Monday, June 30, 2014

A Blook Club Feature: Long Life by Exide. The First First-Aid Kit for the Automobile

This is the first post of a Blook Club Feature. If you go to the Blook Club Page of this blog you will see a list of the people who have generously contributed to my collection. You too can be a member of the Club by donating blooks, published references, and scholarly input. I would also welcome your assistance in building the collection through financial contributions, should you be so generous to want to help. Each donated blook will recieve a Blook Club Feature Post. (I also hope to do this retrospecively in order to thank everyone who has contributed to date).

Here is an example of a very interesting object that was given to me by Tom Bodkin. I don't know the circumstances in which he found it but I'm very happy that he did. Upon acquisition, I conducted a bit of research and discovered its surprising historical significance. It is the first first-aid kit produced specifically for the automobile! It's had a hard life and is a little beat up, but fortunately all of its contents and design elements still exist. 

Photograph by Richard Minsky

Photograph by Richard Minsky

The Exide First Aid Case. Long Life by Exide; with a quote by Charles Dickens
Exide Battery Corp.
English, c. 1937
Tin, cloth, gold foil, miscellaneous first aid materials
20.8 x 13.3 x 4.7 cm (8.2 x 5.2 x 1.9 in)

This copy is very water damaged, but one can still see that the binding is covered in brown pebble and morocco grain bookcloths, and it is stamped in gold on the spine with Long Life by Exide. On the front cover there is a Dickens quote: Grief never mended no broken bones and as good people’s wery scarce, make the most on ’em (from Sketches by Boz, 1836).

Here is the text from the original press release describing it. Reference: The World’s Carriers and Carrying Trades’ Review. Vol. XXXIV-No. 397; October 15, 1937. November 4, 1937, p. 110:

“Exide” First Aid Kits.

The Exide Press Luncheon held at the Clarendon Restaurant on October 14th, was chosen by the Exide Company as the occasion on which to introduce a scheme to meet a motoring necessity which has long been neglected or overlooked.

With road casualty figures increasing annually—it is surprising that the percentage of cars carrying first aid kit could probably be put as low as one in a hundred. Hasty work on a roadside adjustment generally results in skinned knuckles or a cut hand which need immediate attention if dangerous conditions are to be averted, and for these reasons alone the kits are sure of an enthusiastic welcome by motorists.
We were impressed by the ingenious adaption of the famous Exide slogan, “Long Life,” printed on the spine of a “book” which opens and reveals the contents neatly and compactly arranged inside.

Distribution of the kits will be directed through the Exide organisation of 600 Service Agents, and it is hoped eventually to reach every motorist by means of the Company’s association with the retail motor trade.

Each kit contains one bottle of iodine, one bottle of smelling salts, one bottle of burn lotion, one bottle of sal volatile, one phial of aspirins, one pair of scissors, one roll of adhesive plaster, one packet of gauze, three rolls of bandage (1 in., 2 ins. and 3 ins.), one packet of cotton wool, one packet of surgeon’s lint, twelve safety pins in a box, one tin of pure white Vaseline, one pair of tweezers; and a scheme is in operation which enables the Company to sell the kits at 3/6 each.

Exide aims at a “first-aid kit for every car,” and they are to be congratulated on their initiative in being the first concern intimately associated with the motoring industry to sponsor a plan which meets an urgent need.

An aside: I can't believe we have to put up with those unattractive plastic first-aid cases, why can't we have bookish first aid kits these days? It will probably show up soon as another Project Page. If you make one, please send a picture.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Project: Faux Bookshelves of Elegant and Scary Varieties

In addition to regular posts, I would like to have guest posts and also the occasional blook how-to project. I'll make an attempt to inspire you with a couple of faux bookshelf projects, including my favorite, the haunted bookshelf. 

You know, when you search the Internet for the term 'faux books' the objects that show up are not at all the common items from daily life, like most of the items I own. They are quite fru-fru and there are lots of gold-tooled leather bindings. Faux books are certainly a blook category in themselves. They are the types of items interior decorators might place in a den or library to impart an air of culture. A number of manufacturers and binderies make book walls and panels for book walls as shown in this video, but bookbinders, artists and crafters could easily make their own personal blook libraries. If you are in New York City and go to Scully&Scully on Park Avenue, you'll see them in every imaginable configuration. 

Here is a YouTube video about turning regular door into a book wall. You could apply the same principle to any cabinet door. Please don't cut the spines off of real books. You'll go to hell, really. (Well, actually I don't know if you will or not, but I told you I felt strongly about so-called altered books):

Over the last few years I've been expanding my collection of Halloween blook props. They are a recent addition because I never knew they existed. I play with them all year, but make a special attempt to put them out around the library during the Halloween season (yes, some consider it a season). Many of them are motion-activated and they tend to activate each other, that gets really wild and very noisy, too noisy for a library. I'll have to put a post up in October, but here is one I want to share now because you'll have to get started on it to have it ready for your haunted library or house. I haven't made one, but I would love to. I need to.

This is a three-part video on making your own haunted bookshelf. Every book-lover should probably have one. It uses real books, but you could easily substitute blooks made of wood, Styrofoam, cereal boxes, etc. Don't forget to look on YouTube for others, they are there. I just like the highbrow/lowbrow juxtaposition of the two videos.

I hope you enjoyed the first project post! Send pictures and descriptions, and/or add 
comments if you make something. We all want to see.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guest Post: A Book Box for a Microscope

I'd like to thank book collector, Ronald K. Smeltzer, for kindly sending this first guest post about Ayscough's Universal Microsope:

Known only from the two-page description and this engraved illustration in The Universal Magazine for April 1753 is Ayscough’s Universal Microscope, designed to fit with its accessories into a wooden box made to look like a book. Illustrated as a single lens magnifier, the instrument could be converted to a complete microscope—hence the name “universal”—by mounting the body tube, shown at the foot of the box, in place of the single lens. The text with the engraving describes the parts and explains how they are used. 

James Ayscough was active ca. 1748–1759 as a maker and seller of scientific instruments near St. Paul’s, London. After his death, the business was continued by his wife Martha until 1767. Examples of his trade cards are known. Instruments signed by Aysough are uncommon, and no examples of his Universal Microscope are known.

Ronald K. Smeltzer

In 2013, Ronald K. Smeltzer was one of three curators (also Paulette Rose and Robert J. Ruben) to present an exhibition at the Grolier Club on Extraordinary Women in Science and Medicine. If you would like to read more about the exhibition you can find a press release on the Grolier Club website and also order the exhibition catalogue. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blooks of Today: Hot Off the Press

My colleague asked me if I was going to write a post about new blooks so I'll show you a few now. Artists, manufacturers and everyday people are making as many blooks as ever. The most substantial change is in the area of art. So many artists are making book objects now and the blook is enjoying a revival. If one just cruised around online, it would be easy to find contemporary confections, home furnishings, fashion accessories, greeting cards, craft supplies, garden ornaments, computer accessories, home security items and more. There doesn't seem to be an end to it, that's what is so surprising. Here are only a few. I can't vouch for all of them, but did note when I have seen or used them:

Garden sculpture: At Terra Firma Landscape Architecture, sculptor Terrence Parker creates stone books in several sizes. Open the link for details.

Tableware: These are very elegant and amusing, don't you think? I found them sold wholesale, but managed to collaborate with a few friends from my library to buy a dozen platters, which work well for library parties. It would be nice to have a set. Perhaps blog readers could let me know if there is any interest. Wouldn't it be fun? 

Perfume: Don't forget about Karl Lagerfeld's perfume Paper Passion, because "the smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world."

PROJECT ALERT. Book Cards: When you want to make your own book cards, Dr. S V of Bangalore, India posted a pattern for these cards. I make them quite often for library events. They are easier than they look and are always appreciated. Click here for instructions.

Lumio Book Light: The Lumio light was created for those who might be on the go, or just in need of mood lighting. Designed by Industrial Designer Max Gunawan, the light is disguised as a book. It bends into a multitude of forms and can be anchored with strong magnets to metal surfaces. The light lasts 8 hours and is rechargeable. Lumio is about 1″ thick and it is available in three wood finishes.

Many vendors sell home decorating objects that appear like antique books. Here is a trash can perfect for the home office or library. Here is the blurb form the webisite where I found it

Most office bins are horrible to look at. This one is different. It looks stunning, is beautifully made, and will instantly raise the tone of your office, lobby or boardroom. Yes, you can probably make do with a plastic bin, but how much more civilized to deposit even your scrap paper in this work of art!

Vintage Book Kindle Case - Dracula

A Kindle case: If you are looking for a new case, I noticed there was a sale  on this website in three bindings, including Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland. I haven't seen it in person, but here is the copy from the site: It will look as if you're reading an old hardcover copy of Bram Stoker's "Dracula." Tucked inside: your Kindle. Handmade in Hampshire, England using traditional bookbinding techniques and materials, each has a molded interior case that securely holds your e-reader. Lightweight, durable, splashproof, and satisfying. Specify Kindle 4, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire, or Kindle Keyboard.

Stress blooks: You can even buy stress ball blooks. Bryan Draper, Preservation Librarian at The University of Maryland, recently sent me two, printed with the U of M logo in different color variants. They apparently have a big bowl of them in the library. I'm not sure they are sending the right message, but I get a kick out of them. You can order customized titles for your library. Here is one vendor I found online, but I haven't purchased from them. I'd look around, there must be more.

That's just a drop in the bucket of what's out there in blook-land and that doesn't include altered books, which I try to avoid (don't get me started). Please post comments with questions and additions to the new blook category. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Whitman's Library Package (and I don't mean Walt)

The book format has been internationally popular as a novelty container for many types of candy since at least the late 20th century and probably earlier. One of my favorites is the Whitman's Library Package. In this ad dated 1922, it is referred to by the unfortunate term 'Oddity'. While there are many book-like candy boxes, not many follow through with the theme, as this one does, by providing a Table of Contents and a publisher's list of other titles. The Whitman's Library Package is bound in paper, printed to emulate a full-leather (goatskin) binding with gold tooling. I don't believe it was issued in other binding variants.  

I look forward to showing you other candy blooks in the future, but while we are on the subject I thought that you might enjoy this excerpt from a post that I found today on a site entitled Candy Professor:
...High-quality candy novelties were much more important in the early days of the candy industry. Success in the candy business hinged on moving quickly to introduce new kinds of candy and new novelties to catch the eye of child or adult shopper. Higher priced candy was often bought as a gift, and clever or eye catching presentations would increase a gift’s value. For children’s candies, the novelty could transform a simple candy into something much more appealing.
These candy dolls from the 1920s were manufactured by Huyler’s, a large confectioner better known for quality chocolates. Although these goods are for children, they would have been sold at higher-priced shops and department stores alongside Huyler’s chocolate goods and similar candies. Each was made by hand. These candy dolls appear primitive to the modern eye, but must have been charming and appealing to a child in the 1920s...
...Here is Simple Simon, fashioned of candy sticks, with his chocolate pies.  The book motif is cleverly carried through from the shape of the box to the hand-written rhyme, with the figures and candies playing out the theme.
In the Simple Simon package, the Huyler’s name is featured prominently. The transformation of candy box into part of a toy novelty assures that the manufacturer’s name stays in the child’s mind. The novelties are not only for children’s delight, but also to build business:
The children of today are the candy buyers of the future. [These novelties] give the manufacturer a chance to get first place in the child’s affections.
Source: Edward T. Tandy, “Place of Novelties in Merchandising,” Confectioners Journal April 1921 (Printers Ink March 1921)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Punny Blooks with a Dusty Theme

I suppose that the last post made me think of blooks with funny titles. Nothing pleases me more when I'm a little down than looking at my blook collection. Those with silly titles crack me up every time. Even thinking about them makes me smile. They aren't valuable antiques, beautiful objects or important historic artifacts, in fact if they were real books, they would fall under the practical how-to, pulp fiction and humor subject categories. They may be humble, but anything that makes us laugh should not be underestimated.

Not So Dusty, by Y. B. Untidy is a diminutive clothing brush in book form, probably for keeping in one's pocket or purse. I don't know if it's American, Canadian or English, or exactly what date it is. It is hand-painted and for some time, I thought it was a unique object, until I saw another one, so it must be the product of a a cottage industry or, perhaps these were commercially available and someone of artistic bent had the idea to add value and resell them. In any case, it's funny, isn't it?

Crime Does Not Pay, by Dusty Evsky is a novelty 'punchline' book from the late 1940s. Humorous, slightly raunchy blooks like these were made in the thousands and sold as souvenirs throughout the U.S. Their purpose was to lift the morale of guys in the armed services.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hoo Doo That Voo Doo That You Do So Well?

This post features another object from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (American Decorative Arts) and fortunately, this one is on view for all to see. (The last MMA object posted was the Book Harmonium.) The object record from the Museum's website is below. I'm slightly embarrassed that they don't include the title in the catalog entry, because by some, that could be considered the best part and standard book cataloging practice - especially in this case, as this is one powerful blook! Let me introduce the Hoo Doo Bible in the form of a Bennington Book Flask:

Book flask
United States Pottery Company 
Date: 1849
Geography: New England, Bennington, Vermont, United States
Culture: American
Medium: Mottled brown earthenware
Dimensions: H. 6 in. (15.2 cm)
Classification: Ceramics
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Stanley Herzman, 1984
Accession Number: 1984.395.12
On view in gallery 774

Bennington book flasks have been widely collected and published. They were popular novelty items made in both Rockingham and flint enamel, in many sizes. They frequently have titles impressed on the spine such as: Battle of Bennington, Bennington Ladies, Hermit’s Delight, Suffering and Death, Departed Spirits, Life of Kossuth and many others. All are hefty books with round spines with raised cords, corresponding concave foredges, squares, lines indicating pages on the edges. Some have more details than others, including endbands and tooled lines. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Codex Clutch: An Introduction to Bookish Handbags

A Judith Leiber crystal encrusted
evening bag
You can't tell a book by its cover: outward appearance is not a guide to a person's real nature; saying recorded from the early 20th century.

 Ladies accessories, such as compacts, clutch bags and full-blown handbags have been made in emulation of books throughout the 20th, and now the 21st century. There probably is a size limit, as I've yet to see a book-shaped briefcase or luggage set in folio format. Book purses make sense, as after all, books are time-proven efficient repositories for everything imaginable. Then there are their 'smart' and 'secrecy' factors; they make us look intelligent and accomplished, plus they are pretty good at hiding things one doesn't want others to notice. They are also amusing conversation pieces and can be perfect ice-breakers in social situations (or, I guess if they are really authentic looking, you could pretend you are reading), and they are perfect gifts for book-lovers. I'd suggest that shy ladies or their partners go run right out and buy one (or look online). There is no shortage and with so many variants, they exist to compliment every personality. 

I have seen numerous beautiful and imaginative antique compacts and purses. Examples include those made of beadwork, embroidery, silver, silk and leather with gold-tooling. The compact below is made by Dupuy, Paris.

Vintage bags are common and many of the popular designers of the 1980s and 90s created them, including the infamous Ivana Trump and Paloma Picasso. The most outrageous book bags are the minautieres from Judith Lieber, who created book bags in single codex format as well as a three-book stack with a strap, in schoolbook style. The basic formats of her miniautieres are consistent but the Swarovsky crystal decorations vary greatly. Some follow expected book standard and others go off the decoration deep end.

There are plenty of new blook bags out on the market as well. I've been seeing some on the street, and certainly at Metropolitan openings. Olympia Le Tan and Kate Spade have produced some quite chic blook novels, poetry books and travel guides. For thoroughness sake I must also mention the truly tacky book bags out there, which are cute and cheap,  but odd. Then there are the extremely upsetting altered bags. Sometimes it's hard to tell if a purse was made to look like a book or is an altered book, but in theory, I strongly discourage any destruction of books for any reason. It's not so difficult to make something that looks like a book(s) from scratch.

Natalie Portman with an Olympia Le Tan Lolita book clutch
and another Le Tan blook below. 
Olympia Le-Tan