The Translantic Trade
Bookbinding in the Colonies

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Recycling: Finding Hidden Information in Bindings

Several books in the Spawn Collection contain reused materials that offer important clues for scholars tracing a book's origins and its maker. To save money bookbinders often recycled older materials from documents that were no longer needed, a practice which inadvertently saved many documents that otherwise might have been lost to history.

The reuse of materials can also prove or disprove the authenticity of a document. For many years, the parchment copy of the Annapolis Charter of 1708 (MSA M 104-1) in the Archives' collection was thought to be the original 1708 manuscript. However, recent examination of the back of the charter showed that an earlier text had literally been scraped off of the parchment. This suggests that the parchment copy of the charter may have been created as a political hoax in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Binding lined with the Maryland Gazette
Binding: Willman Spawn Collection, MSA SC 5797-1-312
Original contents: Queen Anne's County, 1748, unlocated

This binding from a 1748 record book is lined with page three of the June 15, 1748 edition of the Maryland Gazette. Underneath the Gazette page is a piece of waste paper from an account book. Fragments of printed materials like these are sometimes the only surviving examples of documents.
Book with recycled cover boards
Board of Revenue (Minutes), 1768-1775, MSA S 1091-1

Book covers from the eighteenth century were usually made of pasteboard, layers of paper glued together to form a stiff board. The covers of this book, however, were made from unused pre-printed ledger forms.
Binding lined with import duty forms
Binding: Willman Spawn Collection, MSA SC 5797-1-87
Original contents: St. John's Church Collection, MSA SC 2227-1-1

This binding contains the vestry minutes, register, and list of baptisms for the King George's Parish of St. John's Church (Prince George's County) from 1693 to 1801. The inside cover is lined with blank import duty forms that refer to "Their Majesties," a clue that dates the form to the 1689-1694 reign of the English monarchs William and Mary. The death of Queen Mary in 1694 would have rendered the wording on the form obsolete.

The forms were probably printed in England but it is unclear if the forms were bound in England or after they were shipped to Maryland.

Next: Bookbinders in the Colonies and Early Maryland.

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