Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas gifts

Christmas projects are completed! My in-laws remember the 1930s Depression, and they appreciate antique and recycled items. So I've repaired books for them and will post a photo after Christmas. For other family members, I collected a box of books and sent it last week; my brothers and their families get to choose which ones they want. I know who I have in mind for each book, but I don't label them. It'll be fun to see if I guessed correctly.

The used-book business is booming at Wonder Book. Friday night, everybody was in for movies before the predicted snowstorm. Saturday, after boasting about how I grew up in northern Michigan and wasn't afraid of driving in the snow..... I had to make the phone call of shame to say I wasn't coming in to work after all because our street was unplowed and my car didn't even make it to the neighbor's driveway. Fortunately our manager and a couple of others were champs and the store opened that snowy day.

It seems my contact information has been missing. To schedule an evaluation for book repair, email me at tawnoconner1@verizon.net, or call 301-371-4365.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This "Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland" belonged to the grandfather of the owner, who was planning to throw it out. I made bookcloth from Irish linen, salvaged the front decoration to use as an inset, removed and re-used the endpapers because they had the grandfather's signature, and rebound the book. I discovered cigar bands scattered throughout its pages; I could picture the old gentleman settling into his favorite chair, smoking a cigar and enjoying a brandy while he paged through the book. Now, the owner plans to leave the book to his own grandson.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beautiful bindings by Peter Waters

A memorable Guild of Book Workers tour

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of delivering this repaired Family Bible to my friend Cathy, who volunteers at the Visitors Center in Gettysburg. The delivery was in the context of a day-long Guild of Book Workers excursion that included a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cyclorama. The tour was hosted by Chris Ameduri, Assistant Archivist of Special Collections at Gettysburg College, and Mary Wootton, a bookbinder and conservator who worked on the 5-year, $16 million restoration of the Cyclorama. Mary, a former Library of Congress conservator, had also restored the Lincoln Bible that President Obama used to take the oath of office.

The day had several highlights, including our visit to the home and studio of Sheila Waters, a renowned calligrapher who collaborated on beautiful bookbindings with her husband Peter Waters. Books of artistry and beauty were generously brought out for us to examine and enjoy. We sat at a long dining table, marveling at the fine work and that we could handle them and ask questions about their creation.
The group consisted of conservators from the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Maryland State Archives, and University of Maryland. I enjoyed learning from them throughout the day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I love repairing the study Bibles that drive many bookbinders crazy. The books aren't usually of any value in the monetary sense. But the notes they contain--the moments of comfort or revelation or instruction that their owners have recorded in the margins--are precious, and even the cheapest Bible is priceless in its content.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Middletown Heritage Day, September 26, 2009

My neighbor and friend, Barbara, let me repair her mother’s Joy of Cooking as a demonstration throughout the day. As a business owner, she’d done lots of trade shows and helped me enormously. She created an attractive display of repaired books and staffed the booth with me. My husband, Darryl, put up the awning and the plastic sheets that protected the books when the rain came in. He loaded and unloaded our van, and brought me food and coffee. (I ate and drank away from my workspace!) I was able to relax and enjoy the day because of their support.

As I worked on her book, Barbara and I explained to folks what I was doing. I chatted with people and handed out a bibliography of books about bookbinding and resources for book-repair supplies. Many people took my business card. Although exhibitors had to close down early due to rain, it was a successful day. I hope to participate next year!
I work part-time at a large independent bookstore filled with wonderful out-of-print and antiquarian books. Last week my best customer of the day came in just as I was clocking out. I’d say he was about nine years old; he could barely see over the counter.
“Do you have any really old books, like before…. before 2009?”
I assured him that we did, and took him to the juvenile collectible section. “Some of these books are a hundred years old,” I told him and his sister. They did a lot of exclaiming as they found the copyright dates. He showed me a tattered early-1900s book and asked if we could lower the price. I advised him to ask the manager.
This kid is talented!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Middletown (MD) Heritage Day Saturday September 26

I wanted to have my own "before-and-after" photos up by now. Due to uploading problems, that will have to wait.

Meanwhile, I'm preparing for my bookbinding and book-repair demonstration booth at Middletown's Heritage Day Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009. I'll show my before-and-after photos, display some repaired books, and work on a cool old Universal Classic Manuscripts--a volume of facsimile documents from Henry VIII, Sir Isaac Newton, George Washington, and many other famous people.

The advice I've received from members of the Book Arts List is, "Keep it simple!" So I'll mostly enjoy talking with the people who stop by. We'll be in front of the old Town Hall where the Library Book Sale is going on... a perfect location to meet other book-lovers!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Careful Magic

The first time I saw before-and-after photos of repaired books, I thought: "It's magic!"

I couldn't imagine how a pile of torn-apart pages and shredded covers could possibly be resolved into a book that someone could handle and read again. How was it done? Could I learn? Who could teach me?

A friend gave me Annie Tremmel Wilcox's memoir, A Degree of Mastery, a beautifully-written and deeply felt account of her apprenticeship with book conservator William Anthony. When Wilcox saw a mid-seventeenth-century medical book that Anthony had restored, she writes: "I was enthralled.... It seemed like magic that this book was now restored to a condition where people could pick it up and easily turn the pages without harming it.... I was amazed that he could successfully take books apart and put them back together again in better condition. I had no idea that there were people who did this sort of thing." (pp. 7-8)

That book set me on my own journey into the fascinating world of bookbinding and book restoration. I've been reading all my life, and have always treasured books for their content. These past few years I've taken an interest in the physical book, as well, and ventured to learn how they are made and how they can be fixed. I've discovered that book repair is a careful magic.

For now, I've found my niche in the repair of modest, worn books that most people have in their homes, perhaps stored in a box in the attic or abandoned on a top shelf. Every book embodies at least two stories: the text itself (that wonderful creation that often outlives its author), and the story of the owner whose life has been touched, changed, and enriched by the world between the covers.

The books I repair are not particularly rare or valuable in themselves, but they have great meaning to their owners. My goal is to keep as much of the book as possible. I love to rescue a humble volume and bring it back to a usable condition. Along the way, I make discoveries about books, people, and myself.

In future posts I'll have more to say about the stories behind the books, and about the "book people" who have taught me and given so generously of their time and expertise. Bookbinders love their work! I hope to communicate that passion and enjoyment of the process, and the result: a beloved book brought back to life.