A big problem

The Folio Society Kelmscott Chaucer that I wrote about a few days ago presents particular problems because of its sheer size – it weighs 7 kg (about 16 lbs) and measures 17 inches by 12.5 by 3.5 (43 cm by 32 cm by 9 cm). The Kelmscott original was a little thinner and weighed a little less in linen-backed boards, but about the same in its pigskin binding. Such a book is technically portable, of course, but awkward and therefore susceptible to abrasion or worse. I reckon Morris intended it to be a lectern item, for display and admiration, to be opened and closed but not moved about much. Some copies were provided with oak caskets which no doubt provided good protection but made portability even more difficult.

Clearly a strong drop-back box would provide protection and many of the copies recorded in the Peterson Census are described as having one. But even a box for a book this size presents some difficulties. Lifting the heavy book out of the inner tray is awkward: the only ‘hold’ you can get on it when the box is open lying flat is with the fingers under the spine. That will lead to scratches from finger nails on the leather and, in time, staining from the natural oil in our skin – what an old colleague of mine used to call ‘finger-fat’. Furthermore, the weight of the text will, over time, cause the tail-edge to drop and the head to lose its curve. That can be solved with a supporting pad on the inside of the inner tray under the tail edge, but that makes it even more difficult to lift the book out.

Here is my solution: the inner tray is three flaps that fall down when the lid is lifted.

Simple drop-back box, made from plywood covered with buckram.

But inner tray is three flaps, the lower one with a supporting pad for the tail edge.
Book can now be lifted and handled much more easily.

When closed the whole thing goes under one arm , just!

One thought on “A big problem

  1. Dear Chris,

    That is an excellent solution to a problem. Well done.

    All the best,

    Yours aye


    Barry McKay

    Kingstone House, Battlebarrow, Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria, CA16 6XT.

    Tel: UK (0)17683 52282 mobile: 079767 19188

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