Caster’s jerks and knocking up the balls: Adventures in hand-press bookmaking

Me in a printer’s hat.

The first week in June, I had the privilege of attending the Book History Workshop (BHW) at Texas A&M University, where a group of twenty workshop participants and six instructors created a facsimile edition of an 18th century publication–setting the type, imposing the pages, pulling the press, and folding and binding the gatherings into pamphlets–in addition to experimenting with other aspects of book production, such as typecasting, making and decorating paper, and creating woodcut and wood engraved illustrations. These pursuits were all in the name of empirical bibliography, a term coined by Todd Samuelson and Christopher Morrow, instructors of the BHW, which they define as “an effort to understand the manner in which a book was constructed through immediate physical experience (including the systematic and repeatable process of testing and verification based on historical methodology)” (Samuelson and Morrow 86). We made books, therefore, following appropriate practices and technologies of the hand press period (ca. 1450-1800), in order to develop a deep understanding of book construction that would inform our future work with these books as librarians, curators, and scholars.

Reproduction common press at Texas A&M University.

We did indeed develop a bodily understanding of the process and labor of book production–I went to bed physically exhausted every night! Let me take you through some highlights of the workshop.

Our first full day in the pressroom, we came to tables set up with job cases full of type, equipment for composing and setting type, and an assigned number of lines to set individually:

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Once we had set our individual lines of type, we had to join them together into a page–being careful not to pie the type (spilling the lines we had so carefully composed)!

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Once we had our page locked up in its galley, we printed proof pages to see which corrections were needed.

Page of type surrounded by a metal frame with metal pieces holding the type firmly in place.

Locking up the page in a chase for a galley proof.

Finally, all the pages to be printed on a sheet were imposed on the press bed:

Day 2 began with a new experience: “knocking up the balls”–that is, putting wool into wooden ball stocks and fastening pelt over them with nails. These created padded ink balls that we used to apply ink to the type. One of my classmates joined an instructor in knocking up for this first time:

After knocking up and inking the balls, we had the chance to print the pages–wearing our printer’s hats, of course!

We also had another set of lines we each had to set.

My lines to set for day 2–longer this time!

Day 3, we had a final set of lines to set, and we experimented with two illustration techniques, wood cut and wood engraving. I plan to rush over that, however, to talk more about typecasting, which we did on day 4.

Typecasting first began with making the matrix, or the mold used to cast a single piece of type. You begin with a blank (a piece of metal that will become the matrix), and a punch (another piece of metal that is used to make the impression in the blank). Punchcutting is an entire craft unto itself, and the thought of the skill and fine touch needed to make punches blows my mind. We were given punches that we hammered into blanks, after which we filed them down to make sure the impression was centered on the matrix.

Once we had our matrices made, we were ready for typecasting. The matrix is put into an adjustable mold that is held closed with a spring. Then comes the part I was a little bit scared about–molten metal is poured into the mold, while the caster makes a “caster’s jerk.” This is an upward, jerking motion that forces the molten metal all the way into the letter form of the mold. I had some trepidation about handling molten metal, but with safety goggles and gloves, it was all pretty safe. See me below looking a liiiiiittle unsure about this whole process.

Amy getting ready to typecast. Not feeling too sure about this whole idea. Photo credit: Jo Collier.

The metal begins to solidify almost instantly, and it does not take long to cool. What comes out of the mold is a piece of type with an extra piece of metal, called a jet, attached. You break off the jet, plane off any ragged edges, and file the piece of type to type-height. And there you have it! A piece of type!

The end result of our week of labor? A 22-page facsimile pamphlet of Thomas Paine’s Thoughts on the Peace, from an edition published London in 1791. It is printed in three gatherings, or groups of folded leaves. The gatherings are sewn into a blue paper wrapper (paper made during the papermaking part of the workshop) meant to mimic the type of cheap paper wrapper that printers would frequently sell their books in. These paper wrappers were not meant to last. They were a means to hold together the gatherings of a book until the purchaser could take them to a binder to put a more permanent covering on them. In this case, though, I’m planning keep the blue paper wrapper. I’m proud of our work!

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Work Cited

Samuelson, Todd, and Christopher L. Morrow. “Empirical Bibliography: A Decade of Book History at Texas A&M.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 109, no. 1, 2015, pp. 83-109.


#TBT June Wedding

Bridesmaid, wedding, day and two visiting dresses all with large bustles. (published by Les Modes Parisiennes:Peterson's Magazine 1883)

June is a perennially popular month for weddings, so today we are taking a glance at the wedding attire of days gone by. Today’s Throwback Thursday image is from our fashion plate collection and is from an issue of Peterson’s Magazine in 1883. The two dresses on the far left are a bridesmaid’s dress and a wedding dress. As you can see, the tradition of wearing a white dress must date back from at least the late-19th century. It looks like it was also popular to have the bridesmaids wear a brightly colored dress for the occasion.

If you’re interested in seeing more fashion images, please visit our digital collection. You can also visit the archives to see the originals in the Mary Barton Fashion Illustration Collection.


ISU Summer Aesthetics

Long before Instagram and Pinterest (or the “Postcard from Campus” videos), there were filler pages in the student yearbook, featuring seasonally aesthetic scenes of campus along side nostalgic quotes, presumably meant to evoke the lazy heat of an Iowa summer and the change of pace that life undergoes each year on a comparatively quiet campus.

1916

1916.summer

1916 Bomb Yearbook, pg 23

1945

1945.summer.2

1945 Bomb Yearbook, pg. 7

1955

1955.summer.4

1955 Bomb Yearbook, pgs. 432-433

1968

1968.summer.2

1968 Bomb Yearbook, pg. 42

1969

1969.summer.1

1969 Bomb Yearbook, pgs 64-65

1970

1970.3

1970 Bomb Yearbook, pgs. 34-35

1972

1972.summer.1

1972 Bomb Yearbook, pg. 78

 


Of course, summer at ISU isn’t all about lovely scenery and relaxation. Both on and off campus, the ISU community remains active throughout the hottest season of the year.

Many students continue taking classes.

1947

1947.summer1

1947 Bomb Yearbook, pgs. 84-85

1955

1955.summer.2

1955 Bomb Yearbook, pgs. 440-441

 


Others study abroad.

1955

1955.summer.6

1955 Bomb Yearbook, pgs. 436-437

 


Still others attend or work at summer camps.

1936 – Civil Engineering Summer Camp

1936.summer.1

1955 – R.O.T.C Summer Camp

1955.summer.1

1957 – Forestry Summer Camp

1957.summer.1

1957 Bomb Yearbook, pg 361

 


Incoming freshmen attend orientation events and get to know their peers.

1972

1972.summer.2

1972 Bomb Yearbook, pg 79

 


And, of course, everyone complains about the construction projects (though we know we’ll be glad for the renovations come fall).

1968

1968.summer.3

1968 Bomb Yearbook, pg 43

1973

1973.summer.1

1973 Bomb Yearbook, pgs. 80-81


What’s your aesthetic this summer?


History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings at Amana!

Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives and Preservation have partnered with the Amana Heritage Society Museums, Living History Farms, and the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation to share local stories by screening archival agricultural films from our collections. 

This project is inspired by the work of film archivist Jane Paul (January 19, 1958–November 13, 2018). Paul spent her career collecting, curating, and presenting film content tailored for regional and multicultural New Zealand audiences.

Event this week

Thursday, June 20, Amana Heritage Auditorium, 705 44th Avenue, Amana, Iowa, starts at 7 p.m.

We are screening our production Landmarks in Iowa History #2: Amana, originally aired on February 3, 1959, and Iowa Perspectives, a news story that aired on January 10, 1979.

Peter Hoehnle’s presentation, “Just When You Thought You Had Seen It All…” follows. Hoehnle is a historian from Fire Creek Historical Consulting and an Iowa State alum. He will discuss never before seen images from the Amana Heritage Society and Museum, that were preserved through a grant with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Historical Resource Development Program. These images provide a new window on life in Amana.

Save the date for our day at Living History Farms!

Thursday, September 12, Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa

Last week

Last Wednesday we visited the Norman Borlaug Heritage Farm and did a screening in the New Oregon #8 school house.

History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings is funded, in part, by the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area General Grant Program. This program funds projects dedicated to telling America’s agricultural stories.


NHPRC Update: CARDinal Makeover

Check it out — our public catalog, CARDinal, got a makeover!

coverpage_homescreen

CARDinal’s homepage

This is the last step to completing our NHPRC-funded project to implement a new archives management system. Please visit CARDinal (and the updated CARDinal Reference Guide) and let us know what you think!

Contact archives@iastate.edu with any questions or comments.

NHPRC logo

This project has been generously funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).


History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings

This summer, we are kicking off our pilot project History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings. Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives and Preservation have partnered with the Amana Heritage Society Museums, Living History Farms, and the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation to share local stories by screening archival agricultural films from our collections.  This project is inspired by the work of film archivist Jane Paul (January 19, 1958–November 13, 2018). Paul spent her career collecting, curating, and presenting film content tailored for regional and multicultural New Zealand audiences.

Next week!

Wednesday, June 12, at the 1915 barn on the Norman Borlaug Heritage Farm, 20399 Timber Avenue, Lawlor, Iowa, from 1 – 3 p.m.

We are bringing two productions: Norman Borlaug – Revolutionary (1971), a film about the Green Revolution, produced by the National Agricultural Chemicals Association, and Dimension 5: World Food and Hunger with Norman Borlaug, a television panel discussion about pesticides and wheat varieties. The Borlaug Foundation also provided untitled home movie footage from Borlaug’s time in Mexico.

In two weeks!

Thursday, June 20, Amana Heritage Auditorium, 705 44th Avenue, Amana, Iowa, starts at 7 p.m.

We are screening our production Landmarks in Iowa History #2: Amana, followed by a presentation by Peter Hoehnle, from Fire Creek Historical Consulting and an Iowa State alum, on the images the Amana Heritage Society & Museum preserved through a grant with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Historical Resource Development Program.

Save the date for our day at Living History Farms!

Thursday, September 12, Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa

History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings is funded, in part, by the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area General Grant Program. This program funds projects dedicated to telling America’s agricultural stories.


Early print features: navigating an errata list

 Last week, I highlighted our oldest book in veterinary medicine. I cut this section from that post for length, but thought it would be of interest to readers who may want to learn more about errata lists in early printed books.

During the printing process, the people that set the type, known as compositors, would occasionally make mistakes–as would anyone who had to set type in mirror-image! If these mistakes were not caught before the sheets were printed, printers would often include lists of errors, errata lists, so that readers could correct the text themselves. Here is an example of a corrected error:

Midway down the page, handwritten in the margin is "+ pugnabis"

Marginal correction made to the text.

Pictured below is the errata list from Jean Ruel’s Veterinariae medicinae libri II, printd by Simon de Colines in Paris in 1530. He has titled his list, Erratorum Recognitio, or recognized errors:

First line reads (in Latin): Repone pro purgabis, pugnabis. folio 2 pagina 2 versu 23.

List of printing errors included by the printer in the back of the book.

Let’s take a look at how a reader understood this section. The first listed error reads, “Repone pro purgabis, pugnabis. folio 2 pagina 2 versu 23,” or, Replace for purgabis, pugnabis. Leaf 2, page 2, row 23. The word “leaf” in this instruction brings me to an aside about the difference between foliation vs. pagination. Foliation means that the leaves in a book are numbered; in other words, if you open a book, the page on the right will have a number, but not the page on the left. Pagination means that every page is numbered. This is what we are used to seeing in books today. Early books, however, were often foliated, which is the case here:

Book opening illustrating foliation. The page on the right is numbered “2.” The page on the left has no number.

So, looking again at the instruction, “Leaf 2, page 2, row 23,” leaf 2 refers to the 2nd leaf of the text, the one that has a number “2” in the upper right corner. Then it indicates, “page 2.” Page 1 would be the side of the leaf that has the number on it, or the right side of the page when the book is held open. Page 2 is the other side of the leaf. Sometimes this is referred to as recto and verso, in which verso refers to the reverse side of the leaf. So here, after finding leaf 2, the reader turns the page for page 2 of that particular leaf.

The next item in the instruction is the row number, row 23 here. Starting from the top line of text on the page, count down the number of lines until you reach row 23. This count will include the line for the chapter heading seen on the page. (Confusingly it does not include the running head at the very top of the page that gives the book’s title.)

Numbers added to the rows on the page. (click for larger image)

So, to recap: for this error, the reader turns to folio 2, turns over the page, and counts down 23 lines. There we find the error, “purgabis.” The reader has marked the word with a small cross, and in the margin given the correct word, pugnabis. This reader petered out after several corrections. After trying the process out on the page pictured here, you may understand why.

A "+" above the word "purgabis" printed in the text to match the handwritten correction "+pugnabis" in the margin.

Close up of marginal correction.


Weird, Wacky, Wonderful: “Preps” be Warned

I stumbled upon this document when looking at the papers of Frank Paine, an alumnus who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1909.

RS 11/9/2, Box 1, Folder 1

This document is a “warning” to the “Prep” class (freshman) from the Sophomore class of 1909. I would venture a guess that this was made all in good fun to “rib” the new kids on the block. The text is small and a little difficult to read. Here is a highlight:

“Be it therefore known that we hold these truths self-evident that all “preps” are created brainless, that they are endowed by their creator with certain depraved hallucinations, among which are the following: That their milk brained babble can impress their natural superiors, the sophomores; and that their cheap, long delayed, crack-brained squash tops are a real terror to the world.”

I was struck by the imagery on this poster as I was flipping through the documents. While tensions between classes may be a thing of the past, this poster is a reminder that things were not always so copacetic. For more, see this post about freshman beanies.


Rare Book Highlights: ISU’s oldest book in veterinary medicine

Iowa State University has the oldest veterinary college at a state school in the United States, founded in 1879. It is fitting, therefore, to examine the University Library’s oldest book in veterinary medicine, Jean Ruel’s Veterinariae medicinae libri II, published in Paris in 1530.

Title page of book includes large, black-and-white line illustration showing a bearded man wearing 16th century European clothing on a horse. In the background is a castle, some smaller houses, a herd of horses or other animal. Behind these are woods and a sky with clouds and a group of three flying birds.

Title page of Veterinariae Medicinae Libri II by Jean Ruel, 1530.

The work’s title page credits Jean Ruel as the work’s “interpreter,” and indeed, the text is a compilation of ancient Greek texts on veterinary medicine, translated into Latin. Ruel, born in 1474, was a French physician and botanist, and in 1509 he became physician to King Francis I, who commissioned the work. Ruel taught himself Greek and Latin, and he published a number of compilations or translations of classical scientific texts. He is best known for authoring his own treatise on botany, De natura stirpium, published six years after the veterinary medical work.

Authors are listed in Latin: Apsyrtus, Hierocles, Theomnestus, Pelagonius, Anatolius, Tiberius, Eumelus, Archedemus, Hippocrates, Aemilius Hispanus, Litorius Beneuentanus, Himerius, Africanus, Didyms. Diophanes, Pamphilus, Mago Carthaginensis.

Greek authors included in Ruel’s compilation.

The work was published by Simon de Colines (c. 1480-1546), a Parisian printer and one of the first of the French Renaissance. Colines was connected to the famous Estienne printing family and likely worked under Henri Estienne. When Estienne died in 1520, he took over his print shop until Estienne’s son Robert took it over in 1526. At that point, Colines had set up his own print shop and printed works for the University of Paris. He printed a number of prominent scientific texts, including Charles Estienne’s De dissection partium corporis humani libris tres (1545), and Ruel’s later publication De natura stirpium (1536).

Table of contents in Veterninariae Medicinae, referred to here as an Index.

Today, when we think of nonfiction or scholarly books, we expect to see features that help us navigate these texts, such as tables of contents or indexes. These features did not always exist, however, and Colines made important contributions to the development of these textual structures in early printing. This work includes a table of contents (pictured above), which he labels an “Index.”

Page showing writings on fevers in horses by Greek authors Eumelus, Agathotychus, and Pelagonius.

The text is organized by malady, beginning with fever in horses, and presents texts on that subject by various classical Greek authors. At the end, Ruel has included a glossary of terms.

Ruel has included a glossary of terms.

Binding

The most unique feature of our copy of Veterinariae medicinae is its binding. It is rather inexpertly covered in in three separate pieces of waste manuscript vellum — the spine and the front and back covers. Take a look at the turn-ins (pictured below), or the part of the covering material which is turned over the outer edges of the boards. See how sloppily they are done? A little bit like how I covered my high school text books using an old brown paper grocery bag. A more neatly crafted binding would have mitered corners that come to a point in the corners, rather than this overlapping one, and the turn-ins will usually be neatly covered by the paste-down endpapers.

The waste manuscript material is of interest, too. I plead ignorance of all things manuscript-related, but this does not look to me like a typical medieval manuscript piece. To begin with, I don’t believe this is Latin. It looks like French to me. At least, I clearly see the word “amour” (shown above, circled in red). Is this a love poem? It looks like it could be lines of poetry. It is written in a large hand with a lot of space between lines and fairly wide margins. Do you have a guess what this piece of writing is? Do you recognize the hand, and could you hazard a guess at the time period it was written? If you have any insights please share in the comments section below.

Shows handwritten text in an old handwriting style, written on vellum.

Can you read this? The ink is a bit faded.

Work Cited

Jean Ruel. Veterinariae medicinae libri II. Parisiis: Simonem Colinaeum, 1530. (Call number SF743 H612v)


ISU Hillel: A Jewish Student Club

Happy Jewish American Heritage Month!

Currently, Iowa State University boasts two recognized Jewish student organizations on campus: Hillel and Chabad. Because we, unfortunately, do not have an abundance of archival documentation on either, my knowledge of their histories is a bit murky. However, I have located some traces of ISU Hillel (a branch of a national organization by the same name) back to 1940, which appears to have been its date of arrival on campus. If this is indeed the correct date, and the club has been active continuously since that point, which seems to be the case, then next year, 2020, will be their 80th anniversary.

The earliest mention I found was a page from the 1942 Bomb yearbook, which featured a full page on the group after they chose to forgo an annual banquet so they could dedicate their entire event budget to the purchase of a patriotic war bond instead. The page details the group’s origins, touches on their weekly activities, and names club officers.

A page from the 1942 Bomb Yearbook, page 173, which reads as follows. Title: Hillel Club Purchase National Defense Bond. Text: Hillel Foundations are sponsered by B'nai B'rith, America's oldest and largest service organization, for the purpose of bringing more adequate knowledge of their heritage to the Jewish students of the university campus. Units are supervised by trained professional directors who cooperate with representative student leaders in the task of making Jewish religious and cultural values vital and relevant for the college generation. The first Hillel Foundation was established in 1923 at the University of Illinois. There are now 60 units, strategically centered in every part of the country. In 1940 a counselorship was awarded the group at Iowa State College, Rabbi Morris N. Kentzer, director at the University of Iowa, was made this group's director also. Dispensing with the tradition of the annual banquet, the Hillel group purchased a Defense Bond with the money that would have been used for food. The group meets weekly in the Pine Room at the memorial Union. After a short business session, a speaker is featured who may discuss religion, international affairs or student problems. Officers: Ben Bookless, president: Ann Harris, secretary: louis Plotkin, program chairman: Robert Ettinger, representative to Interchurch Council: Sylvia Kalnitsky, Corresponding secretary.

1942 Bomb Yearbook, page 173

Owing in part to the existence of a campus-wide “Religious Emphasis Week” in the 1940s, many of the ISC ’40s yearbooks feature sections on religious and service organizations, and these include images of the Hillel club sporadically through about 1949.

1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 120. There are group pictures and the following title: "Bit and Spurs rode show horses in Veishea; Hillel group took part in campus WSSF aid."

1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 120

1947 Bomb Yearbook, including group pictures of the Hillel club. The text reads: "B'Nai Brith Hillel. As part of a B'Nai Brith, national Jewish religious organization, Hillel held Friday evening religious services. Social hours, an informal winter dance, and a spring banquet featured the social program. President for the year was Harley Babbitz."

1947 Bomb Yearbook, page 159

Images of group shots of the Hillel Club. The title reads, "Hillel maintained its ties with the Jewish students association."

1948 Bomb Yearbook, page 162

Two images feature group pictures of the Hillel Club. Text reads: "Hillel. The members of B'nai B'rith Hillel used their weekly programs to combine social and cultural interests. The Hillel Players became an active group spring quarter. At the annual Memorial Day picnic awards were given to students for outstanding service to the group. Beatrice Shapiro was president; Richard Caplan, vice-president; Esther Medalie, treasurer; and Sol Hoffman, secretary.

1949 Bomb Yearbook, page 264

Researchers will be glad to see that most of these captions identify the individuals pictured, which means it may be possible to reconstruct membership rosters for the club’s early years, if these do not exist elsewhere, and/or look up additional information about graduating seniors’ majors or other campus involvement.

Several yearbook indexes post 1949, in fact, list B’nai B’rith Hillel under entries for senior activities, so we can surmise that the club was still in existence after this point, even if campus publications did not cover its activities as thoroughly.

Within the University Archives collections, however, we have some club ephemera that picks up documentation again in the 1970s.

Draft of a purpose statement on a fragment of paper. Text reads: "B'Nai B'rith Hillel. The purposes of B'Nai B'Rith Hillel are to provide for the social and religious needs of the group here at Iowa State College. Any person interested in the organization may join by paying the dues of $1.00 per year. During the year religious services, and discussion groups are held in room 222 of the Memorial Union every Friday night. Yearly reports of the organization may be obtained from the councilor of the local chapter."

Draft of a purpose statement on a fragment of paper. No date, but circa 1970. RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

Handwritten calendar and financial statement for club activities for the 1972-1973 school year. For details on text, please contact the ISU archives.

Handwritten calendar and financial statement for club activities. RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

A number of these documents are internal club records — handwritten accounts detailing yearly activities and budgets. Correspondence included in this folder suggests that ISU student groups were being required for the first time to submit annual paperwork in order to maintain an official affiliation with the university, and/or receive funding. So these single-page accounts may have been drawn up for an early version of what is now the club recognition process.

Handwritten calendar and financial statement for club activities for the 1972-1973 school year. For details on text, please contact the ISU archives.

RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

There are also a few 1970s programs, like the 1974 handout below, which advertises a series of Holocaust memorial events.

Front of the handout. For details on text, please contact the ISU archives.

Front of the handout, RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

Back of the handout. For details on text, please contact the ISU University Archives.

Back of the handout, RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

There are also a few newspaper clippings that date from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, again evidencing that the group was active on campus throughout that time, if not particularly well-documented in archival records.

RS22-08-00-02_1978

Article from the Iowa State Daily, February 2, 1978

Article from the Iowa State Daily, August 6, 1991

Article from the Iowa State Daily, August 6, 1991

If you have more information or documentation regarding the history of ISU’s B’Nai B’rith Hillel club, or of other Jewish organizations or events on campus, please feel free to contact the University Archives at archives@iastate.edu. We would love to hear from you.