Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Books and Bones

In the world of bookbinding, people refer to a bone folder - emphasis on the first word. Which to me sounds like a tool for folding bones, and much too grisly to be associated with making books.
I got the wrong end of the stick, thank goodness.

Looking much like a letter opener, a bone folder is made from bone, and used for creasing paper: squashing down the folds to make everything neat and tidy and lined up. Or getting the folds ready for cutting with a slitting knife. (Another violent-sounding tool. Hm, makes me wonder if early bookbinders were trying to beef up their nerdy reputation? Trying to sound more macho?)

Since leaping into the ancient and exacting world of bookbinding in January, I've produced this little flawed collection. With each one - a new technique, new challenges, new mistakes.

This sudden interest in how books are put together has me scouring my bookshelves, looking for examples that have been assembled in traditional ways. Visible lines of stitching embedded deep in the folds of the pages, cloth bindings, perfectly mitered corners (these are particularly rare), interesting end papers, embossed cover boards.

My search led me to this small volume, where I am sliding through the icy history of frost fairs and frozen follies along the Thames with my morning tea. In her entry for 1506,  Helen Humphreys writes:
     The three boys have come down to skate on the river. The water above the bridge has set fast and smooth. There is no snow on the surface and the ice glistens black under the winter sun. It is early in the morning and there is no one else moving on the Thames.
     The boys sit on the ice at the edge of the the shore and strap the skate bones onto their boot soles. They push off from the bank, at first tentatively, and then with stronger and stronger strokes, until they are flying, like crooked birds, up the centre of the river.

Bone folders. Bone skates. 

By 1662, the world of skating is on the brink of a new era. (No Hans Brinker joke intended, but the story of him and the silver skates did get bound into a book, so it's not completely off topic!)

Another excerpt from The Frozen Thames:
     It is a cold walk from the church and, since I am in no hurry, I take the path by the river so as to watch the skaters on the ice. It is on the frozen river this year that the new iron scheets from Holland are being used. They are far superior for sliding on the ice than the old skates made from animal bones.

While reading these lines, an image popped into my head. This up-north Canadian variation on the Twelve Days of Christmas. I love the elaborately wrought scheets.

How am I going to bring this around to tarot? No idea. I'll go eat lunch; maybe inspiration will strike.

(Well, there is some ice skating in this card from the Bruegel Tarot, but since one drunk guy has fallen through the ice and may drown, it hasn't quite the simple look I'm going for.)

Here I am, nine hours, two meals, and an afternoon snack later. This is what I've got:
For lunch I had bean soup sent over by my daughter, who didn't realize how ENORMOUS the quantity of soup four pounds of dried beans produces.

Old ingredients, beans, still around and yummed over.
Old tools, made from one of history's earliest and most readily available materials - bone.

Nope, this isn't quite it. Back tomorrow.

Now it's Tuesday, and I'm no smarter than I was yesterday. Oh well.

Here we are in 2016, and the lowly bean still simmers in modern soup pots. Burnished bone is hard at work doing the same folding work it did centuries ago, as current crafters discover the ancient art of making books.
Old ways become new again. Styles and trends cycle in, out, and back 'round.
Gaian Tarot