This Old Book: The Great Omar

[Preface: I certainly don't know enough about this story to be posting authoritatively about it. Which i'm not. Just a note of interest with mild to horrific inaccuracies. take caution.]

In 1901 Francis Sangorsky and George Sutcliffe opened their bindery in Bloomsbury. Sangorsky was best known for and most talented in forwarding (the process of assembling/binding a book); Sutcliffe excelled as a finisher (the process of decorating the cover). The two had both trained at Camberwell Colllege of Art, studying with Douglas Cockerell, and later worked in Cockerell's bindery before starting their own firm.

Sangorsky & Sutcliffe produced some of its most creative and innovative work during these earliest years, including this lavish binding of The Ruba'iyat of Omar Kayyam.

After over two years of continuous work, and over one thousand jewels and leather onlays later, The Great Omar was completed in 1911. However, in 1912, both Sangorsky and the firm's astonishing masterpiece sunk tragically with the Titanic.

But The Great Omar would not be snuffed out so easily. Now if my details are right, I believe it was the nephew of George Sutcliffe--Stanley Bray--who took upon himself the task of recreating the Great Omar, which he finished--or at least was well into it. . . . just in time for it to be burned during the Bombing of Britain. I believe Bray began a third replica and worked on it well into his 70s. This is the version, I believe that is now kept in the British Library. (when i know for sure, i will let you know!)

The story of The Great Omar is a long, complicated, and mysterious one--one of the most intriguing i have come across in my studies. It is thought by some to be one of the most ambitious bindings ever made. As for me, I also tend to think it must be one of the most cursed.

from the vault: the true provenance of mother goose

this is a copy of the title page of an 1833 volume of a mother goose publication that my boss at the Boston Public Library brought to my attention. take a close look. . . and then have a good chuckle.


thank you, Max Ernst

my favorite painting at the UMFA exhibition.

Ernst's inspiration....

dream interpretation, please!

three nights in a row i have had strange and unusual dreams. this phenomenon in and of itself is odd, seeing as i rarely remember anything that remotely smacks of a dream.

it's not worth attempting to describe any of these recent dream scenarios, but seriously, why was i scanning a heel of bread at a self-checkout in a grocery store this morning??!


lab notes: moldy monster

ever wonder what might happen to your wet book if you don't treat it properly or quickly?

exhibit amold concentrated along the spine where the pages dry more slowly.

exhibit b
i like this mirror effect. looks like a pelvis.
which leads me to believe that the mold is slowly transforming the book into an entirely different creature all together. with a pelvis. IT'S ALIVE!!!

exhibit c
after guillotining the ever-so-hazardously-moldy spine (this volume was only oversewn loose leaves, so no worry about chopping existing spine folds), we get a good look at the "strata of mold." gross.

definitely glove and mask worthy. first things first, i took a vacuum to this monster in embryo. a special mold vacuum with a special filter and special tiny attachments. the hope is that the vacuuming will pick up not only loose dirt, but whatever spores might be lurking. after disbinding and spine-chopping, the book goes into a bath, which will hopefully neutralize the mold somewhat and strengthen the mold-weakened paper. then the volume will be digitized, rebound, and returned to its owner. the safest option, tho, would be to digitize it and then trash this blossoming bio-harzard.

dinner cleanup, OR jokes at home

i hope mom appreciates pear's and my hard work in selecting the perfect tupperware for tonight's leftovers...


french fries

we're at Stans.

Celia is proudly comparing her golden-brown, tanned arm with my wax-like one and pear's golden-but-not-quite-brown arm.

"okay, let's see," she says, "you're a mcdonald's fry, i'm a Stan's fry, and pear's . . . . a burger king fry."


notes from a reluctant commuter: only in utah

i couldn't help but notice flocks of cheerful, energetic looking women migrating toward the convention center downtown. unsual for a friday morning at 7:45. very unusual. as i certainly was neither perky nor destined for the salt palace, i blearily resigned myself to never knowing from whence or for what this strange species had descended upon us.

i had forgotten all over the course of a non-busy, busy day involving further entrenchment in the local bookbinding and conservation world and making pretense of hinging on a few loose fly leaves. that was until i was comfortably seated on the express bus headed home. very near the scene of the morning's mystery, a man talking on a cell phone embarked. i couldn't help overhearing him say with an unmistakable smile in his voice, ". . . bunch of ladies stamping up stuff."

of course. utah is the perfect place for a scrapbooking convention. how could i be so blind?

near the end of my ride home, as commuters were whipping out cell phones, calling for rides, i overheard another man in conversation: ". . .Do you mind if we stop and give someone a blessing on the way home? [pause] Do you have oil? [pause] Well, we'll get things taken care of and consecrate some if we need to. . . . "

ah utah. i love thee.