Workbench discovery: Map

I’ve written very little about my work at Beatley, mostly because it was such a busy term for me. But I do have a few interesting tidbits I’d like to share—interesting discoveries I’ve made while working on different books. These “Workbench discovery” entries will probably be short, but I hope they’ll always be fun.

This one came from a book published in 1913:

What have we here? A map!

What have we here? A map!

It’s a spine lining, which is probably already clear from the proportions and curvature, but becomes even more readily apparent when you take a closer look at the other end.

You can see the title (which was blind- and gold-stamped on the spine) in the liner.

You can see the title (which was blind- and gold-stamped on the spine) in the liner.

Spine liners are used to help give the spine of the text block a nice curve upon opening, rather than a sharp angle. Bookbinders often use scraps of paper from other projects for spine liners. I’ve seen many liners with text (usually typeset, but sometimes handwritten), but never a map. Granted, my experience is still somewhat limited (although less so now than it was a few months ago)—it’s possible that this is quite common. I’m not sure whether this map is accurate for the 1912/1913 period or whether it’s older (any experts out there?), but it’d be interesting to find out.


  • Oh man, that is so cool! Have you found or heard of people leaving notes for the next bookbinder? Were the handwritten ones you found mundane or did they have signatures or anything on them? I ask because I would TOTALLY write notes and jokes on the liners if I were a bookbinder in 1913.

    LaurenDecember 29, 2011
    • I’ve only found a few handwritten things, but they’ve been mundane (or, more accurately, it was unclear exactly what they were originally). I’ve never heard of a bindery leaving notes in the way you suggest, and I think overall it’s fairly unlikely. The reason you find this sort of writing at all is because the bindery was being frugal with its materials—why waste paper scrap, when it can serve a perfectly good and necessary function in another book? The odds that a given book will be opened up again to be rebound/repaired are probably not very good, since most would go to personal households rather than libraries, and even if the book is opened up in this way, there’s no guarantee that the note will be noticed. For this to be effective, you’d probably have to leave a note in every copy of the book. That might be feasible for a hobbyist producing a small run of a book, but it’s less likely to occur in the context of a business/livelihood.

      Jackie SmithJanuary 2, 2012

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