Friday, January 29, 2010

Joy of Cooking and Wizard of Oz Pop-Up Book

Pop-up books have always been fun and collectible. These days, "paper engineers" such as Robert Sabuda create amazing 3-D scenes that fascinate all ages. This photo shows his Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, one of the books I repaired and gave as Christmas gifts.
I mentioned my neighbor's Joy of Cooking in a September 2009 post about Middletown's Heritage Day celebration. This was a perfect demonstration book. I removed the shiny tape from the spine, cleaned off the interior text-block, replaced the failed mull and lining, and attached new endpapers as curious folks stopped by the table throughout the day. (The repair went well but slowly due to interruptions, including a torrential downpour that shut down all the booths early.) Later at home, I reunited the two cover pieces with a bookcloth patch, cased in the book, and glued the original spine over the new material.
In an email, Barbara wrote that the repaired book resurrected fond memories: "It's all about childhood, mom in the kitchen, and the smells of something warm and yummy for dinner....... [The book] felt as I remembered it as a child--splattered but solid. I had no idea a repaired old cookbook could bring back such wonderful feelings."

Sunday, January 24, 2010


This little gem recently appeared on our carts of books to be shelved at Wonder Book (, priced at $2.95. It's a second edition of Samuel Wesley's poems, published in 1742. Samuel, a minister and poet, was the father of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist denomination, and Charles Wesley, who wrote well-known hymns such as "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O For a Thousand Tongues." I love to see how literary talents are passed through generations. Perhaps Samuel Wesley's poems are not read by many people today, but his son's hymns continue to move hearts in worship.
The original boards were preserved by an anonymous 20th-century binder, who wrapped them in black fabric and painted the spine silver. I intend to protect and re-attach the boards and create a new spine.
Samuel's poetry is fun to read, actually. Here he gives advice to a friend whose demanding siblings are protesting their brother's upcoming marriage:
You dare not marry, Friend, you own,
For fear your Family should frown;
Why, Wedlock would your Freedom gain,
Which others uses to enchain:
Y' had better follow my Advice,
And marry once, than marry twice;
Betwixt your Sister, and your Brother,
Husband to one, and Wife to t'other.
As my young Wonder Book coworkers might say: "Ooooh, that's harsh!"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Austin Burnham Subscription Book

Here are close-ups of the Austin Burnham Civil War History subscription book I repaired for Harry's Christmas gift (see previous post about Christmas books).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Princess Adventure Bible

A friend asked me to bind a Bible for her granddaughter, using this hot-pink spangled costume fabric. What to use for the spine? I visited my local Salvation Army store and found a hot-pink purse for $1.25. It's chrome-tanned leather, not vegetable tanned, but for my purposes it worked out just fine. This "Princess Adventure Bible" is one of my favorite projects.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Soldier's Bible

The Soldier's Bible
This pocket New Testament, printed by the Reilly & Lee Co. of Chicago, appears to have gone through a war. The metal front cover is a prayer engraved in a black-letter typeface: "May the Lord be with you." The flyleaf inscription is written in blue fountain-pen ink faded from age and damp. I picture the soldier's mother writing, "Love to you B____y from Mother," the simple words conveying her heartfelt prayer for her loved one's safe return. Acid migration from the rusted "turn-ins" has blackened the edges of the pages. This little 3"x5" New Testament is sometimes called a "Heart-Shield Bible" because it fits into a breast pocket, protecting the heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christmas 2009 books

Here’s the Christmas 2009 group, clockwise from the back: (1) An Ernest Nister reproduction “picture wheel” Christmas book—the wheels had been accidentally glued into place and the tabs torn off; (2) Robert Sabuda’s Alice in Wonderland; (3) The Iris Book; (4) a children’s storybook, A Dozen and One: The Boys and girls of Polly’s Ring; (5) A Christmas book of magazine articles from 1884, including several by Louisa May Alcott and other well-known children’s authors of the late-nineteenth century, that had lost its back cover in its 125-year journey; and (5) Austin Burnham’s subscription book for a Civil War History, complete with handwritten subscribers’ lists indicating whether they wanted clothbound or leather.

The Civil War History was a disaster—pages were moldy and crumbling along the gutter about 50 pp deep; the tissue guards for the beautiful engravings had browned; the cover was moldy. Although dear Harry had given it to me expecting to pay for a restoration, there was no way, in my mind. First, I’d normally not even touch it; frankly, its deterioration went way beyond my ability to do a thorough restoration job. Secondly, even if a conservator were to attempt it, the cost would probably run more than $1000. So I did it for love, not money, which involved much washing of pages and covers, and muttering, and brushing-out of pages outdoors while wearing a mask.

Oh, right, I said “enjoyable.” Well, I love to imagine the stories behind these books. I picture Austin Burnham as a Civil War veteran, perhaps wounded in action, going door-to-door selling subscriptions to earn a living after the war. I did find online an Austin Burnham buried in a New England cemetery who was a Civil War Veteran. The subscriptions, however, all came from Pennsylvania towns and the sample pages were printed not only in English, but also in German using a black-letter typeface. Somehow the book appealed to me emotionally and against my better judgment I tackled it. It’s not perfect but Harry can leaf through it now without endangering his health or having it disintegrate in his hands.

The Sabuda pop-up books are simply marvels of paper engineering, marred only by the publisher’s unwise decision to use merely the cover paper as hinges. Of course the joints tore, rendering the book unsaleable. That’s how it ended up in a remainder pile at Wonder Book. I bought a bunch of them, mended them with mull and reinforced the outer joints with black cloth bookbinding tape (which matched the black-outlined cover illustrations), and gave many as Christmas gifts. They appeal to all ages and both genders. A multiply-pierced young man bought one for his girlfriend who collects Alice in Wonderland, and his delight in the book was as enthusiastic as that of my young nieces—and their parents—when they opened them Christmas weekend at Grandma’s.

Every book needing repair has its own story in addition to its text, sometimes known and sometimes imagined.

Christmas books 2009