The Obsolete Man and the Obsolete Book?

North Bennet Street School and the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers invite you to:

The Obsolete Man and the Obsolete Book?
A Conversation with Jeff Peachey

Thurs, Feb 18, 2010, 6:00-8:00 pm

Jeff Peachey will screen an original Twilight Zone episode, “The Obsolete Man,” present a short lecture, then lead a discussion based on some of the issues it raises.  Because of Jeff’s experience in examining and treating a wide variety of historic book structures, he is especially interested in how humans have interacted with the physical form of the book over the past 1,600 years, the importance of non-texual information and how the book has acquired such symbolic power.  The images of books in this episode form a locus for a variety of issues—authority, freedom, history, truth, the state, individuality, identity and conformity—that are explored in a classic Serlingesque manner.  “I am nothing more than a reminder to you that you cannot destroy truth by burning pages,” Romney Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) declares when the Chancellor (Fritz Weaver) pronounces him obsolete, and then condemns him to death.  Wordsworth, a secret librarian, lives in a room not only surrounded by books, but virtually built out of them.  Considering aspects of book conservation, Peachey will deliver a short lecture touching on some of the ideas explored in the film, looking at how books are displayed in Wordsworth’s apartment, commenting on the various book structures portrayed and linking these to themes presented in the episode.  Models of several historic book structures will be available for handling.  Then some more general observations on the value of non-textual elements of books will be made, along with the challenges of conserving these elements.  This will be followed by an open discussion.  Possible topics include questions about the supposed death of the codex; the importance of non-textual elements in books; books as physical expressions of authority; books as moving, portable hand held sculpture; books as democratic instruments; the display of books as externalized knowledge; hand interaction in reading; and most importantly, how closely is our culture inexorably linked with the history of the book.

This event is free and open to the public.  To reserve a seat, please email workshop @ or call the Workshop Office at (617) 227-0155, x 102.

If you would like to get even more of a Jeff Peachey fix while he is in Boston, please also note that he will be teaching a workshop at North Bennet Street School.  This should prove to be a more in-depth experience than the usual introductory workshop– appropriate for advanced binders as well as those newer to the field.  Online registration for this and many other workshops is available at

Case Binding with Jeff Peachey
Fri-Sun, Feb 19-21, 2010, 8:30am-4:30pm 

Making a hardcover, cloth case binding is de rigueur for most introductory bookbinding classes. This three-day workshop, however, will combine the praxis of making a case binding while placing it in historical context of 19th C. machinery, paper wrappers and boarding. By making a new case binding containing our textbook as well as disbinding and documenting a mass produced case binding, then recasing it, participants will gain hands on experience. Production techniques will also be addressed; in 1991-92 Peachey recased about 3,000 books. Case binding will also be examined in historical context by reading excerpts from 19th C. “how-to” books, other contemporary descriptions of binderies and tracing the development of bookbinding machinery through PowerPoint presentations. Participants will learn to use a sewing frame and plough. Participants will complete a paper wrapper, a boarded binding, a cloth cased textbook (containing facsimile pages from a number of 19th C. bookbinding manuals) and reverse engineer a book of their choosing. Participants should bring basic bookbinding tools and one book for recasing. Some bookbinding experience is necessary–this workshop is an excellent introduction to one of the most ubiquitous book structures, as well as basic bookbinding skills—but it is also suitable for advanced students wishing a more in-depth examination of the historical context of this important book structure.

Paste Paper Party

Paste Paper Party

December 5th, 2009
Faith Lutheran Church
311 Broadway, Cambridge

Just in time for holiday gifts and projects, get together with your fellow chapter members and decorate some paper. This is not a class, but a chance to share tools and ideas. This event is appropriate for all skill levels.  This event doubles as the social event of the season!

The details:
We will provide paper,  paste, a few tools, and of course the space.  You bring one tube of paint of your choice to share, and any tools you would be willing to share.   And of course bring any special paper, paint or other supplies and tools that you want to use for yourself!  Please bring $5 to help defray expenses, or bring something to eat or drink to keep up our energy and level of festivity.  Kids are welcome!

Please RSVP by Monday, November 30th to  If you can, specify what color of paint you plan to bring, just to insure that we don’t end up with 20 tubes of red paint. Space is limited to 25.  Directions available at:

Garage Annex School in December

Our friends at GAS sent the following reminder regarding an interesting workshop in December with Pam Spitzmueller:

Please join us at the Garage Annex School in Easthampton, MA, U.S.A., for the workshop Wooden-Leaf Books. You may view a gallery of images by going to Wooden-Leaf Books. Please register on our site using your MasterCard or Visa, or if you send a check email us to let us know. We’ll save you a spot. We hope you see you here!
December 5-6
Tuition: $225 plus materials: $40
Utilitarian book formats of multiple wooden leaves have been used throughout history as reusable tablets for notes, perpetual calendars, craftsmen pattern books, or permanent containers for writing.
Thin slices of wood are bound along one edge forming pocket-sized books. They are durable, portable, and ready to be consulted at a moment’s notice. These historical styles are ripe for interpretation by book artists.
Our first model will be the wax tablet codex. The Roman multi-leaf wax tablets have sunken panels containing darkened wax. A stylus, a metal writing tool, was used to scratch letters into the soft wax as well as to erase them with the stylus’s blunt end. These multi-leaf books range in size from 2 to 10 leaves. Sometimes a recess was cut into the board to hold the stylus.
There are variations from the Far East of the multi-leaf tablet that use wax, no recess, and a glued-on spine. We will make a sample of this as well.
Medieval craftsman’s pattern books as well as medieval perpetual calendars—both of multiple leaves—were spine edge stitched allowing these books to open 180 degrees. Traditionally, patterns or calendars were carved into the sturdy wooden surface. These durable books were always at hand and were consulted readily. Sometimes they were further protected by closure with a fore-edge clasp.
Energetic workshop participants are welcome to bring to class their own designs that they may paint or draw on the leaves. Or, you may adhere to historic images for your calendar.
In addition to the structures described above, we will study other wooden books from various cultures—such as a 4th century C.E. Egyptian example.
You can expect to make three structures: (1) the roman tablet, (2) the Far East glued spine, and (3) the medieval multi-leaf—and optionally, you may apply historic content by scribing wax and carving, pasting on or stenciling images copied from medieval examples.