Thursday, January 11, 2018

John Baskerville’s Bible

 John Baskerville, the inventor of the Baskerville typeface that we still use today, produced this beautiful Bible in 1769 (Old Testament) and 1771 (New Testament). One rare-book site calls it “one of the most beautiful of all English Bibles, from a typographical viewpoint.” (

Title page and engraving of Adam and Eve.

The original spine was broken at the joints.

Cleaning off the spine.

Corner after repair with dyed Moriki.

Corner before repair.

Cotton flannel back liner, smoothed over the original cords.

Starting to remove the spine after several applications of Cellugel to stabilize the leather.

Out of order, but here is the finished work. The original spine is applied over the new, color-matched leather.

The spine came off in one piece.

Tying up the spine, before dyeing the leather.

I tried several combinations of dyes to get the right color.

The uneven tone was just right for the antique cover repair. Moriki is easy to work with.

The current owner wanted to bequeath it to his son to use for personal Bible-reading and family devotions. It was, of course, a tight back (the spine adhered directly to the signatures). I told him that I had seen another copy of this book priced at $5000 in a recent catalog, rebound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. When I explained that changing the structure to a hollow back would make it stronger and more usable, but would reduce the value of the book, he simply said he didn’t care about the monetary value—he wanted his son to be able to use the Bible.

So, taking a deep breath, I removed the spine—all in one piece!—after repeated applications of Cellugel to stabilize the brittle leather. I felt deep respect for the printers and binders who had produced such a high quality work. In my imagination, the book seemed to respond happily to the treatment. The owner and his son were happy with the work. This was one of my favorite projects.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A new piece of equipment at just the right time

This beautiful Baskerville Bible was my major project for two months. (Photos to come when I have more time.) I needed a lying press to work on the spine. Darryl made me this wonderful piece in an hour or two in his shop!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"The Holiness of God" book story

I first posted this on Facebook, but want to connect it here as well. One evening last week, I was talking with my husband Darryl O'Connor about how R.C. Sproul's book, "The Holiness of God," helped me understand my need for a Savior. The very next day, I was shelving at Wonder Book and ran across this study guide. It was 95 cents because it was already written in. I read some of the notes and thought, "This person really understands!" I turned to the title page--and gasped. My friend Cathy Charnley--maid of honor in my wedding, and my friend for 30 years--died of cancer a year ago. Here is her beautiful voice speaking heart to heart with her Lord and mine. Now she sees Him face to face.
     My job at the bookstore isn't prestigious or highly paid. But I believe in its mission of rescuing books, and really enjoy my coworkers. And moments like this happen nowhere else.
   I am writing a novel, THE BROKEN BIBLE (which I hope will become the first in a series) about a Christian bookbinder who solves mysteries. I've enjoyed Kate Carlisle's Bibliophile Mystery Series and want to add my own works, with a Christian emphasis, to this subgenre of cozy mystery fiction. (Bibles often yield amazing stories. Have you heard about the Wicked Bible?)  I like to repair books that aren't particularly rare or valuable, but that have great meaning to their owners--and I like to tell their stories.  This study guide to R.C. Sproul's book is one of those stories.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Flower Guide

The Bird Guide repair (November 2016 post) met with approval when it was shown to the owner's family at Thanksgiving last year. So its companion book, the Flower Guide, came to me for repair this year from the brother of the Bird Guide owner. The cover was completely gone, but an online image yielded a photo inset for the cover and the custom-fitted box. I enjoyed working on this project.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Lord's Prayer in 500 Languages

Closeup of one of the multi-alphabet pages. Contemporary reviews called the book a masterpiece of the typographer’s art.

An amazing book will leap off the shelf at me no matter how drab the binding. In fact, I look for temporary and homemade bindings because that’s how the treasures are disguised. While shelving in the Religion section at Wonder Book last month, I happened upon a worn and broken cover from an office-supply store that held browning photocopies of “The Lord’s Prayer in 500 Languages.” The book, printed in 1905, contains myriad languages and alphabets, faithfully reproduced. Immediately I knew it would become a wedding gift to a newly-married couple who will be translating the Scriptures into languages that don't yet have written alphabets. I downloaded the missing title page, prologue, and Table of Contents from Google’s digital archive. After recopying the pages onto better paper and trimming them, I bound them with Indian marble paper and a leather spine. The gift is now in the hands of newlyweds who love it and will make good use of it.

Browned photocopies, beat-up old binder--just what I like. Possibilities abound.

The box protects and complements the binding.

Leftover bits and pieces enhance the box cover.

Initial concept: new paper, deciding the trim size.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Stone Face and Mr. Moosie

Sometimes when I work on a complicated project, I lose my sense of humor. I'm too caught up in the acidic paper and red-rotted leather of a thousand-detail repair. So I keep my bookbinding workshop elves nearby. They remind me not to take myself too seriously.
My sister-in-law is an artist. She "found" this happy guy in the stone.

While working on dilapidated Family Bibles, I can feel like Mr. Moosie.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Connecting Peninsulas Update

Today I received a check from Michigan State University (Libraries) for "Connecting Peninsulas." I did the project for love of Michigan, the Mighty Mac, and bookbinding. Now it's found a good home in MSU's Special Collections. I could not be happier about that!

ABOVE BELOW: Tales and Folklore of the Fabulous Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Hardcover – 1952 by Curt. G. Knoblock.

MIRACLE BRIDGE AT MACKINAC. 1957 by David B. Steinman and John T. Nevill. Jack is profiled in MSU’s Ink Trails II: Michigan's Famous and Forgotten Authors.

PENINSULA: Essays and Memoirs from Michigan / Edited by Michael Steinberg - 03/31/2000  Publisher: Michigan State University Press.

Photos, Letter, Brochure:
The cars are driving on the ice near our home. The photo was taken by my father, Woodrow Jarvis, a freelance photographer and writer whose work depicts life in the Upper Peninsula during the mid-twentieth century.
   My dad took the photo of my brother, Mark Jarvis, on or near Opening Day for the Mackinac Bridge. Dad took photos and did publicity for the bridge. The 1958 letter is from my grandmother, Alma Jarvis, referring to the “new” Mackinac Bridge.

I’m a Yooper* born and raised. I grew up on the St. Mary’s River, five miles from DeTour Village in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Two of the three books come from my parents’ bookshelves and friendships. Curt Knoblock, author of Above Below, was the first superintendent of the Drummond Dolomite mine on Drummond Island. The quarry provided employment for many (most?) of the men of my hometown, across the channel. Knoblock’s tall tales capture life in the Upper Peninsula in the mid-twentieth century.
    Dr. David Steinman’s Miracle Bridge at Mackinac conveys his thrill that the bridge he engineered overcame all obstacles and was built. The coauthor, Jack Nevill, was a family friend and neighbor in Spring Bay. Jack died in a fire at his home just before this book was published. His widow, Peggy, was like a grandma to me as I was growing up.
   Above Below and Miracle Bridge at Mackinac keep their original dustjackets, washed and repaired. The overlaid dust jacket for Above Below features “Starry Night” and “Snow” Cave Papers. For Miracle Bridge I trimmed and folded a 2007 Mackinac Bridge poster.
      Peninsula[s] uses birchbark covers with the title Coptic-stitched on the spine. Signatures were remade with Moriki guards and the original cover bound in.
     The multi-section slipcase is made from Cave Paper “Layered Indigo,” which reminds me of deep, mysterious water. The container places Miracle Bridge in the middle section that connects Above Below and Peninsula.
    Only as I was preparing this exhibit entry did I make the connection that Yoopers also live under a bridge. The International Bridge brochure was written and edited by my father, Woodrow Jarvis. So, I abandoned my first theme of Yoopers vs. Trolls because Yoopers are Trolls too.
   *(Yoopers=U.P.'ers=people who live in or are from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Trolls=those folks who live "under the bridge".)