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Subject: Reading


From: Donald Farren <p00244>
Date: Wednesday, May 3, 1995
I see in Douglas Leighton, _Modern Bookbinding: A Survey and a
Prospect_ (1935), 7:

    J. M. Dent... in his Memoirs... tells how,... apprenticed... to
    a bookbinder,...  while... working at the bench... he acquired
    much of that knowledge of literature which later in life stood
    him in good stead.  `Many an hour,' he writes, `was taken up by
    dipping into books which I was binding, which had to be made up
    by working late into the night.'  To that reminiscence there is
    an interesting parallel in the life of another great son of the
    bookbinding trade, Michael Faraday, who, so the tale goes, owed
    his introduction to Sir Humphry Davy to his having been
    discovered by a customer studying a book which he should have
    been binding.

Likewise I see in Thomas James Holmes, _The Education of a
Bibliographer, an Autobiographical Essay_ (1957), 1-13, passim:

    I spent three summers working in the library of the Duke of
    Sutherland.... In that ancestral library of some twenty thousand
    volumes... I widened my acquaintance with European and Classic
    literature.  I was delighted to find there and to read much of a
    XVI century illuminated vellum manuscript of Boccaccio in
    English, a fine old quarto edition of Froissart, a noble folio
    of Holinshed's Chronicles.  In the Duke's room I found a volume
    of Gaelic ballads in English, the reading of which kindled my
    interest in ballad lore.  Many other gems of the older
    literature I found in that great library....

    When I arrived in London the Bookbinder's Union had won its
    demand for an eight-hour day.... The employers... compensated
    themselves by abolishing the leisurely approach to the day's
    work.  Time clocks measured time by minutes to be accounted for
    exactly.... Gone were the privileges and perquisites allowed in
    former years.  No longer was there an occasional glance at the
    text of a book....

    On Monday, October 14, [1902] I began work at the celebrated
    Club Bindery in that city [New York].... In New York,
    bookbinders, I found, followed the long day and leisurely system
    I had known in Newcastle, Staffordshire.  Even after the general
    adoption of the eight-hour day, about 1906, the private Club
    Bindery was excepted from it.  The long hours--6:30 a.m. to 6
    p.m.--and the unhurried, tranquil, Old World atmosphere of the
    remarkable Club Bindery afforded its forwarder many a
    surreptitious reading of a passage or page in the hundreds of
    treasured volumes which came to us for binding.  During the
    lunch hours of several days I recall... reading Robert Burton's
    world-famous Anatomy of Melancholy in the... first (1621)
    edition.... I made fair progress in reading Chaucer's English in
    his Caxton edition....

    It may be significant that the modern commercialization of the
    craft of bookbinding, like the commercialization of printing,
    has left no room in the shortened, intensified work day for any
    leisurely admixture of scholarship with craftsmanship or

Question: Do bookbinders still read the books that they bind--and by
extension conservators the books that they treat?

Recognizing that the answer to this question may be a trade secret,
I will be happy to preserve the anonymity of respondents by
receiving replies directly and summarizing to the list.

Donald Farren
4009 Bradley Lane, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Fax: 301-951-9479

                  Conservation DistList Instance 8:89
                    Distributed: Sunday, May 7, 1995
                        Message Id: cdl-8-89-010
Received on Wednesday, 3 May, 1995

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