Saturday, February 16, 2013

An Experiment in Fantasy Fiction

Years ago I played through a Warhammer Fantasy RPG campaign with some friends. My character was a Dwarf Troll-Slayer by the name of Godric Grefyfriar. This is his back-story.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An Experiment in Binding

A good friend recently asked me if I would rebind in leather a couple paperback books of his. I hesitated because I have very little experience with binding in general, let alone rebinding books. But the opportunity to rebind the books in leather had given me the itch to break out my binding supplies and give it a shot with one of my own books:

I found this copy of Church Dogmatics: A Selection by Karl Barth at the local Lutheran seminary Library, in their book sale room. The cover design has that early 60s look to it, including the rips and scuffs that mark a 50-year-old paperback. In all honesty, paperbacks don't carry much in the way of collectible value, so I didn't mind ripping the cover off this one.

Most of my experience in binding has been making journals: sewing signatures together to make the book block of blank pages, making the case (cover), and 'casing-in' (gluing the pages into the cover). There are actually two ways to case a book. You can assemble the case separately and glue it onto the book block, which is the way I learned to do it originally and is the method I've used to bind my journals.

The second method is to build the case directly onto the book block. I didn't know this until I received a couple book-binding books in the mail from my thoughtful mother who looks out for that kind of stuff for me. So I thought I'd give this latter method a shot, with the following results:

I'm not sure which method of casing the book I like best. Assembling the case separately seems to be less hassle. For the spine, I used a vinyl lining that I picked up at the fabric store. The rest of the cover is heavy stock on which I printed out the design with an ink jet. I'm pretty pleased with the way the binding turned out. In the future, if I have a book that needs to be rebound, I've got confidence I can make it look decent. Now we'll have to see if I can bind those paperbacks in leather...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Big Fish in a Moderately-sized Southern City

Daniel Wallace was in town last night for The 2010 Southern Writers Series. My wife and a good friend of mine made it out to the Richland County Public Library for a Reading-Q&A Session-Signing. Daniel read from a novel he just finished writing. It's really a wonderful thing to hear an author speak his own words. You get a better sense of the rhythm and mood when an author reads his work. After reading from his freshly-completed novel, which sounds like it will be fantastic, the floor was opened for questions. The folks who had gathered asked some good questions, and Daniel was ready with good answers.

One of the things he said that really stood out to me was having to do with being a writer. As a writer, he said, you think that it's your job, but really it's not. You write in your free time, between hours at your job and hours with your family. Essentially, and this is my paraphrase, being a writer is what you are, not what you do. On being published, he said that there is really no difference between being published and being unpublished. It only feels different to the one who hasn't been published yet.

After the Q&A session, Daniel went to the back of the room for a signing. I only had a couple things for him to sign. But it was nice to meet him. He's got a very gracious and humble attitude. I boldly asked for, and he graciously gave me, one of the pages from his reading. He inscribed it to my wife and I, and titled and dated it (I would post a picture of it, but I won't feel comfortable with that until the book is published).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pleasure and Profit, or The Find of the Year

It has been some time since I last posted, nearly a year. For those (one, maybe two) of you who have been waiting patiently for my next post, the time is at hand. Last Friday, during my lunch hour, I was rummaging around for books in an antique store in Newberry, SC. The first shelf I came upon had numerous aged volumes. I picked up a softcover book entitled, Pleasure and Profit in Bible Study, by D.L. Moody. Not being familiar with Moody's works, I thumbed through it to get a glimpse. I love the way the tables of contents were organized in older books. Instead of being just a list of the chapter titles and what page each began on, the table of contents gave you, as well, a brief summary of what each chapter contained, thereby truly being a table of contents, rather than a forward index of chapter locations. I have several older books where this is the case, especially in theological works. You can get an idea of what I'm talking about by clicking here. The book was originally published in 1895, 115 years ago. A very short time later the version of the book I found was published in April of that year by The Bible Institute Colportage Association, Chicago. According to the back of the book, the Association "was founded for the purpose of issuing good sound Christian literature at low prices." Indeed, for a whopping 10 cents you could have this version of the book, or any book in the series, sent anywhere in the United States. Which I imagine is why the book showed up in Newberry, SC. However, the book has had 115 years to circumnavigate the globe, so who's to know?

The book wasn't priced, so I decided to put it back on the shelf. Money has been hard to come by, as of late, and my lovely wife has not so subtly suggested that I already have enough books. But one of my habits in my collecting has been to check the flyleaf of books for marks of ownership or autographs. I did this and lo! and behold, the book is clearly inscribed and dated by Moody. I had to do a double take, I couldn't quite believe it at first glance. I hastily asked the clerk how much she wanted for the book. "Engh, twenty bucks," she says. Sold! The book quickly joined my collection. I've looked around online and simply cannot find any books signed by D.L. Moody. That's not to say they aren't around. It's clear, though, that I've truly found a rare treasure, certainly The Find of the Year.

For those interested, here's a link to the history behind The Bible Institute Colportage Association.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Green Books

I am a fan of books in their original state.  I guess that's why I have the bug to collect first editions.  The first edition captures something else that later printings don't.  There is something about holding and reading a book in it's first state available to the public.  You feel more connected to the author and to the time in which it was published.  It is exciting to find that first edition of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson or the signed first edition of A Time to Heal by President Gerald R. Ford.  But the feeling is not quite so strong as when you are holding an antiquarian first edition.  When you pick up a book published in 1858 or 1678 and browse the pages you go back in time.  You're holding a piece of history.

Unfortunately, the price of said antiquarian books is prohibitive for most.  Or maybe the availability is very limited.  Typically, the price and commonality of a book are inversely correlated.  So what do you do?  Your desire to see and hold these books can be sated by visiting a local used book seller, or if you're lucky enough there may be a rare book room in your local library.  But that's not quite like having the real thing on your shelf.  Without resorting to crime the easiest way to obtain a copy of one of these books is a reproduction or facsimile.  While this also is not anything close to owning the real thing, it's closer than a paperback version or modern translation.  

At the book sale I recently attended I got my hands on four reproductions.  They were produced by two publishing houses, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints and Gale Research Company, in the late 60's and early 70's.  All four happened to be bound in green cloth, hence the name of this post.  Although, as stated before, this isn't quite like owning the real thing, it still allows me to read the words as they were originally published; as they were originally intended to reach their audience (here I will eschew the discussion of author's intent versus publisher's intent).  I can also observe the historical publishing practices, as the words and layout are reproduced exactly.  And perhaps most charming, I can see the inconsistency with which words were spelled in times past.  All of these things help me to appreciate and enjoy what I'm reading and collecting all the more.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Honorable Mention

So I entered the Valentine's Day book into this contest.  I didn't win, but I got an honorable mention, which is nice.  You can see the winners here: 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Recent Rarities

Every three months my county public library puts on a book sale.  These sales were instituted to raise money for the library, which relieves some of the tax burden of running an award-winning library.  The sales are designed to move inventory rather quickly, therefore the books--having been donated for the sales--are priced very reasonably.  The most recent sale was January 23-24.  That's where I found a first edition of Michael Connelly's first book.


The book is in great shape.  Apparently, when the book was first released, it also had a blue rebate coupon in a band wrapped around the dust jacket.  That band is the only thing missing from an otherwise near fine/near fine book.  A great find for me, or I should say, for my brother.  I'm going to be sending the book to him soon, as he is the collector of Michael Connelly.  The Black Echo is the only Connelly book he needs to complete his collection.  A generous bookseller from Oregon is sending me a signed bookplate to tip-in, free of charge!  That will be a nice surprise when my brother opens the book.

My wife's sister and her husband were in town this weekend.  On Saturday, the girls went out and did their thing while my brother-in-law and I headed to the flea market.  We were about to leave when we stopped into one last bookstall.  I was rumaging through the "fill a bag for a buck" bin when I came across a decent copy of My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok.


When I opened the book, I was pleasently surprised to find that it had been inscribed and dated by Chaim Potok.  He signed it a little less than a month before I was born.  It's not a first edition, but a fifth printing.  The book is not in the best shape.  And the signature itself is marred across the first name.  Still, it's not a bad find for less than a buck.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Valentine's Day

Every year around Valentine's Day I try to do something really creative for my wife.  Last year I put together a picture for her in Photoshop.  This year I decided to create a gift that shows my love for her and my love of books.  

I was browsing in an antique store and found a box full of old printer's letters.  Once I picked out the letters I wanted I was wondering how I was going to display them.  I was browsing in a thrift store looking at books when I realized that a book would be the perfect place to display my printer's letters.  

What I did: 

I figured out where I wanted to put the letters.  I used an exacto knife to cut though the cover and about 200 pages.  I put a piece of glass between the pages where I wanted to stop cutting. I masked off the pages and spray painted the cover gloss white.  I then spray painted the edges of the pages flat black, using a hair dryer to keep the paint from sticking the pages together.  

I used Photoshop to design a new cover.  I simply measured the old cover of the book and opened a new file in Photoshop with those measurments.  As a background, I copied and pasted text blocks from Google books.  (Phantastes, by George MacDonald).  I used a filter to tweak the text a bit.  I scanned in the printer's letters and arranged the images on the spine.

I decide to add a little light to the book.  I hacked a Blu-ray gift card from Target.  I replaced all the blue LEDs with red ones.  I then drilled holes through the cover of the book and cut out a place in the pages for the PCB and wires to fit.  I glued a small piece of cork on the button, so when you press on the lower part of the cover you activate the LEDs.