How Books Were Made

A 19th Century dictionary may be the new Rolex.

In the same way that people value fantastically complex mechanical watches ever more as electronic watches get cheaper, people may well come to value expensive hand-made books even as bookstores vanish, shelves get dumped into landfills, and reading becomes a wholly digital experience. The pick-up line of the future may be “would you like to come up to my apartment and see my … book?”

Via Neatorama I learned about Johnny Carrera, the owner of Quercus Press, a printer in Waltham, Massachusetts. That puts Quercus more or less in my back yard, which makes them pretty cool already as far as I’m concerned. Even better, Quercus has published the Pictorial Webster’s, which consists of all the illustrations from the 1859, 1864, and 1890 editions of Webster’s dictionary. Sure, you can buy the Trade Edition for $35, but Good Heavens! wouldn’t you be the man about town with your own hand-tooled Full Leather Goat Binding edition. All yours for $3500.

There’s a great story about how the project came about. Nothing makes me salivate like tasty jargon, and sentences like this just suck me in:

While I was repairing the paper, re-lining the spine, and backing it with an extended alum tawed lining which I used to attach new split boards, and covering the book with alum-tawed goat, a classmate showed me an article about the Merriam-Webster Co.

Alum-tawed goat! This is a man who owns a working 1938 Model 8 linotype machine. And knows how to use it. Now watch this movie, and be sure to at least watch the old Model 8 chugging away at around 1:40. It’s thrilling. It’s horrifying. This is the way the world used to work!

Pictorial Webster’s: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

“Hey, babe, want to come up to my apartment and take a look at my Full Leather Goat Binding?”