesive from the affected object.

    Carrier Removal
    Naturally, the least-invasive method of carrier removal is to mechanically chip it off with a Casselli spatula. However, most often the adhesive is still too effective and mechanical removal will result in damaging the surface of the object. The next least-invasive method is to apply heat, loosening the adhesive, and allowing the conservator to peel back the carrier. There are a few ways to do this:

    • Heated Spatula – Heated spatulas soften the adhesive and remove the carrier in one go. A thin metal piece can be heated to various temperatures (it is always best to start at the lowest heat setting and increase if necessary) and slipped beneath the carrier to lift it away from the object. The metal apparatus comes in various sizes and thicknesses, and can be modified to be thinner if necessary.
    • Heating the object from behind – A new technique to me, but one that is simple and effective. Many different flat heating elements can be employed—a cup warmer, the bottom of a tacking iron, a kapton test tube warmer, or a heated silicone blanket. The heating element is covered in blotter and the object placed on top. This slowly warms the adhesive from behind, and allows a Casselli spatula to be slipped beneath the carrier and remove it. An effective technique if you need to remove a significant amount of tape, as it allows a large surface to be warmed at once, making removal much faster.



    Lifting tape with a Casselli.

    If heat is ineffective, solvents can also be used to loosen the adhesive and remove the carrier.

    • Solvent chamber – Insert a piece of blotter that has been soaked with your solvent of choice into the top of an upside-down beaker. You can either cut the blotter so that it is a slightly larger circle than the beaker and will hold on its own, or cut it to be the same size or smaller and hold it to the roof of the beaker with magnets. Place the upside-down beaker on top of the tape you wish to remove and let the solvent work for a few minutes. It should loosen the adhesive enough so that the carrier can be easily removed.
    • Plaster – the same technique as above can be employed using a glass cup filled with Plaster of Paris. PoP is porous and as a result can absorb large amounts of solvent. This technique is nice because you can easily make a stash of PoP cups in advance (making sure that you only use one type of solvent in each) and have them on hand. This technique can also hold more solvent than the blotter technique, so you can remove more tape without having to replenish the solvent over and over.
    Left to Right: a solvent chamber, direct application of solvent-soaked blotter to tape, plaster chamber.

    Left to Right: a solvent chamber, direct application of solvent-soaked blotter to tape, plaster chamber.

    • Air pen – this technique has been discussed in this Conservation Conversations post.
    • Clarinet reed – Because the wood used to make reeds is so light, it can absorb liquid. The reed’s tapered, rounded tip is also a convenient shape to slip underneath tape. The reed can be soaked in solvent and then used to both loosen the adhesive and lift the tape at once. Make sure you have a stash of reeds on hand if you choose this technique, because the wood will quickly fray and become less effective at lifting.

      Using a clarinet reed to lift tape.

      Using a clarinet reed to lift tape.

    Adhesive Removal
    After the carrier is completely removed, there will most likely still be residual adhesive left on the object. A crepe square is usually the most effective way to remove the remaining adhesive. However, if using the crepe square damages the object further, and if there isn’t much staining or the staining isn’t an issue, it is possible to end the process here and simply cover up the adhesive. I have done this in two ways. The first is to use toasted cellulose powder, which can be baked for a range of time to match different paper hues (Marianna Crabbs touched on TCP in this Conservation Conversations post). Sprinkle the powder over the parts that are still sticky, and it will get rid of any residual tack. The same thing can be done with paper shavings of a similar color. Simply run a scalpel blade over the paper to make fine shavings and use that in the same way you would the cellulose powder. This is helpful if you have a paper that is colored.

    Further reading:

    Conservation Wiki, “Hinge, Tape, and Adhesive Removal.”

    Merrily A. Smith, Norvell M. M. Jones, II, Susan L. Page and Marian Peck Dirda, “Pressure Sensitive Tape and Techniques for its Removal from Paper.”

    Ted Stanley, “A Tool for Pressure Sensitive Tape Removal: The AirPencil.”

    Tesa Tape, “Understanding the Basics of Pressure Sensitive Tapes.”
    – Side note – this article contains the most frightening sentence ever written: “The pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) tape market is projected to grow exponentially by the year 2020.”

  3. List of Interviews

    November 1, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    I’ve received a lot of feedback from readers of the blog, who’ve expressed a desire for a list of all of the interviews that have been conducted on Flash of the Hand. Well I’ve finally taken some action and made a new page that lists each binder and book artist who has been interviewed on the blog. Just click Interviews on the menu in the righthand sidebar.

    There you’ll find a list of names, click on any name that interests you and you’ll be redirected to their initial interview that occurred at the start of the month.

  4. Swell Things No. 27

    October 31, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    1. Korwin Briggs is a comic book artist and created this delightful infographic, Mummy Brown and Other Historical Colors, detailing historical colors and where they came from, like Mummy Brown, yes it was derived from actual mummies.
    2. Mikael Takacs creates these wildly abstract and alien-like portraits using marbling techniques.
    3. France in the Year 2000 is a series of paintings from French artist, most notably Jean-Marc Côté. These paintings were created in the late 1890s and around the turn of the century. This series was printed on cigarette and cigar boxes for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris (later becoming postcards). The imagery shows lots of mechanized devices and flysuits and strange interactions with marine life.
    4. What happens when you string up 14,000 used eyeglass lenses, sea/see/saw, a kinetic sculpture that moves brilliantly with gusts of wind. The sculpture has been recently installed on the façade of the Pera Museum in Istanbul.
    5. the.jefferson.grid is a beautiful instagram collection of Google Earth images. The snapshots capture a square mile of landscape and the geometric designs within it.


    6. Ever wonder how the rims, doors and other parts of vehicle get their patterning. I guess it happens using traditional marbling techniques. Watch this captivating video as car parts are slowly dipped into deep marbling trays to get their decorative coating.
    7. The craft of bookbinding has a long history and has seen a decline over the centuries. So I’m always captivated by trades with a similar history. Check out this behind the scenes look at one of the last handmade globe makers, Bellerby & Co. Globemakers.
    8. The University of Washington recently added a collection of decorative papers to their digital library, which includes a large selection of marbled papers and paste papers that span over several centuries and countries.
    9. This 16th century pattern book is quite interesting and was most likely put together with the purpose of aiding a scribe to refine his skills. A description in the book gives ownership to Heinrich Lercher Wyss who was the official scribe of the duchy of Wüttermberg. The book was gifted to him by his cousin Gregorius Bock. The book includes alphabets in various scripts (includes Greek and Hebrew script) and some decorative initials.
    10. Sew Wanderlust is an ongoing series from artist Teresa Lim. As she travels the world, she captures her experiences not in a photograph but through an embroidered sketch of her surroundings. I love it!

  5. Conservation Conversations // The Continuum

    October 28, 2015 by Henry Hebert

    Typically very few of the items that come through a research library conservation lab are in their original or unaltered state. While library and archives conservation, as a field, is relatively young, many universities have had some form of bindery or mending division in operation for decades. We often find ourselves as the current custodian in conservation continuum, with our professional forebears in possession of very different materials and training backgrounds than our own. The common result is a book with poorly applied repairs or very degraded repair materials, which can compromise the object’s look and functionality. I am often unsure of the absolute best method for resolving the condition issues of the item without obscuring some evidence of the way it was maintained and used.

    As an example of this situation, I was recently confronted with this first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Opticks; A valuable book, which gets a significant amount of use.

    Newton's Opticks

    It is obvious that this item has gone through several “campaigns” of repair. Some are more successful than others – but, ultimately none of them have maintained their intended function.

    I cannot say for certain if the boards and leather with the Cambridge panel design are the original binding, but they appear to be roughly contemporary to the text. The book has been rebacked with a very dark brown calfskin, and the new spine leather features a red leather lettering piece and some simple tooling. This leather is now splitting at the joints and along the center of the spine, but was admittedly a well executed repair at the time it was done. The front board also features a rather distracting patch in much lighter, plastic textured calfskin. I assume this was added after the reback, since the person doing the reback would have either matched their repair to this color or just removed this patch altogether.

    The boards show evidence of spine repairs prior to the current one. Impressions of a woven pattern in the original leather and vertical cuts suggest to me that a piece of textile was once glued over the spine and a portion of the boards and trimmed directly on the book.

    Opticks textblock before treatment

    More repairs are visible inside the volume as well. The inner hinges have been repaired with white cloth. A new flyleaf of laid paper has been tipped on and a strip of that same paper has been applied to the pastedowns at front and back.The extant thread and visible sewing supports do not appear to be original. Several types of sewing thread are visible inside the gutter, but much of it has broken. The textblock is essentially split in half and sections are falling out of the book.

    It is immediately clear to me that the functionality of the book must be regained. It is requested often for classes and we don’t want pieces to be lost or damaged in the process of use. The question of which material to retain and which to remove, however, is not so clear.

    Some of these repairs – namely that leather patch on the front board – are so distracting. Yet the fact that this book has been repaired so many times, in so many ways, says something about its value and history. The new materials are in such poor condition, however, that I must take the book apart completely, documenting everything as I go.

    Starting from individual sections, I resew the book onto single raised supports using (as far as I can determine) the original sewing stations. The newer flyleaves from the repair are left out and I add new endsheets of sympathetically colored handmade laid paper. I line the spine with unbleached linen and handmade paper to create an appropriate opening.

    Opticks opening after treatment

    In the course of pulling the textblock, I find evidence of blue and white sewn endbands. I sew endbands in matching colors off the book and adhere them to the spine.

    So many past interventions have left the original boards in very poor shape. The exposed corners have delaminated and become incredibly soft. The original leather has become very brittle from repeated lifting and application of various adhesives. I am not confident that I can safely lift it one more time to insert new material underneath.

    Opticks after treatment

    In concert with the curators, the decision is made to create a new leather binding, but retain the original boards, with all the evidence of their previous repairs. I consolidate the original leather and boards, re-adhere any lifting leather, and create a paper wrapper for them. This sits underneath the volume in the custom enclosure.

    Opticks and box after treatment

    The new binding is constructed and decorated in the same style as a rather plain book from the period, but it is obvious from the materials that it is new. It protects the text and opens well. The high quality materials and optimal storage conditions will hopefully maintain the functionality of the book for a long time. Should some future scholar be interested in the more artifactual evidence of this particular book and its rocky repair history, she will hopefully find the original boards in the box and hopefully be able to access my born-digital treatment documentation. This is all assuming the library can continue performing its duties, that digital preservation initiatives succeed, etc.

    I believe that this treatment is successful in that it is reversible, satisfies the treatment goals for the object, and could be completed in a relatively short amount of time. There will likely be other conservators in the continuum of care for this object. I hope that they agree with the decisions we have made – but only time will tell.

  6. Bonus // Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 25, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    In a recent competition put on by the Washington University Libraries Special Collections, the public was encouraged to judge books by their covers and cast their vote for favorite binding. Fittingly, the book being bound was Bernard C. Middleton’s You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover, which was published by Mel Kavin and designed by Ward Ritchie in miniature form back in 1995 (which is presumably around the time it was bound as well).

    The first book of this edition was designed and bound by Tini and Einen Miura and printed by Henry Morris. Later on, 32 more binders were invited to create their own unique binding and to celebrate the artistry of the miniature book.

    Tini bound the book in black morocco. She used the onlaid shapes and design to tell a story about the author. The ascending tooled area represents Bernard Middleton’s larger than life character. Running along side this path are circle onlays of various sizes and colors, which show the abundance of information he has shared with the world throughout his professional life.

    In the image above, the book is shown on the right with the slipcase pictured on the left. Tini also made a miniature chemise, which would be placed around the book before sliding it into the slipcase.


    The edges are gilt and headbands handsewn in colored silk. The doublures, seen above, have multicolored circular onlays and tooling.

    The scale of many of the bindings in your book A Master’s Bibliophile Bindings: Tini Miura 1980 – 1990 are quite large. For the final post in your interview I would like to talk about two miniatures you did for Bernard Middleton’s You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover. What challenges did you come across when scaling down the binding and decorating processes?
    Usually my books are large, because they are limited edition livre d’artiste. They have signed original images by artists like Picasso, Leger, Roualt, etc. and are extremely expensive.

    I prefer large books that open well and can be enjoyed easily, while lying on a table. Small books have to be held on both sides to keep them open, there is no weight to the text. But I have enjoyed doing some immensely. No change in binding steps for miniatures.

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    Tini bound an additional copy of Middleton’s book in black morocco with several colored inlays (inspired by the shape printed at the top of the foreword) and foil tooling.


    The edges have been gilt and gauffered with colored polka dots. The endpapers are marbled. The book lives in a small clamshell box.


  7. Guild of Book Workers – Standards of Excellence Seminar // Cleveland 2015 – Part One

    October 25, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    I woke up very, very early on a Thursday morning to catch a flight out of Boston to Cleveland in order to attend the evening festivities planned for the first day of the Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence Seminar. I was delighted to be on the same flight with Deborah Howe, Collections Conservator at the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College. The weekend-long event filled with book-related discussions had officially begun.

    We arrived in Cleveland to a brisk, yet sunny morning. My wonderful friends and colleagues, Henry Hebért and Jeanne Goodman, picked us up at the airport and we were off to the hotel located just a short walk from Lake Erie (and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).

    The first day of Standards began with book-related tours across the city. At the last moment, I was able to snag a spot on the tour of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Our docent, a fellow GBW member, gave us a brief tour through the Western Art galleries, stopping from time to time to show off books from their spectacular collection. It was a real treat to see some fine examples of Western-style bindings and manuscripts.


    In 2002, the Museum underwent renovations that included this beautiful 39,000 square foot enclosed glass atrium that connects the original building with the newer wing and is where we met our tour guide. (click to enlarge images)


    We appropriately began our tour of early bindings with an Egyptian Book of the Dead of Hori scroll on papyrus dating roughly around 1969 – 945 BC. We swiftly made our way to the 11th century as our docent pointed out this beautiful Byzantine binding with the primary headbands still intact.

    We then saw a small collection of illuminated manuscripts with pigments that had been wonderfully preserved and appeared as bright as if they were created yesterday.


    As a great lover of Flemish art, Queen Isabella treasured her library of devotional books; on display at the museum is a Book of Hours crafted for her by the most talented manuscript painters active in Ghent and Bruges during early 1500s. This circle of artists were renowned for their border decoration that often featured realistically painted flowers, scrolling acanthus leaves, birds and butterflies.


    The Gotha Missal dating from about 1370 – 72 is shown in the image above (left) opens to a lovely miniature painting with vines running along the margins. Since the interest for most displayed book is in the content, binders get to see very little of the actual binding. Fortunately, the CMA has digitized and photographed a large portion of their collection. The leather binding over wooden boards is quite a beautiful example of a decorative medieval binding. The tooling could have been completed with a decorative roll and covers the entire surface of the covers.

    Next in the tour was a highly decorated leather case with cut-work and hand painted details in blue once used to cover a Qu’ran dated to sometime in the 15th century. We also saw a leaf from a Jain manuscript from India dating to sometime in the 15th – 16th century. But the final piece we saw was by far my favorite.


    An Illustrated Marriage of Apparitions (Bakemono konrei emaki) is a humorous hand scroll created in the mid-1800s. The story is mainly told through imagery with cartouches scattered amongst the illustrations as a way to describe the scene (much like a comic book). The scroll is displayed open to the part of the story with the birth of the first child between two apparitions or bakemono. A procession of 100 whimsical and supernatural monsters follow the couple through their matchmaking, engagement, marriage and finally to childbirth.


    The evening reception occurred at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Education Foundation. This was my first time at the Morgan and I was blown away by the size of the space. It was covered with a multitude of various creations. From what I could gather, the space was divided into different areas, a small shop right near the entrance, an area for printing, the center of the room was used as an exhibitions space, and the back half was for paper making and other workshops. I did miss out on the tour of the garden just outside the building in the back, but I heard it was absolutely gorgeous.


    Buoyancy was the exhibit on view at the Morgan, which explores themes of water and swimming and includes the work of Aimee Lee and Kristen Martincic. I really enjoyed Kristen’s realistic paper recreations of objects used in the water. Aimee created a large and impressive assortment of intricately woven sculptural ducks from hanji dyed with natural pigments.


    left: Aimee Lee | right: Kristen Martincic

    Being that we were on the turf of the Midwest Chapter, members were invited to bring books for a pop-up exhibit. To our delight, this was also on display during the opening reception.


    The books on display in the image above from left to right are: Cris Clair Takacs: Remembering Jan Bohuslav Sobota, Karen Hanmer: Bookbinding with Numerous Engravings and Diagrams and Richard BakerLe Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours (Around the World in Eighty Days).


    Working down the exhibit table is Eric Alstrom’s The Long Goodbye (seen on the left) and Charles Wisseman‘s World Bones. 


    Next up Biblio Tech: Reverse engineering historical and modern binding structures from Karen Hanmer.


    On the left is Tunnel of Love from Mary Uthuppuru with miniatures from Gabrielle Fox on the right.

    Wrapping up my tour of the exhibit table is Joanna Kluba‘s Rainer Maria Rilke: Poems on the left and Emily Martin‘s Who Gets to Say on the right.

    That concludes day one of the Standards Seminar. Stay tuned for part two of the post soon.

  8. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 25, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those titles that has been bound so many different ways and by so many different binders. In 1983, Tini Miura, added her binding to this list with her brightly colored, kaleidoscopic design for an equally mind-bending story. This particular edition was published by the Pennyroyal Press in 1982.

    Bound in red morocco with several onlays that run the spectrum of color between white and black with tooling in gold and green foil. The doublures are a dark red sheepskin and the edges have been in gilt in the rough.

    I love your interpretation of this book, the design emotes feelings of chaos and helplessness. In many of your designs you incorporate floral elements. What does the flower mean within your designs, specifically for this binding and in general?
    It is a fairytale-like story and the things Alice encounters, like rabbit, teapot, etc. Therefore I chose fantasy flowers to make the whole interpretation happen in a “wonderland”.

    Flowers are a wonder of nature that bring joy – like  beautiful words. They do something to your soul, you feel alive and joyful (colors and music does that to me as well).

    When I do a book and see the design in my head, the design becomes this image which I physically execute. After reading the story, if it is not worldwide known literature, I often understand the design after I read the book. I know that is weird. But I feel it is a present and I don’t ever change or complain – just go with it.

    Another reoccurring design element are the built up areas of tiny tooled shapes, which usually flow across the binding. What can you say about the use of this in your work?
    The small dots or squares are my “Pixie” dust, magic or wonderment in the words or stories.

  9. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 18, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    Another one of my favorite bindings from Tini Miura. This edition of A Glimpse of Thomas Traherne includes illustrations by Ann Brunskill and was published in 1978 by The Worlds End Press in London. The design on this binding is like an abstract puzzle compiled of “pieces” that represent parts of Traherne’s poetry to offer a picture of his creativity.

    Bound in 1990 in yellow morocco where each onlay is a single, unique color. The title is stretched across the binding and each letter is created through repetitive tooled dots through brown foil. Tini creatively ties together the title and puzzle by tooling a diamond motif through brown foil strewn in the negative spaces between the onlays.

    This is one of the few examples where the title is transformed into a design element. Can you talk about why for this particular binding, you chose to display the title this way as opposed to using type?
    The colored onlay pieces are freely moving over the surface, like a line of a poem is following the former to make a verse. The overall image represents the several verses that make up the poem.

    If I had used letters, then I would have felt an interruption in the free flow of the onlay “verses”. The “dotted” words of the title are, so to speak a “miniature” image of the flowing line of colored “verses”. Kind of two interpretations of the same idea – making spoken words visible, like the vibrations of energy they are.

  10. Client Work // Ye Sette of Odd Volumes

    October 15, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my own work due to having a crazy summer, but I recently completed this binding of the 1904 Inaugural Address of his Oddship, Brother Silvanus P. Thompson, Magnetizer for Ye Sette of Odd Volumes. I’m sharing this particular project because it has a really great back story and is the slimmest book I’ve ever bound in leather.


    My client who presented me with this project is a member of the Club of Odd Volumes, a private social club founded in 1887 and is a society of bibliophiles with the following mission statement:

    The objects shall be to promote an interest in, and a love for whatever will tend to make literature attractive as given in the form of printed and illustrated volumes, to mutally assist in making researches and collections of first and rare editions, and to promote elegance in the production of Odd Volumes.

    The club’s headquarters is located at the former home of Sarah Wyman Whitman in the neighborhood of Beacon Hill in Boston, Massachusetts. The Club of Odd Volumes is a direct influence of Ye Sette of Odd Volumes, an English bibliophile dining-club formed in 1878.

    As I mentioned above, this particular pamphlet is the inaugural address of Brother Silvanus P. Thompson. During the planning phase for the binding, I did some investigative work on dear old Silvanus. At the age of 27, Thompson was appointed to professor of Physics at the City and Guilds Technical College in Finsbury, England. He had a talent for communicating complicated scientific concepts in a clear and interesting manner. He is best known for this work as an electrical engineer and his most enduring publication, Calculus Made Easy, a 1910 book that teaches the fundamentals of infinitesimal calculus.

    What really spurred my curiosity was the descriptor of Magnetizer added to the end of Thompson’s name in the pamphlet’s title. In 1910, Thompson was involved in early attempts to stimulate the brain using a magnetic field. After this death this technique would eventually be recognized as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This story really inspired me to use a sheet of the hand marbled paper that I made while I was a student at the North Bennet Street School.

    The stone pattern of the marbling has a very organic, almost cellular feel to it. The movement of the yellow veins reminded me of electric currents flowing through the brain. What a perfect fit!

    The structure of the binding is inspired by Ingela Dierick’s article Single Section Bradel Binding in The New Bookbinder (Volume 32, 2012). I’ve created a binding from this tutorial before and even posted about it on the blog. If you want to see/read more about the process, check out this prior post.


    The single signature pamphlet is sewn on a stub of equal thickness. This stub is then shaped to create a false round, which allows you to continue with a binding suitable for a leather covering. In the image above you can see the finished binding. Below you can see the book right after I’ve shaped the spine with the help of hemp cord that create false shoulders (in the image on the right, you can see that I also painted the cord to blend in with the grey colored paper used for the stub).


    Other details of the binding include leather wrapped headbands in mauve buffalo skin that add a small pop of color. The paste down and flyleaf are Cave Paper in granite. I also hand tooled in blind an abbreviated title onto the spine: S.O.V. INAUGURAL ADDRESS 1904.


    I find these single signature bindings to be just as challenging as a multiple signature book. But it offers a certain level of satisfaction to turn something so thin and simple into a substantial leather binding.