Beacon Street Diary
The books in the Town Histories section tell us more than the stories of towns big and small; they show the history of the book in the nineteenth-century. Prior to 1800, every aspect of book production — papermaking, casting and setting type, printing, and binding — was done by hand. The book world began to experience the effects of the Industrial Revolution with the introduction of steam-powered printing presses around 1800. Papermaking was mechanized at the same time, and wood pulp paper was first used in the mid-nineteenth-century. By the mid-1800s, enormous rolls of paper were fed through steam-powered presses, creating large quantities of books at unprecedented speeds.
Hand-bookbinding slowed down book production, and this problem was solved when starch-filled bookcloth was introduced in the 1820s. The bookcloth was glued to boards. These covers, or "cases", were made separately from the pages, or text block, which were then glued into the cases. Publishers stamped multi-colored and gold- or silver-colored decorations onto these bindings using metal dies.
|The Isles of Shoals. An Historical Sketch by John Scribner Jenness, published by Hurd and Houghton, New York, 1873|
The Theology section also includes one book with an extraordinary publisher's binding.
|Future Punishment; or Does Death End Probation? Materialism, Immortality of the Soul; Conditional Immortality or Annihilationism, Universalism or Restorationsim; Optimism or Eternal Hope; Probationism and Purgatory. By the Rev’d William Cochrane, D.D., published by Bradley, Garretson & Co., Brantford, Ontario, 1886|
"Deluxe" bindings mimicked fine leather volumes bound by hand, using inexpensive leathers and false bands across the spine. It can be difficult to determine whether a book has false bands without taking the book apart and destroying the binding. The book pictured below may be one of these nineteenth-century deluxe bindings.
|Two Hundred Years Ago; or, A Brief History of Cambridgeport and East Cambridge, with Notices of Some of the Early Settlers written by S.S.S. Published by Otis Clapp, Boston, 1859|
Many books also contained multi-colored illustrations created by chromolithography, a color-printing technique developed by the French in the 1820s where colors are applied on top of each other to create a multi-colored image.
|This lithograph is pasted to the front cover of: World’s Columbian Exposition 1893 Chicago: Catalogue of the Russian Section published by the Imperial Russian Commission, Ministry of Finances, St. Petersburg, 1893|
Stereotyping and electrotyping were two popular printing techniques in the nineteenth-century. A stereotype plate is created by pressing papier-mâché onto set type. The dried papier-mâché forms a mold into which type metal is poured, and the result is a metal plate that contains all of the text for one page of a book. Once a printer had created stereotype plates (or stereos) for all of the pages of a book, he could free the type set by hand and use it to set the pages of other books. In the future, when he wanted to reprint a book, he could use the stereos — whereas in the past, he would have had to reset all of the pages by hand. Electrotype plates are created using water, metal salts, and electricity. The electricity is applied to a solution in which metal has been placed, causing the metal to spread over the surface of a mold, taking its shape. Like stereos, electrotype plates each contain an entire page of text. Needless to say, the use of stereos and electrotype plates sped up the process of printing.
|The City of Cincinnati. A Summary of the Attractions, Advantages, Institutions and Internal Improvements, with a Statement of Its Public Charites by George E. Stevens, published by Geo. S. Blanchard & Co., Cincinnati, 1869||Walks and Rides in the Country Round About Boston Covering Thirty-Six Cities and Towns, Parks and Public Reservations, Within a Radius of Twelve Miles from the State House by Edwin M. Bacon, Published for the Appalachian Mountain Club by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston, 1897|
Walks and Rides in the Country Round About Boston has a unique binding feature: pockets in the front and back covers. These pockets contain four lithographed maps.
For decades, the mechanization of typesetting eluded printers and publishers. The linotype machine, which cast one line of type in a single slug, was invented in the 1880s, and it further sped up the printing process. Today, most typesetting is done by computer; only fine press publishers continue the tradition of setting type and printing by hand.
In the nineteenth-century, publishers added advertisements to their books. These ads range in size from single leaves to pamphlet-sized advertising supplements, and they were glued ("tipped") or bound into books. One book in the Special Topics in Theology section contains both tipped-in and bound-in advertisements.
|Heaven Our Home. We Have No Saviour But Jesus, and No Home But Heaven by the Author of "Meet for Heaven," "Life in Heaven," "Christ's Transfiguration" published by William P. Nimmo, Edinburgh, 1871|
The nineteenth-century was an era of faster and cheaper book production, and its legacy can be seen today in any bookstore or library: shelves of books printed on wood pulp paper with cased-in bindings.
Check out the collection page for more information.
Special ThanksCouncil on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.
Our reading room will be closed to the public on Monday, June 5th for our board's annual meeting.
Staff will be in the office to answer questions by phone or by email, and all of our online resources will still be available as usual.
Our friend Marnie Warner donated the material she had collected while she was active establishing the original Open and Affirming policy that was proposed and accepted by the United Church of Christ in 1985. Prior to the ONA collection's public availability here, Marnie volunteered many long hours to help sort out and arrange and clarify the boxes and files. Her insider's perspective was and is always appreciated.
The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Monday, May 29th in observance of Memorial Day.
All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Tuesday.
image of historical American flags courtesy of PBS.org
Don't miss this exploration of early American religious song, illustrated with live performances. Reserve your seat today.
From William Billings to Lowell Mason
Join choral ensemble Norumbega Harmony for a noontime concert exploring the musical and cultural transformation of Congregational sacred music from the Revolutionary Era's stark psalm tunes and lively fuging tunes, pioneered by William Billings of Boston (1746-1800), to the European Romantic melodies and harmonies of the city's great music educator and church composer Lowell Mason (1792-1872).
Wednesday, May 10th
12:00 - 1:00 pm
Learn more about Norumbega Harmony on their website.
As an archivist, I will occasionally make site visits for potential new collections. While chances are good that I will be the one to eventually organize the records, there's no guarantee that the work will divide that way, with intern projects and more than one archivist on staff. However, when I went to Connecticut to visit the Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree about two years ago, I hoped that I would be the one who would organize her records. The reason why I felt so strongly about this collection is that it represents a side of our collection that I'm always eager to expand upon: that of recent history and a continuation of lesser heard voices. Rev. Crabtree has spent her life and career championing feminism and striving to even the playing field. She attended college during the height of the cultural movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. A self-described trouble-maker who questioned authority and the status-quo, Crabtree became a member of the United Church of Christ's Executive Council by the age of 27.
The guide to this collection is now available on our website. We strongly encourage researchers to review this and to make an appointment before visiting.
This is Preservation Week, hosted by the American Library Association.
In honor of that, there is going to be a reprise of #AskAnArchivist day on Twitter tomorrow, Wednesday, April 26th. This is a great opportunity to get smart on how to care for and maintain your historically valuable items, no matter what their format: paper or digital! Our archivists, Jessica Steytler and Taylor McNeilly, will be following the hashtag and answering the questions. If any of our patrons or members have questions relating to preservation, send them our way!
Our reading room will be closed to the public on Thursday, April 20th from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for a meeting of the Advisory Circle, our friends of the library group.
Staff will be on hand to answer questions by phone or email, and all of our online resources will be available as usual.
All of our online resources will be available as usual. All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions you would like to ask the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Tuesday.
To those of you celebrating Easter this weekend, we wish you a safe and happy time. And best of luck to everyone participating in the 121st Boston Marathon on Monday.