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Mystery solved: An antique book press

By Alice Bampton

minsky-book-press-smallA tall wooden and metal object which recently appeared next to the elevator on Falvey’s first floor has piqued people’s interest.

Communication and Publications team members conducted an investigation to determine what this is, contacting numerous Falvey staff members, James Mullins, Ph.D., former library director, Richard Minsky, an artist (who owns two presses which he uses daily), and the Museum of Printing, North Andover, Mass.

bertrand-press-plate-smallWe discovered that we have an antique standing bookbinding press manufactured in Paris, France, between 1870 and 1910 by A. Bertrand & ses Fils (A. Bertrand and Sons), Paris, a company well known for manufacturing printing-related equipment (“Fabrique de Presses en tous genres” is on the label of our press). This type of press is used “for the final pressing of a book [while glue is drying], as well as during the … cleaning of the spine”, and other parts of the processes of repairing and rebinding.

This large book press was probably used in early years in the library bindery. Book presses are still in use and these modern presses are similar to those used beginning in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Smaller table top presses replaced the large standing press in Falvey’s bindery at some point.

In the past, libraries often housed binderies to repair books and bind journals and magazines into bound volumes. Now such work is generally sent out and library binderies are rare.

Falvey had a bindery for many years; most recently it was on the ground floor, and a sign is still on the door, although the space is now an exit hallway. Still in use in 2000, the bindery’s final supervisor was Laura Hutelmyer, now Electronic Resource and Special Acquisitions Coordinator in Resource Management. She was assisted by Bill Greene, now on the RMC and Access Services teams.

Some earlier bindery supervisors were Harold Boettcher in the early 1970s and Francis McCarthy in 1973-77. When McCarthy retired the bindery became part of the Periodicals department under Anne Marie Cunningham.

The bindery was a busy place: in 1962-63, 9061 items were processed; in 1964-65, 3984 items were processed in-house and others sent out; in 1965-66,  3388 items were processed at a cost of $507.70 for materials; but in 1968-69, only 1794 items were processed in-house. By 2000, very little work was done in Falvey’s bindery; most was sent to a commercial bindery.

(Thanks to the following contributors: Laura Hutelmyer; Bill Greene; Rev. Dennis Gallagher, O.S.A., University archivist; Luisa Cywinski; Frank Romano of the Museum of Printing; and Richard Minsky.)



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Last Modified: December 13, 2010

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