Ever wonder how your favourite novel went from an edited manuscript to the beautiful bound book on the shelf at Chapters? Today novels are published at manufacturers with the latest technology and fancy machines, but at one time, like so many other things, books were bound by hand. One of the tools used in the binding process was a book press.
We just happen to have one of these 150 pound beasts in our collection. Donated by a man from Hampton in 1972, this book press made of iron was at one time red and black with gold trim. With time its appearance has aged, but I wouldn’t doubt that it could still press a book just as well as ever. From sewing parchment to gluing paper together, book binding has come a long way, but this artifact has been useful throughout much of the progression.
A book press doesn’t have an overly complicated job, although, without one, pages of a book may not be assembled very neatly. Book presses are used by placing the stack of papers that are to become a book ever so carefully, straight and in order, on the base of the press. The ‘T’ shaped handle (in our case) is then turned until the top plate comes down on the papers and everything is snug. The book press ensures that the pages are compressed together, but it also allows someone to work on the spine, or trim the edges of the pages without worrying if they are going to slide around. The next step could be to sew pages together, glue them, make holes for a coil, or numerous other options.
An object that appears to be such a rugged piece actually has quite a delicate job. Next time you’re reading an old novel maybe you’ll think about all the hard work that went into, not only writing the story, but fabricating the book itself!