Crossing the Bench: 1808 The Thomson Bible.


We recently had the pleasure of restoring this set of The Thomson Bible, 1808, generally known as 'Thomson's Bible'; the earliest translation of the Septuagint into English, and only 1,000 copies printed.  Charles Thomson was Secretary to Congress from 1774 to 1789; when he retired he devoted himself to Biblical Study. 

J. F. Watson in his Anals of Philadelphia. . . (1844, vol. i. pp. 568-9) says of Thomson:  'He told me that he was first induced to study Greek from having bought a part of the Septuagint at an auction in this city.  He had bought it for mere trifle, and without knowing what it was, save that the crier said it was outlandish letters.  When he had mastered it enough to understand it, his anxiety became great to see the whole; but he could find no copy.  Strange to tell, in the interval of two years, passing the same store, and chancing to look in, he then saw the remainder actually crying off for a few pence, and he bought it.  I used to tell him that the translation which he afterwards made should have had these facts set at the front of the work as a preface; for that great work, the first the kind in the English language, strangely enough, was ushered into the world without any preface.' 

This copy has amazing provinance as it is  signed by Charles Thomson himself, and it was also printed and bound by Jane Aitken, daughter of Robert Aitken.  Robert Aitken was the first to print the KJV Bible in/for the US; Aitken's Bible was used by the Continental Army.


We restored the leather and rebacked three of the four volumes.  The fun part about this restoration was recreating the new spines to match the original bindings so well that one can not tell what books were rebacked.  Can you tell?  


More fun information about The Thomson Bible from the Library of Congress Information Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 46.  November 14, 1975.

The Bible on which the Librarian of Congress took the oath of office has both Library and Bicentennial associations.  The Thomson Bible, as it is known, was once in the Library of Thomas Jefferson and came to the Library of Congress when his library was purchased in 1815; it still bears the 1815 bookplate of the Library of Congress.
Charles Thomson was the secretary of  the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1789; probably no other man had such an opportunity to watch the continuing drama of the Revolution and the development of the nation.  One of his last acts was to notify George Washington of his election to the Presidency of the New Federal government.  After his resignation in 1789 he spent the next 20 years making and English translation of the Septuagint (according to bibliographers his is the first English translation of the pre-Christian Greek version of the Old Testament) and of the New Testament (the first English translation in the western hemisphere).  It was published in Philadelphia in 1808 as The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Covenant, commonly called the Old and New Testament.  The printer was Jane Aitken, who was carrying on the printing business of her father, Robert Aitken, famous in his turn as the printer of the Aitken Bible or the Bible of the Revolution, on which L. Quincy Mumford took the oath of office in 1954.
In January 1808, Thomas Jefferson saw an advertisement for the work and wrote to Thomson asking to be entered as a subscriber.  The four octavo volumes sent to Jefferson are now in the custody of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.  Jefferson initialled each volume at signatures I and T, the secret way in which he identified most of the books in his library; three of the volumes still have the original sheep, red and blue morocco labels on the back, and "C. Thomson" lettered in gold. 


Collect. Conserve. Restore. Become Part of the History.

As conservationists we have a lot of conversations with our different clients on how to balance conservation and restoration for rare books and ephemera.  While we were educated in institutions regarding conservation and restoration, our experience with a wide variety of clientele has shown us that institutional guidelines are limited by the structure and motivations of the institutions that have created them.  Lines become blurred because the only lines that are publicly available are those published by institutions, and while these rules are perfect for them, that doesn't mean they're useful for individual collectors.  Best practices are constant, however the balance between conservation and restoration shifts depending on the motivation of the collector.  When you think about what drives an individual to collecting and how personal that motivation is, how can private collectors really be expected to adhere to institutional guidelines anyway?  The current philosophy for institutions is to preserve the object without leaving the fingerprint of the current owner, archiving them rather than restoring them.  

Book collecting is different than archiving:  As books leave their marks on the collectors, the collectors leave their marks on the books, for good or for ill.  There is no such thing as standing still; even without human handling books are in a constant state of deterioration.  As a collector you can choose to archive your books or preserve them and become part of their history.  A book tells its history in its structure.  Leaving your mark on the book in a greater or lesser degree will establish provenance, which will be important to future collectors.  Wherever you fall on the spectrum between conservation and restoration, what you do for books is important.  It is impossible to come into contact with a book, whether as an archivist or a private collector, without leaving a bit of yourself behind.  It can be a simple as the choices of which books to gather together, or as intense as completely rebuilding a book.  You're now part of the book's history.  

Have you thought about where you fit into the larger world of book preservation?  What do you want people in the future to know about you and your interaction with your books? We would love to continue this conversation with you:  Comment below.  

We want to see what books you're collecting, conserving, restoring, reading, and making a part of your life.  Post your finds on Instagram and tag them with  #BecomePartoftheHistory; we'd love to feature your treasures on our feed too. 



Crossing the Bench Lately: Clamshell Boxes

The last Crossing the Bench post I wrote was all about restoration work.  This time we've been busy making clamshell enclosures, with only a couple restoration projects.   These boxes turned out beautiful too!  We made a full leather box, half-leather box, leather spine box with a hidden tray, a cloth box,  and a cloth slipcase with a leather label.  We also rebound a book in a beautiful speckled and treed calf, and we reattached a front board on a book.  We've been busy and loving every minute of it!

We added a new Resources & Links page to our website!  We're sharing some of the great suppliers we go to for our materials.  We also added links to great information about book appraisers, dealers, book collecting, and so much information!  

Resources & Links

Crossing the Bench Lately: Restoration, Restoration, Restoration

It's been crazy busy around the studio lately, and everything has been restoration!  Normally we have a few rebindings or clamshell enclosures thrown in the mix, but the past month or so has been packed full of repairing and restoring awesome rare books!  We're not complaining, just making an observation.  Here's a look at a bunch of before and after photos!

We've made a few changes and additions to our website too!  Feel free to have a look around.  Our website is full of information and pretty cool photos of beautiful books!  Changes of note:  Discretion and Disclosure Statement, CV, Home, and Biography.  

Crossing the Bench: 16th Century Rebinding and 19th Century Marbled Paper Restoration.

We had the opportunity to restore a book originally bound in the 15 hundreds!  And we also had the opportunity to clean up a copy of Sense and Sensibility from 1846.    

Before and after rebind photo.

Before and after rebind photo.

Before and after photo of marbled paper boards.

Before and after photo of marbled paper boards.

The boards on the cover of Sense and Sensibility were quite scratched up and worn.  Joseph was able to restore the original marbled paper on the boards, and they look great!  Check out this short flipagram film showing a bit of the 16th C. rebind process.

We have so much fun restoring the treasures our clients bring to us!

We hope y'all have a great weekend!