Recently I have received an email from Elspeth Olson, the librarian and archivist for the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco, California. The museum explores the culture and tools of bookbinding, from its earliest forms to the changes and innovations of the industrial revolution. They also share stories of people who worked in binderies.
Our permanent exhibit features 19th-century bookbinding techniques and tools to illustrate the changes in the trade that occurred with the advent of mechanized production. In addition, we have rotating exhibit spaces to feature other topics, such as women in bookbinding or the impact of the Florence Flood of 1966 on restoration and conservation.
Because we are still a relatively young institution, I am writing to ask for your help, if you’re willing to give it. We have a small but growing collection of library and archival resources that we are able to make available for displays and researchers of every stripe. In the past year, we have received inquiries of many types, including high school students doing school projects, individuals conducting family history research, and professionals and hobbyists looking for assistance in identifying newly-acquired tools.
I would like to continue growing our collection to reflect binderies and binders both in America and elsewhere in the 20th and 21st centuries. Are there documents, ephemera, or samples you’d like to see stored in an archival-quality research collection? If you have copies to spare, can you share some photographs with us of you and any assistants at work in your shop? Please tell us who you are, what you’re making, and what tools you’re using.
It’s clear from the communities with whom we have interacted both in person and online that book production is still a vibrant world, and we would love to build up that aspect of our collection.
It would be really nice if you can help the museum in any way.
You can reach Elspeth via email: [email protected]
American Bookbinders Museum
355 Clementina St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
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