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.