Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It's not a bug, it's a feature.

It's always fun to take a look at a newly acquired manuscript item and find an interesting feature.

In the case of the leaf pictured today, I was delighted to find that a tiny hole in the parchment had not only been avoided by the scribe (as usual), but attended to by the rubricator, who circled it on one side of the leaf (see the first image, between the words "i[n]ter" and "ones"), and even sort of included it in a bit of rubricated decoration on the other side.

When the vellum had a natural flaw, I guess it was reasonable to call attention to it sometimes, rather than just ignoring it. If your vellum is freaky, then own it, I guess.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mini-Catalogue 183: Time and Space

It's been a number of months since I've posted a mini-catalogue, but just because I've been busy with other things. At last, however, here's a link to a few mostly new items (with a couple of old ones, I'll admit), loosely linked to the theme of time and space by involving almanacs, atlases, and travel photographs. The items range from ca. 1500 to about 1900.

One of my favorite items from this batch is the cute little 1767 French almanac I've illustrated here, with a truly wonderful embroidered binding. An embroidered binding is one of those things I never thought I'd have a chance to buy, but--amazingly--I did. It turns out, if you watch long enough, and have patience enough, a wide range of things eventually turn up: it's one of the delights of being a collector, I think.

But there are other interesting things among the dozen or so listed. I hope some of my readers here might find something worth looking at.  Here's the link to Mini-Catalogue 183.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Printer's waste paper wrappers.

The longer I spend among books, the more fascinated I become by all the variations of their presentation to the world: the ways their printers, publishers, and owners finished them off (or didn't) in order to help protect them, or to give them an identity, or simply to hold them together.

Lyon Almanacs, 1775 and 1787.
Of course, manuscript fragments and incunabula fragments re-used in bindings are doubly interesting: each has been a book itself and also has been used to protect a later book. 

But sometimes, printers used their own products to bind up their own books. Often enough, printers expected owners to have books bound, and printer's bindings were often intentionally ephemeral, which makes them all the more interesting when they survive.

The two books I've illustrated here are French eighteenth-century almanacs from Lyon, dated 1775 and 1787, and both, I think, are remarkable for preserving the printer's original paper binding wraps or covers. 

That the wrappers are original is especially clear in the case of the 1775 almanac, where the printed text on the wrapper is a close match in format and content to some of the pages in the almanac itself, although some differences suggest the wrapper is made from a sheet from a different printing year.

Regardless, in both cases, the exteriors of the wrappers are printer's waste: uncut sheets of printed pages that might, if circumstances had been different, have become books themselves. In both cases,  this printer has overprinted these waste sheets, in one case with a design of squares, and in the other with a design of triangles. These overprintings partially obscure the waste printing, but the effect is only partial at best.
1775 Lyon Almanac, title page and inside wrapper.

In the case of the 1787 almanac, the wrapper has been backed by an unprinted sheet: the interior pastedowns, then, are blank. 

In the case of the 1775 almanac, as my second picture shows, the inside of the wrapper has been backed with another printed sheet, probably a printed decree or legal document. (Even an ABE search on the printer/publisher, Aime de la Roche, suggests that such documents were a staple of this printer; a WorldCat search is somewhat more difficult to evaluate). 

These wrappers, of course, are fine examples of the recycling of printed materials, but I find the overprinting here to be quite charming. Though the printer must have expected these wrappers to be quickly replaced by these almanacs' owners, they were made visually appealing, even so.