Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gulliver's wallpaper: An interesting way to keep a book intact

I don't think there's really a category to put this in, but I had to toss it up on the blog anyway.

I came across a battered old copy of "Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World" that has been fortified with some unusual methods over the decades.

The outer binding has been firmed up with clear tape, which is not uncommon with older books (though it essentially ruins any value the book might have for finicky collectors).

Meanwhile, the inside front and back covers have been reinforced with pieces of light-green wallpaper. And it certainly did the trick. The book still holds up as an acceptable reading copy after all these years. (I'm not sure what the exact date of publication was. This edition is by the Union School Publishing Company of Chicago and the best guess is that it was published in the 1910s.)

The flowery paper is Imperial Washable Wallpaper, as the silver label indicates. Perhaps the presence of the sticker means this small piece was taken from a book of samples and used to fortify the book. (A novel idea, indeed.)

I can't find any other significant references to using wallpaper to reinforce books. But I did come across two instances of doing the reverse — turning old books into wallpaper:

Finally, I don't know why I made this connection, but all of this reminds me of an episode of an old radio serial I heard in the late 1970s ("The Shadow"?) in which the final plot twist was that a poor old woman had large-denomination bills pasted all over her kitchen walls. (I'm sure I'm not remembering it exactly right — I was 8 or 9 at the time — but that was the gist of it.)

So there you have it.

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