Wooden Book Boards

Our friend Jeff Peachey was just in Boston teaching his sharpening workshop to the students at North Bennet Street School.  Jeff mentioned that there is still space in his upcoming workshop on wooden boards.  It is obviously NOT in New England, but it looks like well worth the trip!

From the description on Jeff Peachey’s blog:

Los Angles, California. (November 8-12, 2010). Week long wooden board workshop at the Huntington. Description Below, contact Justin Johnson for details- jjohnson(at) huntington (dot) org.


Until around 1500, most books were bound in wooden boards. Books with wooden boards lie somewhat outside the routine treatments book conservators are normally tasked with. Split, and splitting wood boards are a tremendous problem in many institutions–they put many other aspects of a binding, especially intact covering materials, at risk of further damage if not stabilized or otherwise treated. This five day master class will focus on the fundamentals of the treatment of wooden book boards: the basics of using hand tools to shape wood accurately, easily and efficiently; the making a sample set of woods commonly used for wood boards; the examining of historic techniques for fabrication; and the making a sample set of common treatments for split boards. Choosing, tuning, using, sharpening and maintaining woodworking tools will also be taught. Exploring some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for conservation treatments will also be covered. No previous woodworking experience is necessary. Five days.


  1. Learn how to evaluate, use and maintain basic hand wood working tools.
  2. Construct a sample set of reference wood commonly encountered in historic book boards.
  3. Construct a specialized jig to plane thin wood boards.
  4. Reproduce historic board shapes, channels, tunnels, chamfering and learn to recognize the tools used to make them.
  5. Construct samples of currently used techniques to repair split and splitting boards, and discuss their applicability in various real world situations.
  6. Make one sample board from a log, by hand, to understand the historic hand technologies– using a maul, froe, and broad axe.
  7. Begin to appreciate some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for real world books.
  8. Discuss in depth the results of a recent article by Alexis Hagadorn and  Jeffrey S. Peachey  “The use of parchment to reinforce split wooden bookboards, with preliminary observations into the effects of RH cycling on these repairs” Journal of the Institute of Conservation, Volume 33, Issue 1 March 2010 (pp 41 – 63)
  9. Consider storage, housing and display issues unique to wooden board bindings.
  10. Discuss treatment considerations based on documentation that participants supply.

Cuala Press Seminar

Another upcoming event of interest to New England Chapter members from Barbara Hebard at Burns Library:

Boston College, John J. Burns Library
140 Commonwealth Ave, Chestnut Hill, MA

November 8, 2010 

The Women of the Cuala Press and the Irish Literary Revival

Boston College Libraries, in collaboration with the Association of College & Research Libraries, New England Chapter (Women’s Studies Interest Group), are pleased to announce a seminar, “The Women of the Cuala Press and the Irish Literary Revival”, to be held at the John J. Burns Library on November 8, 2010. Presentations will be offered by Dr. Robert K. O’Neill, Librarian of the John J. Burns Library; Marjorie Howes, Associate Professor of English, Boston College; Justine Sundaram, Reference Librarian of the John J. Burns Library; and Andrew Kuhn, doctoral candidate at Boston College.  A complimentary continental breakfast will be served prior to the talks. 

In 1902, Elizabeth and Lily Yeats went into business with Anglo-Irish carpet designer Evelyn Gleeson’s Dun Emer Industries. Lily was in charge of the embroidery department and Elizabeth ran the press.  In 1908, due to personal and professional differences with Gleeson, Elizabeth and Lily left Dun Emer to found their own Cuala Industries, which included the Cuala Press and the Cuala Embroidery Department. Besides providing works for publication, William Butler Yeats acted as editor and advisor for the press. Cuala Industries, while producing books, broadsides, note cards, hand-colored prints, and embroidery designs, employed Irish women artisans, writers, and artists. The John J. Burns Library has an impressive collection of Cuala Press materials and related items in its holdings. Some of these materials will be available for viewing at the seminar. 

The seminar and breakfast are free of charge and open to the public. The breakfast will be served at 9:00 am and the seminar will begin at 10:30 am. To place a reservation to attend, please contact Barbara Adams Hebard, barbara.hebard@bc.edu

View a slide show of some Cuala Press archival materials from the John J. Burns Library:

Directions to Boston College (note: parking locations and rates are listed here):

Campus map (note: the John J. Burns Library is located in the Bapst Building, enter the door nearest to the main gate):

Dominic Riley Artist Talk

The New England Chapter of GBW will co-sponsor with North Bennet Street School another installment in our lecture series.  This artist talk features the entertaining and talented Dominic Riley while he is in Boston teaching a couple of master classes at the school.

This lecture is free and open to the public, but please email workshop@nbss.org to reserve a seat.  You can use the same email to inquire about the workshops, or see www.nbss.org for more information.

Dominic Riley
Thursday, October 21, 2010
6:00-8:00 pm
North Bennet Street School
Boston, MA
Dominic Riley is a bookbinder, teacher, and filmmaker. He first learned bookbinding at 16 from Benedictine Monks at Douai Abbey in Berkshire and later with Paul Delrue and at the London College of Printing. Dominic has worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and for various binderies in London, New York and San Francisco.

Upcoming in New England

We want to bring your attention to a few upcoming events in the neighborhood that may be of interest to chapter members.

From The Ticknor Society:

Katherine Wolff discusses Boston’s Early Bibliophiles & Their Athenæum

Boston Room, Johnson Building, Boston Public Library, Copley Square.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010, 6:30 P.M.

Enter from Boylston Street entrance and turn left. The Boston Room will be on your left. http://www.bpl.org/central/plan.htm

For our inaugural Fall event, Katherine Wolff, author of Culture Club: The Curious History of the Boston Athenæum, will discuss “Boston’s Early Bibliophiles & Their Athenæum.” The Boston Athenaeum’s founders–many of them devoted book collectors–worked hard to build a community of like-minded amateur intellectuals. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, these gentlemen looked to Great Britain for their cultural heroes. A careful reading of Athenaeum documents reveals passion, anxiety, and veiled assumptions about class. Indeed, the values of the nascent institution became a kind of scaffolding for one notion of American culture. Our society’s namesake, George Ticknor, was among the bibliophiles whose taste and motivation helped solidify the early Athenaeum. Katherine Wolff is an independent scholar, who received her doctorate in American literature and history from Boston University.

From the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University:

The Charles H. Watts II History and Culture of the Book Program
Thursday, September 30, 2010.  5:30 pm, JCB Library
Bookbinding through Five Centuries: Bottlenecks and Breakthroughs
A Lecture by Sam Ellenport

Free and Open to the public.  A founding member of the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers, Sam Ellenport is a hand bookbinder and historian of the craft.

From the Art Gallery at Bunker Hill Community College:

The Art of Discovery and Boston Book Art
until October 29, 2010
Reception on Thursday, October 7. 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Gallery Talk on Thursday, October 14. 1:30-2:30 p.m.

This exhibition combines a photo exhibit and essay by Eva Timothy, “Lost in Learning: The Art of Discovery,” with a group exhibition showcasing local book artists.  Includes work by GBW president, James Reid-Cunningham, and other chapter members.