Monastic finishing

Monastic finishing



IN the work described in Chapter XIX. gold leaf is used in all the principal ornamentation, and blind tooling is only auxiliary to the gilding. But another style of finishing, often found in ancient books, was revived some few years ago, and is now very popular for religious books, and is used for secular ones. This style is known as “antique.” or sometimes “monastic,” and consists entirely of blind tooling except the lettering; and as a rule, in this description of work, the edges are either unburnished red or gilt, or gilt upon red. The boards used are thick, and generally have bevelled edges. The tools for this work are of the usual kind, but the patterns are generally bolder and heavier in appearance than those used for gold. On the sides heavy rolls and line work, produced by such sets of tools as shown at Fig. 134 (last chapter), are most effective. Although it may not appear at first sight to require such nicety as gilding, the novice will speedily find that quite as much care and dexterity are needed to produce effective decoration. Everything must be worked straight and true, and the depth of impression given to the various tools must be the same. The colour of the tooling (which should be a dark mellow brown) should be uniform over the work. Before commencing work, the back of the book is damped with a sponge and clean water, which latter is then well “worked” into tlie grain of the leather with a small, clean, hard brush.

In executing antique work, the tools are heated, and each one worked several times in its place on the damp leather; this singes the leather until it is darkened. A steady hand and great care are required to ensure that the tool always falls exactly in the same place, and is not doubled or slurred at the edges. This kind of work is only employed on morocco and calf. Brown, olive, and slate-colour are the colours best adapted, particularly the first. The book is screwed up in the finishing-press, having had its back marked off. The pallet is then heated and worked steadily across the back, the motion being given by the wrist only. This must be done several times, and, as the leather dries, the heat of the pallet must be raised, which will usually gradually darken the lines and produce the deep tints required. Occasionally, it will be found necessary to damp the part of the book operated on several times before the necessary depth of colour can be obtained. The pallet must be held very steadily, and worked across the back quite straight. The gloss has next to be given to the blind tooling. This is done by making the pallet rather hot; it is then rubbed upon a piece of greasy leather and again worked backwards and forwards in the impressions previously made. This ia technically termed “jiggering.” The surface of the leather being damp, the brass face of the tool, however clean, will have a certain liability to stick to it, and perhaps pull off the grain. This is to be avoided, and the tool made to ” come away” with facility, by the following process.

Take 1 1/4oz. of white wax and 1oz. of lard, and melt them together in a glazed pipkin over the fire. Rub some of this grease on the flesh (rough) side of a piece of thick leather, and rub the tools for blind work occasionally on this greased surface while using them. In “finishing” the sides of whole-bound antique work, the pattern must first be marked out with the end of a pointed folder, assisted by a straight-edge and, when necessary, compasses. The whole surface is then clarified and brushed, as already described. Any fillets that may be required are next worked over the lines several times until the colour and depth of impression are secured. In order to give the lines a gloss, the fillet is then fixed by putting a small wooden wedge between the edge of the roll and the fork, as shown at Fig. 139.

The periphery of the fillet is now rubbed with, the greased leather, and it is then ” jiggered” over the lines, great care being taken not to double or blur the lines. Tools must be worked by making them slightly warm at first and then increasing the heat at subsequent impressions. Then the leather is permitted to dry, the tool re-heated, greased, and worked again for the gloss.

Antique work may be diversified and improved by working a fine gold line amidst the heavy blind tooling, as shown at Figs. 140 and 141.

The pattern shown at Fig. 142 is also an excellent and effective one for the side of an antique book. The lettering is completed after the blind tooling is finished.

Books bound in morocco flexible (which are generally devotional works) are usually finished with blind lines (a thick and thin) worked close to the bands.

There are a few favourite tools much used in ” antique ” finishing on the spaces of the back, &c. They are mostly modern imitations of some ancient ornaments found in the printed books of the celebrated Stephen Aldus, one of the most famous of the early printers. Hence these tools are called “Aldine.” Aldus’s own badge was that of a dolphin twined around an anchor, but this is not used by the bookbinder, although the anchor alone is; one of the most common of the Aldine tools is an acorn (Fig. 143, A), another is the Maltese cross (Fig. 143, B).

These tools are first worked blind; then the place is glaired with the camel’s hair pencil, and the tool again worked in gold, the other ornamentation being, as already stated, blind tooling, and the leather being left dull, or not glaired, polished, or varnished.