Everybody’s Rebound: sustainability in the 1940s

156 Charing Cross Road

Found in a pile of books here at Jot HQ—a paperback copy dated 1943 of Agatha Christie’s Poirot Investigates. It’s exactly the same size as a Penguin, but was in fact published for the British Publishers Guild by John Lane at The Bodley Head. These ‘Guild Books’ were originally designed to rival Penguins, which were dominating the paperback market at the time. However, they never proved as popular and the Guild later folded.

But this particular Guild Book is different from most others in the series in that the original covers have been removed and replaced by what appears to be brown salvaged card. There is a panel for the title which is rubber-stamped, underneath which is a triangle bearing the legend ‘ EVERYBODY’S REBOUND’ 1/6. There then follows an explanation of what ‘Everybody’s Rebound was trying to achieve.

This is a rebound copy of a book worth reading published by a well-know publisher.

We are rebinding books such as this, in order that as many books as possible may do their job twice and so help the vital “ Save Paper “ Campaign.

If you have any books of any kind, and in any condition, that you can spare send or bring them to us and we will make you the highest cash offer.

                                         EVERYBODY’S BOOKS

                                    156, Charing Cross Road, W.C.2.

It is questionable whether this or any other book ‘rebound ‘ by Everybody’s Books was ‘ worth reading ‘. What is not in dispute is the merit of salvaging paper at a time of shortage. The thinking seems to have been that at a time when reading was an important way of distracting people from the War ( after all, the sales of poetry went sky high during the conflict), any means of giving damaged  paperbacks a new lease of life was worth doing. Better to rebind a coverless book than print a new edition using paper which was a scarce resource. What was not revealed was whether hardbacks without covers could be saved in the same way. Nor was there any indication as to when this Guild Book was rebound. An inscription on the inside cover shows that a certain Ann Seabrook owned the book in September 1948, and as paper salvage continued until 1950, the rebinding  may have occurred around 1948.

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The Care of Books

Jot 101 care for books bookworm

Found at Jot HQ the other day—The Private Library—an attractively bound volume of 1897 by the antiquarian A(rthur) L. Humphreys, author of  How to Write a Village History, Old Decorative Maps and Charts and the Berkshire Book of Song, Rhyme and Steeple Chime.

Among the various interesting things he has to say about books in general is his section on ‘The Care of Books ‘. These observations may be listed in a number of sub-headings which could appear thus:-

1) Anecdotes by Andrew Lang.

‘…( Sir Walter ) Scott was very careful; he had a number of wooden dummies made, and, when a volume was borrowed, he put the dummy in its place on the shelf, inscribing it with the name of the borrower. He also defended his shelves with locked brazen wires. ‘ Tutus clausus ero’ ( “ I shall be safe if shut up “) , his anagram, was his motto, under a portcullis…Housemaids are seldom bibliophiles. Their favourite plan is to dust the books, and then rearrange them on fancy principles, mostly upside down. One volume of Grote will be put among French novels, another in the centre of a collection of sports, a third in  the midst of modern histories…The diversity of sizes, from folio to duodecimo, makes books very difficult to arrange where room is scanty. Modern shelves in most private houses allow no room for folios, which have to lie, like fallen warriors, on their sides.’

2) Heat and dust as enemies of books.

‘Mr Poole , a very experienced American librarian…made an experiment in the upper gallery of a library, and found that—“ while the temperature of the floor was 65* Fahr., that of the upper gallery was found to be 142*. Such a temperature dries up the oil of the leather and burns out its life. Books cannot live where men cannot live.”

In London particularly dust, smoke, and soot get at books and do great damage. To have the top edges gilded is an excellent way to prevent dust getting into the leaves. Books which have roughly trimmed tops harbour dust much more readily, and it is with great difficulty removed from such…Books should not be either swung together

or beaten together. The carpet in a library should not reach the wall, or right to the cases, but should fall short so as to be removed when required to be cleaned…’ Continue reading

Care of Books

From Newnes Household Encyclopaedia (London, 1931.)

Books. To preserve from insects.
If books are occasionally dusted over with a mixture of white pepper and powdered alum they will be insured against the attacks of insects.

A more modern recipe, taken from anecdotal evidence, is one to rid a book of unpleasant odours (especially tobacco smoke). Place the book in a container of wood chip based cat litter so that is submerged and leave it there for 48 hours. The idea is that the chips will extract objectionable smells. Books reeking of tobacco have become hard to sell...