Tuesday

>Both morning sessions were conducted by Terry Belanger, the director of Rare Book School (RBS) at the University of Virginia. The focus was descriptive bibliography (or, as RBS folks call it, DesBib), which was certainly a topic that entered the room on occasion, but only when it did not interfere with the anecdotes, pithy sayings, and book lore that spills from Terry like water from an overfull pitcher, and makes him a great person to listen to. Having taken DesBib before, I had no trouble following Terry’s necessarily abbreviated (but no less dense) coverage of the essential philosophy and practices of the discipline, but as he stated, it’s a huge and deep field, and it was helpful to revisit. Terry talked quite a bit on the history of papermaking, which led to a discussion of format (the relationship of the printed leaf to the size of the paper), essential for folks who deal with hand-press period books (1450-1800). RBS produces facsimile paper for students of DesBib (which you can buy by the ream) with wire lines, watermarks, counter marks, and deckle edges, which we used to follow along (a sort of origami drill), as well as another facsimile of an actual printed work in 16mo (sextodecimo), which was a particular challenge to do.

After lunch, Rob Rulon-Miller and Tom Congalton discussed their theories and practices of book description. Although Rob deals in older books (pre-1900) and Tom deals in modern firsts, essential philosophy behind each was similar. There is a standard, after all, that the industry essentially works with, however different dealers interpret it. Those who stray too far obviously do so at their peril. Their practices differed (as is appropriate, since the material was differently produced, distributed, and consumed). I gravitate to the older books, which I find much more interesting as objects. In the second session, we were given a book to describe. I was pleased to have a bibliographically vexing 16th century edition of Herodotus, two volumes (Latin and Greek) bound together. I say vexing because it’s been over a decade since DesBib, and I’ve had little occasion to deal with books in those languages (I would be better with French, Spanish, or English books in that period).

Angela Scott discussed book conservation and preservation, specifically rebinding, rebacking, paper repair, and boxing. Angela revisited her earlier talk on materials and styles of bookbinding, and discussed the relative pricing of different sorts of conservation work.

After dinner we all visited Hooked on Books, a general stock (ca 5,000 square feet, probably 70,000 titles) bookstore across town, where the owners discussed their business and we spent the evening there till about 10:30pm.

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