Historical Equipment, Historical Documentation

Visitors to the conservation lab here at TSLAC often comment on our historic bindery equipment, much of which dates from the 19th century.   The board shear, backing press, and standing press are all working examples of how conservation reaches back to historical craft trades to create treatments that are sympathetic to an item’s earlier appearance and function.  One example of this lab equipment is the copy press, discussed in a previous post from Summer 2011.

copy press

Many copy presses like this one have been repurposed as small book presses in binderies and conservation labs.

Since items like the copy press still function as everyday, working equipment in the lab, it’s nice to have an occasional reminder of their historical origins.  One such reminder came from a book in the lab for treatment this month, the 1879-80 San Antonio City Directory.  Much like modern day phonebooks, city directories featured advertisements for local businesses, including this delightful spotlight of a copy press:

Stationer's advertisement with copy press

Stationer’s advertisement with copy press, 1879-80 San Antonio City Directory (click for detail.)

In the 19th century, “stationery” went far beyond the notecards of today to include a wide variety of writing and record-keeping supplies.  As seen in this advertisement, a stationer might offer account books, writing utensils, ink, and even playing cards.  The impressive selection at H. Barbeck’s store even seems to include musical instruments and cutlery!  However, despite this charming image, I have never personally seen an angel operating my copy press in the modern day.