In this class, we made a model of a lovely little 1581 Elizabethan pocket almanac that includes erasable writing pages with a brass stylus tucked into the back board. The book was fully leather bound, on thin wood boards. There are two fore-edge brass clasps and blind stamping of a Renaissance flourished design of a central diamond shaped panel and corner pieces.
William Shakespeare was only 17 years old when the book we recreated in this class was printed and bound in 1581 A.D.. It was, for businessmen in the 16th century, a Blackberry of sorts...a combination of an almanac, a diary, a calendar and notepad. While it didn't send or receive messages, it served as a personal organizer for the merchants of the times, and was printed and reprinted in different formats for several decades.
This is a photograph of a photocopied picture (!) of the
original book that the class would be replicating.
It is a small book, measuring only 3 1/8" x 4 3/8" (7.9 x 11.3 cm) (spine dimension given first). It consists of four signatures (sections) of paper, and five bi-folios of the erasable pages. In the original, the erasable pages were made of animal parchment, and coated with a gesso-like mixture that would take an impression, then wipe away. The nine signatures were arranged with one paper signature in front, five bifolios of erasable pages, and three signatures in back. There are two single endsheets, with the stubs next to, but not pasted down on, the boards. With the thin [1/8" (3 mm)] basswood boards, the spine is 3/4” ( 1.8 cm) thick.
In the original, the first signature consisted of the title page, rules for the changes of the moon, a 24 year almanac and calendar, and a monthly calendar. There was a blank page after the five erasable pages (we used cardstock, although I made one bifolio from parchment), and then followed "A prayer for the forgiveness of our sins," a section on weights and measures, a history of England, several pages of descriptions of the various coins of the realm, and other helpful information for the business traveler of the times.
After arranging the signatures, the book was sewn on three thin cords; that is, three sewing stations and 2 kettle stations. We started with 8 ply cord, but removed three strands to be left with a five ply cord. It is slightly recessed into the signatures, and the sewing is straightforward, around the cords in the paper signatures, but not looped around, merely over the cords in the parchment signatures. The spine was then pasted up with PVA, rounded, and lined with Mohawk Superfine paper.
The boards were shaped with a slight round on the outside spine edge, and beveled on the inside fore-edge, head and tail, to accommodate the leather turn ins. The boards were aligned on the textblock, and the cords frayed and pasted down on the boards. We were using a beautiful calf leather prepared by Pergamena, which required only modest edge paring and some paring at the spine head and tail. The first step was dampening the spine and using PVA to glue up the spine, boning down around the cords. Then, using wheat paste, we pasted out the leather and finished the covering of the book. Pam had designed a large die to create the debossed diamond effect on both front and back covers. This was accomplished by dampening the leather, placing the die, and pressing in a nipping press for at least 6 minutes. The lines surrounding the stamp are cold tooled with a bone folder. The brass stylus, which was formed from 1/16" brass rod, fits into a groove in the back board, and protrudes slightly at the fore edge.
The final step was creating the brass clasps which hold the book closed. The clasps grasp on the back board, in the English style. We used shears and nibblers to rough out the clasps, files to shape and smooth them, and riveted or pinned them onto the covers using brass escutcheon pins. Although two clasps might not seem necessary on such a small book, the parchment leaves, being hygroscopic, would tend to curl with changes in the humidity. It was a wonderful class, and many thanks to Pam Spitzmueller!
- Fran Kovac
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Guest Blogger Fran Kovac, tells us about her PBI class with Pam Spitzmueller
Fran Kovac is a bookbinder in Columbus, Ohio, and teaches basic bookbinding techniques at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. Apparently she is still camera-shy, so rather than having a headshot of her here, I am using this picture of her fingers sewing a link-stitch endband, again. At PBI this year, Fran was one of the lucky students in Pam Spitzmueller's class. Of course, Pam's expertise in historic bookbinding techniques is exceptional and this class produced exceptional work! The class was called "An Historical, Personal Almanac with a nod to Individual Calendar Books & Wood Leaf Books" where each participant created a replica of an incredible little book.