Trip to the American Bookbinders Museum

So I finally sit down to write about my trip to the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco back in June – and I can’t find my notes.

I can’t even express how so very irritated I am. I know I didn’t throw them out and I’ve gone through every inch of my studio. Even though I’m super-bummed, I’ve decided to go ahead with this post.

For the past 20 years, Tim James of Taurus Bookbindery has been the mastermind behind the collection at the American Bookbinders Museum. Tim graciously gave us a tour of the Museum, which surprisingly had no admission fee.

American Bookbinding Museum

Yep, that’s the entrance. Trust me, it gets better.

The Museum not only has an impressive array of bookbinding equipment from the 19th century, but also a large library of bookbinding-related ephemera and documentation – binder’s tickets, bindery business records, equipment manuals – just to name a few.

Equipment at the American Bookbinding Museum

Tools at the American Bookbinding Museum

Tools at the American Bookbinding Museum

Press at the American Bookbinding Museum

Bookbinding manuals

Bookbinding manuals

Bookbinding manuals

Bookbinding ephemera

Bookbinding ephemera

Bookbinding ephemera

During my visit, I learned that unions played in important role in 19th century binderies. There were unions not only for men, but also for women bookbinders – for example, The Bindery Women’s Union Local 125 was organized in 1902. Pins represented the different unions – I was surprised by how many there were.

Bookbinding pins

In the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, women played an increasingly important role in the binderies. By 1900, there were more women working in binderies than men (51.6%). You can read more about women bookbinders in the book, Women in the Bookbinding Trade by Mary Van Kleeck (it’s available as a free download).

Bookbinding ephemera

Bookbinding ephemera

There are tiny women bookbinders in there!

I loved the Museum and I would say that it was one of my favorite stops during my vacation to California. My pictures don’t do the Museum justice – you just have to go there yourself. You’ll thank me later.

Tim has a wishlist of things he’d like to add to the collection – keep your eyes open at antique shops. If you’re feeling generous and would like to make a donation, checks can be sent to The American Bookbinders Museum, 2736 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.

8 Responses to “Trip to the American Bookbinders Museum”

By Rhonda - 13 August 2009 Reply

how lucky you were able to get a tour!

By elissa - 14 August 2009 Reply

If you want a tour of the museum during the week, just give Tim a call and he’ll hook you up. His bindery is right around the corner, so he just comes on out and opens it up.

By Rhonda - 19 August 2009 Reply

I will be sure to do that… next time i’m in San Fran…

By bgoosebooks - 19 August 2009 Reply

I’ve got this on my San Francisco list too. Great post, makes me want to book for the US straight away. I wish!

By Dennis - 15 September 2009 Reply

Thank you! The pictures are just great. It’s OK that you couldn’t find your notes — you’ll have to go again!

By elissa - 15 September 2009 Reply

Dennis –

It was so great…I’d love to go back. I really hope he finds some funding to keep the museum going. I’d hate to see the place close.


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