Workbench discovery: Related bindings

Late last year, two books (amongst many others) came in for repairs. I noticed that they had very similar blind stamping on the covers, and upon closer examination, I realized that (unsurprisingly) they had come from the same publisher: James Nichol, Edinburgh.

These two books used different-color book cloth, but had the same blind stamping.

These two books used different-color book cloth, but had the same blind stamping.

The two books were published five years apart, but the publisher’s stamping and other construction elements clearly didn’t change much over that period. The book cloth had the same basic feel, even though the color was different.

The blue book was published in 1855...

The blue book was published in 1855…

...and the brown one in 1860.

…and the brown one in 1860.

It was interesting enough that these both came into the department at the same time, but what really struck me was that they had the same type and level of damage—both volumes needed rebacking and recasing. While it’s true that these are two extremely common repairs (in fact, they’re what I spend the vast majority of my time doing), I think the similarity still demonstrates how damage emerges as a result of the choices bookbinders make with regards to both materials and construction. If there’s a weakness in either, it will become clear through in the nature of the wear and tear later on.

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