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  • Ann D. Watson

Genealogy meets hand bookbinding

Being a hand bookbinder as well as a genealogist, I recently delighted in early Grand Isle County, Vermont court docket books. These books are hand sewn, and I couldn't help wondering who made them. Unrefined and humble, they are practical containers for the court records. Was book sewing part of the court clerk's skill set? Did anyone and everyone know how to sew a book in the early 19th century? Did the local printer make them? Or were pamphlet books something that a general store or traveling peddler would sell?

While most of the docket books I examined had covers of a heavy gray or tan paper, the cover of the book pictured was created using several layers of newspaper glued together. Note the trails made by bookworms — not the human kind, but actual insects which eat books and paper.

This book was made with a pamphlet stitch, an easy, fast binding method.

Images: Grand Isle County, Vermont, County Court Docket, September Term 1811; box labeled “Bound Court Docket Books 1806–1833,” University of Vermont Libraries Special Collections, Burlington, Vermont.

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