Knights Templar 1865

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I was commissioned to repair and rebind an 1865 Masonic Knights Templar By Laws and member signature book. Started with quill and ink in 1865 and extending down to the present day with every new Knight’s signature this invaluable treasure was in much need of repair. The binding was tattered and apart, Old repairs had turned brown and brittle and the precious script of innumerable members went right to the haggard paper edges of each page. Knowing there was little I could do within the budget to remake the many worn pages I decided to re- sew the whole book and protect the pages as they were, sans a few repairs to larger tears, within the thick deep covers of a huge leather binding.

I cleaned and counted the signatures and remade them with paper repairs and cloth hinge tape where necessary. The most damaged pages were the first- which-are also the most precious hand written By Laws- so I made leaves out of 2 pages and sewed these in… individually with archival quality cloth hinge tape. The tape is flexible and will not acidify and with 2 pages per the first few signatures(groupings of pages that are sewn together to make a book) the pages flex and turn VERY easily. I hope this will decrease wear on the most important sections in the work.

The client asked that additional pages be added so the Commandery not run out of space for future member signatures. I searched for a few weeks online and found a secretarial log book of the same era and by the same manufacturer. The original is almost 14 inches high, so finding a blank 400 page secretary register of that size and from the 1800’s was a real challenge. I dis-bound that book when it arrived and sewed it and the original together by hand. I chose to not clean up or trim the page edges due to the hand written signatures being present on almost every edge. This made for a slightly mismatched appearance but, considering the challenges I faced, it was the least of my worries and I know these two will, like an old married couple, take on each other’s appearance in time. I curved the spine back, added paper and mull, made a hollow and hammered it.

I then made a triple-thick-set of covers from book board and attached them with the tapes from the sewing. The book took almost a whole goat skin and I added this over the spine bands I had made, worked it with my folder for an hour, tied it and let it rest.

I tooled the covers in blind with a ruled border, added European brass hand tool devices, a rope and tassel effect and other subtle markings. I created a scarlet goat onlay cut in a sheild shape and stamped the title along with a custom crown and cross stamp I had made. I added gold tooled lines to the spine and gold tooled devices as well to really set it off as something special.    The end papers are hand marbled by Chena River Marbles and are one of’s, not machine-made….and they are offset with more blind tooling on the extra deep cover edge.

The presentation box was an equally large endeavor. Taking an entire skin to cover….It is a drop spine leather covered silk moire lined with tray box. The moire is white and blue to match officer emblem colors and the white, red, and black motif is carried throughout the book and box to match Templar uniform colors, cords, emblems, and jewels. I added a scarlet silken pull and cross ( which matches Templar cloaks) and red tesselated cords – (strung through the box and each able to be loosened or tightened) to further match Masonic Templar garb.

This box cannot be opened without some time and pomp…exactly as I intend. One must first take the red cord from around the metal cross catch, then fold open the lid. Then one unties and loosens the cords and lays them to the right and left, takes hold the silken band and lifts. With the free hand one grasps the book and y pulls it up and out. It is a slow and purposeful act- which reveals layers of meaning and symbolism in colors and symbols.

The box is the size of a brief case and the book is almost 5 pounds. This is a massive MASSIVE tresure I hope will be around for another 200 years or more.