Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Repair Shop in the Seattle Underground

I'm a casual collector of unusual old books, so I was exicted to happen across an authentic bookbinding and repair shop on First Avenue in Seattle. Ars Obscura is located on the original street level - which is now the Underground - of the Grand Arcade Building in the 200 block.

There's something romantic about old books and the craft of hand bookbinding. Through the windows of Ars Obscura are suspended clusters of leather, book presses doing the necessary, and worktables with hammer, liquids, string: authentic, timeless.

I wished to step in and breathe deep the scents and might never want to leave. But I didn't. The shop was closed.

One of my favorite little books is an 1876 edition of the Floral Birthday Book. This is a Victorian-era whimsy, from a time when nothing was said plainly and the inanimate had meaning and significance. Birthday books were popular in the late 1800s through early 1900s (particularly with the British) and provide space for each day of the year to write someone's name. All books I've seen include an illustration or quote associated with the day, and most are based on children's stories or famous writers. Birthday books aren't particularly valuable as a collectible, nor do I seek out pristine or rare versions. I'm not into it for future value. Rather, I like the glimpse into the culture of the past and enjoy reading the inscriptions and thinking of them as Victorian-era horoscopes for a birth day.

Here's September 9th from a few of my birthday books:

"She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them." Shakespeare (Shakespeare's Birthday Book, 1906 NY)

"...Oft thou hast sworn, in friendship's soothing tone, Whatever wish was mine must be thine own." Byron (Floral Birthday Book, 1876)

"He's well under cover; - by cover we mean He's behind a high bank, and of course can't be seen."(Lt. Col. Seccombe's Army & Navy Birthday Book for Children, 1911). [Really. this book floors me everytime I look at it.]

"Always liked a little something at 11 o'clock in the morning." Winnie the Pooh (Christopher Robin's Birthday Book, 1930)

"Dear me, how inexperienced I was!" Quetch (Dr. Dolittle's Birthday Book, 1935

"How sticky the mind that is Discontent." (A Birthday Book by Joan Walsh Anglund, 1975)

1 comment:

sam said...

hi jeanine, i came across your post as i was searching the web to find information about a book my dad gave to me recently... the floral birthday book... the page you have pictured here is exactly the same as my book! (i seen there has been various publications and changes over the years) i knew my book was published in around the 1870's as there is hand written script from someone documenting a death in 1878... amazing! if you have any further info on this book it would be much appreciated as information on the net i have found is limited. thanks so much, samantha