In the summer of 2020 Covid was dominating our daily lives. National Heritage week is an annual event where a number a public and cultural buildings are open to the public. As that was not possible that year craft people were asked to take on a project and publish it online. Below was our contribution.
The Craft of Bookbinding - Duffy Bookbinders
We are delighted to be participating in this years National Heritage Week with our project theme of re-learning skills from our heritage, by showing the ancient craft of bookbinding. The project consisted of the rebinding of a two volume set of The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland from early 1840's in the traditional leather binding of that time. The books were bound in half leather with raised band and marble paper sides. It was then finished with gold foiling lettering pieces and hand tooled on the spine and sides using traditional bookbinding tools that have been used by different generations of the family.
Bookbinding has always been a family tradition with it now reaching four generations. The first bookbinder in the family, Paddy, had his original bookbinding apprentice interrupted by his participation in the Easter 1916 Rising. Paddy only completed his apprenticeship upon his return from Frongoch internment camp in Wales. Paddy's son, Tommy, would be next to take up the trade. It was Tommy, who in 1970, started the present company, Duffy Bookbinders, which is still thankfully thriving today. Tommy sadly passed in 1978 but today the company is still run by his son's, Tom and Pat. Tom's son, Tommy, would start his apprenticeship in 1997 bringing the craft to four generations of the family.
Published by Virtue of London in 1841, The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland, is a beautifully illustrated, two volume tour of Ireland. The stunning illustrations were drawn by William Henry Bartlett with accompanying text by J.W. Stirling and N.P. Willis. This is a famous historical and descriptive text of a nineteenth century Ireland just before the famine.
I purchased the books myself from auction in a disbound state. I have had them for over a year sitting in a box waiting to be brought back to their former glory. The National Heritage Week was the perfect situation to start this project.
The first step was to remove the old tubular spines from the books. By applying a paste to the spines and allowing it to penetrate the original spines we were then able to remove them, by carefully scraping and lifting away all paper to reveal the original spines. During this process you must take great care not to cut any of the original thread sewing. It also revealed that the sections of the book had been overcast before being sewn together on recessed cords, cut into the book.
The endpapers were then pasted down to the boards before the lettering pieces are finally added giving us what I feel is a very attractive two volume, half bound leather set of The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland.
I hope you have enjoyed following the process of the craft of Bookbinding using knowledge and tips passed down by previous generations from Fathers to their sons. Follow our social media to see regular postings on bookbinding and updates on further blog posts.
Tommy Duffy is a fourth generation Bookbinder with Duffy Bookbinders