It is my pleasantest joy to bring more news into this conundrum of words that only a fool such as I would connect together and try to disguise as a blog. With just one week left before it has been a whole three years since this perfect balance of stoic wisdom and bright colours came to exist, I would gladly allow myself to carry on upon the curious wise of bookbinding;
I have just finished binding the oldest book I have yet had the good fortune (and bravery) to repair. It was, when I bought it almost two years ago, a broken little thing with no title page, two loose and bare boards, and a tattered spine that was split and misshapen. It’s been on my list of things to put off and I was doing very well at that, until this happened*.
The book is a fascinating history of the life of Francis Xavier, an early Christian missionary in Asia, and supposedly the first to visit Japan among other countries. It’s in Latin, and right now my Latin is about good enough to understand every other word, although with a little more work perhaps I’ll be able to read it a little bit more easily. The book itself was printed in Belgium in 1597, and still contains odd annotations and corrections by almost certainly the original 16th century owner.
The binding is a personal take on very late 16th/early 17th century English style, with a spine label simply of ink on paper. The handwriting on it is of the period, which is a form of secretary hand that I’ve wanted to learn for a long time.
Reshaping the binding was tough – the spine had shifted and broken, before coming damp and almost setting into a weird shape – so the whole body of the 400-year old book had to be carefully adjusted back into the correct shape. Sadly, a late-18th century rebinding of the book had cropped the pages very closely and several annotations and page titles had been truncated. The result of this new binding, though, has a very rustic, medieval feel, and hopefully can now last another few centuries!
Until next time, excellent reader!
*I have had the generous luck of 23 years of life, and still rely on auto-correct for this word