Monday, December 16, 2013

Historical book Structures: The Wax Tablet and Palm Leaf binding

A long overdue post from the semester before this one :
The Spring of 2013 I took the amazing and extremely intensive Historical Structures class with Julie Leonard. It was at the end of the semester that we realized how much work we actually did! We took on five major time periods within which we could pick 1-2 structures to take on and complete in the few weeks devoted to each section. The deadlines on all projects were rolling, so we could work on everything simultaneously through the semester. This was a boon, because as expected, some books took alot longer than others. The first books I made were a wax tablet and a Palm Leaf binding. The University of Iowa Special Collections recently acquired a large number of Palm Leaf bindings! I went to look at them carefully before starting on my own.

Two small blocks of walnet were carved into with a chisel and hammer. Its hard to leave a little rectangle in a center if you haven't worked with wood too much, so I cheated.
I chiseled one out separately and pasted it in the center with wood glue.

I stuck some masking tape down to precent the wax from spilling onto the edges of the boards. This ended up being a bad idea because the heat from the wax melted the glue of the tape and left tiny white lines along the edges. They were easily removed, but a step that could also be just as easily avoided. 

Filtered beeswax was melted down and pigmented with a green pigment.
Traditionally these books were pigmented green or black.

The wax after pouring. I was amazed at how evenly it poured!

It took a while to cool and dry.

The finished tablet


 The sharp end of the stylus is used to make incisions with

 The flattened end is used to scrape or 'erase' the wax and start over

What follows next are images from the University of Iowa Special Collections' Palm Leaf Binding collection. Really quite amazing!

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