very old things

Objects of Importance

I like collect things, little talismans of sentimental importance. I thought I'd share a few of these things that I have. Some of them I've had as long as I remember.

 :: a stone from Lake Michigan ::

 :: a stone from Delaware. I've had this since I was little, and because it resembles a jewelry pendant, I like to think it may have been worn by someone long ago ::

:: a slab of lead with pink paint ::

 :: a scrap of gold embossed paper found in an old book ::

:: an eraser with a hologram from France ::

What Is It?

At the Common Press, where I work, we were just given this press, but we're not quite sure what it is exactly... It was described to use as a plate press, and when I did a little research, I found similar looking presses that were called arming or embossing presses. If it is one of these, I'm wondering if there used to be some sort of heating mechanism and how it could be restored.

The only other clue here is that the maker's name is E. Ermold of New York. I did find some old printing trade publications that mentioned his name and that he sold embossing presses, but no images. 

If you know anything about how this press might work, I'd be interested to learn more. Thanks!

 :: new mystery press ::

:: E. Ermold ::

:: the steel base pulls out and has a broken wooden hinged frame ::

Thoughts on Books

Yesterday, I had a particularly good day at the used bookstore and came home with a heavy stack of books. Looking at them made me wonder, how can you replace books with screens?

In my opinion, you can't. A book is to be enjoyed for its design as well as the information it contains and unlike a screen, it ages, often in beautiful and unexpected ways.

perfect tape

This is Cape Light, a book of photographs by Joel Meyerowitz. It's one of the first photography books I fell in love with.

catchy title

I have always wanted to get more acquainted with minerals.

These reproductions of crystals are so lovely.

In 6th grade, I think I was the only kid psyched to go on a geology field trip, which included going to a quarry, checking out some strata, and looking at core samples collected by geologists. It was awesome. I should have been a scientist.

The Boy Mechanic

Lastly, do you ever have the sinking feeling we're getting worse at doing things? All things? If not, you haven't yet read "The Boy Mechanic," a collection of 800 projects a boy should be able to do, such as weave a hammock, build a canoe, or build your own homemade electric locomotive model and track system.

Now how do you feel? Yeah, I thought so.

I love books. I love them as objects and for what they contain. I never want to live in a house without books. I can't even imagine what that would be like. Maybe books will end up like records, no longer mass market but still enjoyed by a small group of loyal enthusiasts. We'll see.

A Book and Ore

I would start this off by saying, things here have been hectic, but that line is getting old, isn't it? So I will focus on what has been accomplished, and what's coming up.

:: custom guest book ::

I made a wedding guest book for my friends Tina and Robert, who's wedding I had the pleasure to attend last weekend. The bride requested a fresh spring green for the cover, and I was able to use some of the linen bookcloth I made several months ago. It was a perfect fit. The inset cover was designed and hand lettered by my friend Beth Schaible, calligrapher and printer extraordinaire. Inside, was a mix of handmade, lined, and recycled paper.

I've also been making many new books, some of which I will be posting in my Etsy shop soon.
While sorting through my paper, I found this illustration of "ore deposits" from a vintage encyclopedia. I haven't decided what to do with it yet, but you might be seeing it again soon.

:: ore ::

May has been designated Press Month, meaning I will be working in earnest to get my new Chandler & Price up and running, so expect to see some updates regarding Junior (aka Indiana Jones) soon.

Old Books

I recently put out a call to my friends asking for old paper and books. I'm planning on making a whole bunch of new mixed paper books in the next couple weeks, so I need all the paper I can get. A friend of mine sent me a few old books, including this school reader.

:: a children's reader ::

When I got it, it was wrapped in very dirty printed fabric which protected the original cover from becoming bleached or worn. It's such a beautiful design, especially for a children's school book.

:: run, hen, run! ::

Inside are detailed engravings of animals, people, and activities. One thing I found striking is how the lessons are centered on much more agrarian topics (and a lot more rats...) than what would be addressed in today's textbooks.

:: i too am a stationer and bookseller ::

Wilmington is where I grew up. I wish I could go back and time and visit this store. I bet they had some pretty great notebooks for sale.

:: bluejay ::

My friend also sent me a couple of books with illustrations of birds. I especially love the colors of this illustration of a bluejay from a children's guide to birds.

:: mr. cardinal ::

And the simplicity of this illustration of a cardinal on the roof from a children's book of stories.

Thanks, friends!

A Very Old Book: Les Commentaires De Cesar

You know how people say,
this is why we can't have nice things? Well this is my nice thing, and knock on wood, I haven't ruined it, and I'm good at ruining nice things. It's incredible, I'm very capable of delivering neat, precise work to others but terrible at caring for my own possessions. I don't know. It's weird.

I've had this book for a very long time. It belonged to my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather was an academic and historian in France. I remember standing in his library in Aix-en-Provence and being told I could pick out one book and I picked this, the oldest looking book on the shelf. It dates from 1658.

Now that I make books, it's become a much more interesting object to me and the damage that seemed so unfortunate fortunately reveals the structure of the binding. So although I am no expert, I will tell you what I know of how this book was made.

To bind this book, the pages were sewn onto double raised cords that were then threaded through the front and back covers which were then covered in leather. They are called raised because you can see them bulging through the leather on the spine.

On the top of the book are endbands sewn over top a paper core. Two alternating colored threads were wrapped over the core for a decorative effect. The back of the book is lined with used parchment. Parchment was a valuable material and old manuscripts, this one handwritten, were taken apart and used again when no longer useful.

This is truly one of my favorite things about books, seeing how materials were reused and how much character it adds to the object.

At this time, all paper was made in a manner that we consider 'handmade' today and such paper was made from linen or cotton rags, no longer usable as clothing but very valuable to the papermaker. The paper is full of textures and inclusions that could be considered imperfections, but it has lasted almost four hundred years. That's right copy paper, four hundred years.

the texture of laid mould handmade paper

This book also has beautiful printing, sprinkled with ornamentation and maps

My family is from France and the quantity of, well, very old things is so much greater there than here and these very old things are passed on or trashed with a nonchalance that is jarring to an American like me. They are just not that exceptional over there. But I guess that makes me lucky. My family thought this book made an acceptable gift to an 8 year old and that's pretty great for me. Vive la France.

Old Books & New Drawings

Used books. My greatest weakness. Remember that in case I ever become a super villain or a zombie and you have to defeat me to save the world. As I was saying...used books. There is no greater pleasure then wandering through aisles of musty books looking for that one treasure. I hardly ever buy new books, instead relying on chance to guide me towards my next read. Old books are also key material in my projects. I use them for stationery, blank books, and drawings. Sometimes, one book can even become the foundation for a whole body of work.

Recently, I started a new series of drawings using the pages from an 1897 geology textbook. I haven't done a series of drawings for quite some time. The act of drawing doesn't come easily to me, I liken it to pulling teeth. There's no structure to hide behind, no rules really. You just have to do what comes to you. That can be pretty scary.

I can't say I know where these are going yet, but I like it.

Rab and His Friends

Rab and His Friends is a slim, 5.5" x 4.5" volume of stories by Dr. John Brown. It starts interestingly enough, "Four-and thirty years ago, Bob Ainslie and I were coming up Infirmary Street from the High School, or heads together, and our arms intertwisted, as only lovers and boys knows how, or why..." but really I haven't read further than that. The reason for this is I bought this book for it's cover. So it's a fact, people judge books by their covers. Take that, content.

It is a lovely cover, made of teal book cloth with a long, rectangular window and the title plainly gold-stamped in the lower right hand corner. What I found especially beautiful about this book was how the image in the window had been worn away to abstraction.

The first title page is so humble, just the title of the book printed crookedly in black ink. Rab and His Friends. That's it.

The second page is a more traditional decorative title page printed in red and green. These pages as well as the rest of the book were so obviously hand printed that I decided to try to research the book on the internet. Soon enough, I found an entire web page devoted to the work of the Henry Altemus Company, the publishers of this edition.

And get this, they are from Philadelphia, my dearly missed home. It was pretty fascinating to the read the history of the company and to recognize so many addresses. I like to imagine what Philadelphia was like when it was a more industrialized place, and so many more things were being made right there in the city. There are some great examples of advertising ephemera on the Henry Altemus Web Site. I recommend checking it out if you feel like geeking out on what it was like to be a publishing company in the 1800-1900's. I know I did!

And ladies. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It's witty, it's philosophical, it's full of sound sense in concentrated lozenges, need I say more? I don't think so.

The Cow Book

The cow book is a directory of breeders and their cattle. Thousands and thousands of cattle... their names, their birthdays, their parents. It took me awhile to realize the enormity of this book. The typesetting alone for gods sake! And such specialized information...

I got this book a couple months ago at the indoor flea market in Asheville for a dollar. The first time I saw it, I didn't buy it. The second time I saw it, I thought I was crazy for not having bought it. The leather cover is decorated simply with a gold stamped image of a melancholy cattle looking over its shoulder at you.

Its corners are worn, its spine is gone, revealing its aged linen cloth and paper.

The top and bottom have stripes, like pajamas.

The edges of the book are speckled gold.

What I truly love and admire about this book is the ridiculousness of its mission, and the care that went into it. It could easily have been printed on the cheapest of materials, like a phone book of sorts, but it's beautifully bound and has lasted over a hundred years. Sort of feels like...why...being a craftsperson! And making handmade books and journals!

The Engineer's Handbook

Yesterday was my birthday, and my boyfriend and I went to the used book store. What can I say, we're nerds. But I found this book, the Bureau of Public Works Engineer's Handbook 1913, for three dollars.

The numbers, the aged lined paper, the errors and corrections, are all things I find so exciting about books as objects we use. This book was meant to be a pocket reference for an engineer. All this information, all this labor to make a book! And now I have it and like it because it is tall and narrow, has neat diagrams and "erratums." How odd.

I have been really into these little erratum notes, and used one in a journal I made recently.

Some day, I dream of finding a warehouse full of yellowed graph paper. Do you have such a warehouse?