This is another quick stop to appreciate a job-well-done, a wonderful illustration for a largish catalog (12×9 inches) for Exide Electric Storage Battery Company (Philadelphia), which was printed in 1940.
It would be simple to have a plain text cover for this sort of thing, being batteries and all, but Exide went the extra step and had designed for them this wonderful cover.
It seems to transfer the reliance of their battery in the dark and cold environment via the working trains, their lights working, safe and secure.
It is understated and very effective.
Everyone’s familiar with the smell of old books, the weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores.
Similarly, who doesn’t enjoy riffling through the pages of a newly purchased book and breathing in the crisp aroma of new paper and freshly printed ink? As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.
As far as the smell of new books goes, it’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint specific compounds, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there seems to be a scarcity of scientific research that’s been carried out on the subject – to be fair, it’s understandable why it might not exactly be high up on the priority list.
Secondly, the variation in the chemicals used to manufacture books also means that it’s an aroma that will vary from book to book. Add to this the fact that there are literally hundreds of compounds involved, and it becomes clearer why it evades attribution to a small selection of chemicals.
It’s likely that the bulk of ‘new book smell’ can be put down to three main sources: the paper itself (and the chemicals used in its manufacture), the inks used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the book-binding process.
The manufacture of paper requires the use of chemicals at several stages. Large amounts of paper are made from wood pulp (though it can also be made from cotton and textiles) – chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, often referred to in this context as ‘caustic soda’, can be added to increase pH and cause fibres in the pulp to swell.
The fibres are then bleached with a number of other chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide; then, they are mixed with large amounts of water. This water will contain additives to modify the properties of the the paper – for example, AKD (alkyl ketene dimer) is commonly used as a ‘sizing agent’ to improve the water-resistance of the paper.
Many other chemicals are also used – this is just a very rough overview. The upshot of this is that some of these chemicals can contribute, through their reactions or otherwise, to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, the odours of which we can detect.
The same is true of chemicals used in the inks, and the adhesives used in the books. A number of different adhesives are used for book-binding, many of which are based on organic ‘co-polymers’ – large numbers of smaller molecules chemically chained together.
As stated, differences in paper, adhesives, and inks used will influence the ‘new book smell’, so not all new books will smell the same – perhaps the reason why no research has yet attempted to definitively define the aroma.
The first ever books in the world were the Egyptian papyrus rolls, which were composed of several columns of ancient writing scripts. The first of these manuscripts goes back as far as the 25th BC, and until the Christian era, they remained quite popular.
However, during this period, the paper or the book industry underwent a transformation, and parchment started replacing the Egyptian papyrus rolls. Writing on parchments was arranged in parallel columns, and vertical lines were used to separate one column from another.
This particular pattern gave rise to the idea of cutting the parchments into flat panels, which comprised of either three or four columns. Later on, this form evolved into the books we see today.
Books have been part of the world since the early ages, and so the need to bind them together has also been present since then. In the olden days, a much different binding concept was used than what exists today.
The Egyptian papyrus rolls were stored in a tubular binding. The parchments were also often wrapped up in a roll, and secured with a ribbon.
However, when parchments started being cut into paneled forms, the binding also evolved. The new binding was more convenient to use and remained durable for longer than the tubular form. As such, it became the preferred choice.
In the beginning, the paneled parchments were hinged along any one of the edges, and were bounded with stitches or a lacing.
The columnar arrangement of writing was prevalent even at that time, particularly so for the Latin books.
Generally, the Romans used three to four columns to separate content on a single parchment. This style has been transferred down the generations, and exists even today.
Several published papers, journals, textbooks and reference books have pages that have been divided into two or three columns. Adopting this style makes the text easier and quicker to read.
There are also many books which differ from this, and consist of only a single column. As such, their sizes are also reduced so that the text becomes more legible.
The machine in this picture was called the Kastenbein Typesetter.
Instead of picking up each tiny letter by hand the typesetter just tapped the letters he wanted, like a typewriter.
A very rudimentary form of typesetting.
The machine also sorted out the letters after they had been used, so they could be used again. The Times installed this typesetter in the 1870s.
I would expect that the Kastenbein Typesetter had a short life because the hot metal casting brilliance of the Linotype was set to turn composing on its head.
from Metal Type