Sunday, January 22, 2006


Wordless Bookbinding

There's an entertaining profile in the Harvard Crimson of the proprieter of the Harvard Book and Binding Service:

Marshall says he decided to sell books because he didn’t want to apply for a vendor’s license. “The First Amendment was my vendor’s license,” he says. He went to the Brattle Book Shop, which adjoins the Boston Common, and talked the owner into selling him a suitcase full of 18th-century books on credit. Then he set up shop on a patch of Square pavement and sold books to passersby at lunchtime. Within a year, he had learned about rare books and how to find good ones....

Then, browsing in Houghton Library one day, he stumbled across an 18th-century French dictionary, with an illustrated entry on bookbinding. Using the explanation, Marshall taught himself to bind books. He does not speak French.

“I couldn’t read a word of it, so I just figured it out from the pictures,” he says.
Also: he figured out that a stagnating mash of water, grass and cocoa powder is great for breeding bacteria. Though some of my old roomates could have told him that just from looking at our kitchen sink.

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