Re: Gilding and gold leaf / I wonder
it is not pure specialization I was talking about, not breaking work in 1000 tiny bits... it
was the idea of knowing one's limits.
If a person knows where the limits are, they will avoid many avoidable mistakes and spoil a
smaller number of objects. What is needed is honesty - am I really sure I can do this? -
and readyness to ask for and take advice.
How many Morrises and Sandersons and Bonets are there? One in a decade, if as many.
Including those no one knows about, maybe three or five. They do their job, and the rest
of us does another job.
The Arts and Crafts movement in Germany is responsible for what I call 'the bookbinder's
decathlon'. There are still (too many) bookbinders, especially in the older generation, who
feel it is absolutely necessary that a bookbinder can do everything and that it is a disgrace
to give parts of the work to a specialist - with predictable results on the objects in
question. A person who has done the last gilt top edge 30 years ago may not have
forgotten how it is done, but can it be a good gilt top edge?
The arts and crafts movement certainly revived crafts, decorated paper-making among
them, but it also generated a problem. Many artists looked into the old crafts and tried
their hand. For instance, many artists made and gave a lot of impact to decorated paper.
On the other hand, many of them lacked a good technical base. Now bookbinders
perceived that artists did do a job in the craftmen's field that was pleasing, innovative and
interesting but technically on amateur's level (no offence meant; amateur is made from
amare = to love!). Confusion of crafts vs. art has not yet abated, with lots of self-
righteousness and condescension on both sides.
And I guess you are right, arts and craft mingled with jugendstil - with the provision that I
am no art historian and do not want to be one.
--- In Marbling@yahoogroups.com, "Jake Benson" <handbindery@b...> wrote:
> Dear Susanne,
> I certainly understand your sentiment about the quality and economic sense. Yet I also
> think that personal preference and a better sense of the context and application in
> question also helps. For my own part, I am a bookbinder who also does gold finishing
> addition to restoration and conservation of books and papers. For me it is a good blend
> though I don't do any one activity full-time. Others are happy to focus on one activity.
> Traditionally among Parisian bookbinders there was a distinct seperation between
> "forwarders" which covered books in leather and "finishers" who woked exclusivly doing
> gold tooling. You visited the forwarder first and then went on to a different finisher.
> work was incredible. In London, the large West End firms were broken into different
> departments where employees did one activity all day, and the "master' was the head of
> the department. Some smaller firms in would have the work broken in different
> departments, and the apprentice was required to rotate among the departments over a
> period of several years to become competent at all the tasks. I think it is a safe
> generalization to say that provincial areas require craftsmen who are multi-talented to
> work on a wide array of items that came their way, while larger cities had enough
> to allow for specialists to evolve.
> It is really due to the rise of the Arts & Crafts movement that started just over 100 years
> ago, that the process of one individual working on a binding was revived. William
> influenced T.J. Cobden Asnderson, and then Douglas and Sydney Cockerell, followed by
> Roger Powell. Their method was in a sense, a return to methods of Medieval monastic
> production. They felt that the over-processed and over-mechanized bindings were
> monotonous and over-done in decoration, and made with ppoor -quality materials. The
> Arts and Crafts philosophy and procedures continue to have a strong influence on hand
> bookbinding in the US and UK today.
> Of course my gold finishing is certainly not akin to the standard of Paul Bonet or Leon
> Gruel, my marbling is not what Sydney Cockerell would have preferred, and my leather
> covering is often far simpler than the lengths that French fine binders will go to. It may
> not pass as "mastery' in Paris or London, but it does do the job of satisfying my clients
> very real and immediate needs. While I am not traineed as a traditional Islamic
> I am very intersted in various methods used in manuscript production, though I doubt I
> will ever be thought of as a "master" of any of them in places such as Turkey. Yet it
> afford me some skills that I can use to restore the occassional Islamic manuscript that
> comes my way. My sights are not set on reproducing Imperial court bindings, just fixing
> something in as sound as as aesthetically pleasing a manner as possible.
> That makes me wonder about what the Arts and Crafts movement was like in Germany?
> Here in the US, the ideas were carried on by Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters. Yet we
> tend to think of it as very English style, though I know that the influence was felt more
> broadly in Europe. Perhaps the ideas became part of the jugenstil? This was never clear
> me. We tend to think of Art Noveau and Arts and crafts as more distinct, although there
> an overlap. For some reason I was under the impression that the relationship between
> commercial trade and handcraft in the German apprenticeship was fairly strong? Yet in
> other cases, the historical styles I have seen images of from Wolfenbüttel and teh work
> individuals like Dag Pedersen all seem very close to the arts and crafts aesthetics...
> Perhaps you never "lost" the tradional styles in Germany to begin with, requiring that
> be "revived" later on?