I am officially done with the academic portion of my Master’s degree: I have passed my thesis and submitted all my assignments. The next step will be an internship year, beginning in September. This, of course, means that I have finally got to time to read — i.e., get back to what originally drew me to book conservation.
Unfortunately, like many of us, (especially those who live in New York City), while the desire is great, the ability is lacking. To wit, I have neither the physical space nor the financial assets to support my
addiction habit reading pleasure.
Which is why I, a book conservator, a fervent believer in the wonders of the physical book, am going to talk about Project Gutenberg — my favorite source for free books. Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free ebooks — mostly books in the public domain. These range from biographies to early science fiction to murder mysteries… and more to the point, books about books.
A basic search for “bookbinding” turns up Douglas Cockerell’s seminal Bookbinding, and the Care of Books, John Cotton Dana’s Notes on Bookbinding for Libraries, and (my personal favorite) The Enemies of Books, by William Blades, which includes this tirade against meddlesome women who insist on dusting his library:
Dust! it is all a delusion. It is not the dust that makes women anxious to invade the
inmost recesses of your Sanctum—it is an ingrained curiosity. And this feminine weakness, which dates from Eve, is a common motive in the stories of our oldest literature and Folk-lore. What made Fatima so anxious to know the contents of the room forbidden her by Bluebeard? It was positively nothing to her, and its contents caused not the slightest annoyance to anybody. That story has a bad moral, and it would, in many ways, have been more satisfactory had the heroine been left to take her place in the blood-stained chamber, side by side with her peccant predecessors.