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September 23rd, 2013 by Nicholas Cotoulas



Today in ENG 227 we focused mostly on looking at different type of book-bindings and collation formula.

We started out class by talking about last week’s lab, in which we had to transcribe old hand-written documents written in cursive. Despite the lab’s tediousness I found it to be quite rewarding and gratifying at times. I had to do a similar assignment for HIST 120 Writing History with Professor Greenwood, in which we had to transcribe a letter written by an ex-slave Union soldier named Isaiah Allen. What I found to be extremely fascinating was that I found some similarities in the hand-writing style of Princess Elizabeth of England in her letter to her sister Queen Mary I from 1554, which I transcribed for the lab,  and that of Mr. Isaiah Allen.

I would be curious to see if any scholars have done studies on hand-writing from different decades and centuries and have compared trends that have reoccurred in hand-writing styles in which the researchers have attempted to ask and answer questions such as: Why is Princess Elizabeth’s hand-writing style similar to that of an ex-slave Union soldier with very little education? What potential socioeconomic and ideological issues and contradictions do these similarities raise?   Also, I’ve had to look through hand-written documents for my work-study job with Fordyce at Clark’s Archives.

We looked at three books today when we discussed different book binding techniques. All three of them had tooling on the covers, which means that a small hand-tool was used to make ornate borders on the covers. The first book we looked at was printed in black and red ink, and we examined a few pages of sheet music. The bars were printed first in red, and then the notes were printed second in black, so that way the lines of the bars would not go through the middle of the notes. We also looked at the imprint left by the press on the pagination, and determined which sheet was printed first. Several of the books had buses, which are metal pieces placed on the cover of books to protect them. Also, the books had clasps, which tend to be made out of metal and do not serve the purpose of keeping the book shut, but are rather just meant to help support the binding. Two of the books we looked at also had registers, which are on the last page and serve the purpose of guiding the binder in putting the gatherings of leaves in order.

The second half of class we discussed how to determine a books collation formula, which essentially tells a reader the format of the book and how many leaves are in each gathering. My fellow classmate Andy and I worked together, and eventually go the hang of the process which can be very tedious, since you have to go through the whole book page by page and determine the number of leaves per gathering for each gathering.  The book we looked at is cataloged as book “10” in Jonas Clark’s collection of rare books which fill the shelves along the walls of the rare book room in Clark’s Archives. We found an inscription in the inside cover of the book that stated that the book was in fact a counterfeit, which was pretty interesting.

After class, I showed Professor Neuman, my newly acquired antiquarian book, that I bought when I went antiquing with my parents in Sturbridge this weekend. The book is, The Youth’s Book on Natural Theology, by Reverend T. H. Gallaudet, printed in 1832. Professor Neuman said, that this would be a good book to examine when we get into the machine-press period. Professor Neuman and I also talked about how I’m thinking about doing my research project fro the class on curating a small collection of old Bibles that are part of the Jonas Clark collection, and how I would like to eventually do a project or thesis down the road that focuses on creating a genealogy for a portion of Jonas Clark’s collection. By genealogy I mean a family tree of books that identifies each book and traces them back to their original owners and book-dealers, and categorizes them based on year and physical features. Professor Neuman was very receptive and excited about these ideas, which has given me a lot to look forward to with my future research pursuits.



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  1. Good
    Professor Neuman was very receptive and excited about these ideas, which has given me a lot to look forward to with my future research pursuits.


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