We have two more items this week. Both have to do with book binding, one as a subject, one as an exemplar.
Bradford, John. The poetical vagaries of a Knight of the Folding-Stick, of Paste Castle: to which is annexed, The history of the garret, &c. Gotham [i.e. Newark, NJ?]: Printed for the author, 1815.
A rare copy in original printed boards of an extraordinary and little-known verse collection. Although published anonymously, the book’s copyright was taken out by one John Bradford, who worked as a bookbinder in New York City from 1809-1819. Indeed, the first section consists mostly of poems about bookbinding—one of the very, very few instances of bibliopegistical poetry in all of Western culture. The poems include “This World’s a Huge Bindery,” “Receipt for Binding a Book,” “The Binder’s Curse,” and “An Enigmatical List of Binder’s Tools,” consisting of 34 devilishly difficult verse riddles. Here’s a simpler one that this curator managed to solve:
The two ninths of one who commences a suit,
O—U. G—and the eleventh of a hot biting root.[answer: PLOUGH]
One of the two inserted engravings depicts the Knight of the Folding-Stick, a fantastical creation fashioned from binder’s tools. The book concludes with “The History of the Garret,” a facetious prose history of Newark, NJ. Purchased from L. & T. Respess. NEH Challenge Grant Fund.
~ David Whitesell
Headley, Joel Tyler, 1813-1897. The sacred mountains. New York: Baker and Scribner, 1848.
A recurring theme of these reports has been the extraordinary creativity shown by the designers of American publisher’s cloth bindings, especially ca. 1847-1852. During this brief period binders focused particularly on the cloth substrate, employing striped cloths, cloths color-printed with decorative patterns, even cloths bearing custom-printed illustrations. This publisher’s binding in almost mint condition adds another highly unusual cloth variant—one not previously documented in the AAS collections. The diagonally ribbed cloth has been woven from white and blue threads. In other words, the binding is made from denim! The fabric’s rough, washed-out surface, however, does not show the elaborate gold-stamping to advantage, perhaps explaining why denim bindings did not catch on. Purchased from Mark Craig. Michael Papantonio Fund.
~ David Whitesell
Finally, stay tuned for next week’s report from the acquisitions table. I’ll have a rather remarkable piece of synchronicity to show you.