Monday, March 11, 2013

James Hayday’s Bible


This 1848 Bible appears to have been left open on a flat surface for years (decades?). The text block was completely broken in half lengthwise, held together only by the cracked leather spine glued directly to the backs of the signatures. As I began the repair process, I told my friend and bookbinding mentor, Linda, “Getting that spine off was like getting bark off a log!” I even emailed my client that the original binder must have intended his work to last for the ages and just didn’t know that his materials would fail.

            I felt I was getting to know the binder through his craftsmanship. During difficult portions of the repair, I assured him I was doing my best to honor his skill. (If you’ve read my previous entries, you know already that I talk out loud while I’m working.) Finally I paid attention to the small gold letters stamped along the bottom edge of the cover pastedown: “Bound by Hayday.” The binder’s biography on Wikipedia confirmed what I had already sensed about him.

            “HAYDAY, JAMES (1796–1872), book-binder, born in London in 1796…. To make the back tight he dispensed with the ordinary backing of paper, and fastened the leather cover down to the back. [Boy did he fasten it.]… Works bound by Hayday became famous, and his name attached to a book raised its value twenty-five per cent…. Unable to compete with other and cheaper binders, he was adjudicated a bankrupt on 10 June 1861.”

            So Mr. Hayday was a craftsman, not a businessman, and apparently didn’t charge enough for time and materials invested. How many of us can relate? You can read the complete entry on Wikipedia or in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 25.

            I can imagine that Mr. Hayday fretted about his business failure. Did he have hope that his work would stand the test of time? All I know is that his craftsmanship remains a palpable presence that spans 165 years, from the time the book left his hands in the mid-19th century till my hands reverse-engineered parts of it in the 21st century.


  1. Wow Tawn! This gives me goosebumps on many levels. First of all, it looks like your workmanship was up to James Hayday's. This looks so richly beautiful. You both were in your "Hayday!" Secondly, such a direct & hands on visit with history. How cool is that?! I love how you take it there. You are very much an artisan. Let's go even further back in history - like the artisans I just read again about who were called to create the temple. I love to remember how we were given that gift by the ultimate artisan.

  2. Where did my comment go? I was touched by the work you did on this as well as the link to our history. It was much more smaltzy the first time!