Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Learning | Gutenberg

I just finished an intriguing historical fiction book.  Gutenberg's Apprentice: a Novel is author Alix Christie's first book. I have always been fascinated by medieval illuminated manuscripts, which were traditionally created by hand, by scribes.  I've been equally fascinated by the printing process; if you've ever played with rubber stamps, I'm sure you have noticed how hard it is to make consistent impressions. I've always wondered what processes allow such clarity and uniformity.

Luckily for me, Christie's book explores both worlds. The main character is Peter Schoeffer, a young scribe who has mastered the art of making those illuminated manuscripts. He takes great pride in his work. 

At the beginning of the book, he is suddenly called away from his duties by his stepfather, Johann Fust. Fust is a middle-class trader, who has invested heavily in a secret project of Johann Gutenberg's.  Peter is given to Gutenberg as an apprentice. To say Peter is resistant to the idea is an understatement.  He thinks the early samples of the printed words are very ugly, and feels his very way of life threatened by the possibility of the new technology.

If you look at the photo right below this paragraph, you will see fine examples of the writing and embellishment that can be made with human handiwork. Compare it to the images of the collage further down the page, showing pieces of the Gutenberg Bible. You can see how a scribe like Peter might react strongly to such an oddly regular arrangement of letters on a page.  

Missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau, Nativity, Walters Manuscript W.174, fol. 17v, from Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts' photostream on Some rights reserved.

Gutenberg Bible collage: Left, Miami University's Gutenberg leaf (Recto) from the Gutenberg Bible. It contains Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 42:14-43:25. From Miami University Library's photostream on Top Right, Gutenberg Bible - detail from the Old Testament; Bottom Right, detail from the New Testament, The Gutenberg Bible, both digitized by the HUMI Project, Keio University, July 2005; © National Library of Scotland; from National Library of Scotland's photostream on All images in the collage were taken from The Commons area of, with no known copyright restrictions.

There are many ups and downs to the story of the production of the Gutenberg Bible.  Political and economic conditions forced the crew to work secretly for years, experimenting with various materials and techniques before developing a successful, reliable process.  Alix Christie is a printer herself, so she is able to describe the process in detail.  In some respects, this book reminds me of Homer Hickham's biography, Rocket Boys. In fact, if you enjoyed Rocket Boys, I think you will enjoy Gutenberg's Apprentice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

She's Crafty | Book Trees

Looky, looky, our branches have sprouted some very fine book trees for the holidays!

First up, we have a book tree at the Tracy branch made of discarded books. The books are fanned open and cut to make a star topper and the greenery of the tree. Under the tree are colorful presents trimmed with book page ribbons and bows. The ornaments promote reading and the wonders of library cards.

Recycled book page tree with presents!
By Carissa, a staff member at the Tracy branch.

Escalon's tree is festive with garland and colorful books. This is the style of book tree that will pop up when you Google: "library book tree" or do a similar search on Pinterest.

The Escalon branch has a sparkly book tree!
This one was made by Emily.

I helped make a small one at the Chavez branch. It was my very first time helping to make a book tree. My book tree mentor, Nancy, showed me the way and we came up with this little beauty featuring a book page star topper, old reference books, and tinsel garland....

Chavez is festive with a wee, little book tree.

It may be small but it's full of spirit! Apparently a tree in the past at Chavez was mistaken for a game of Jenga and although we didn't have an incident involving a patron being buried by books, we couldn't handle the thought of possibly experiencing an avalanche so we made the tree less accessible this year.

However, next year we're planning on making a tree on wheels with all the books glued down, yay! All we would have to do is roll it out, dust it off, and give it some lights. We won't have to worry about the poor tree being picked on or the tree attacking an unsuspecting patron. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

The Chavez branch once had a 5-foot book tree.
We're working on bringing it back. Stay tuned...

Book trees are pretty easy to set up but can be tricky to get just right. Basically you build it like a brick wall where things are staggered on the layer below. You have to bring it in ever so slightly on each level to make a tree shape. This is what can be the tricky part. A few times I would step back to see a lopsided tree that looked like it was trying to run away. You just gotta check your work periodically from a distance, that's all.

Also, if you want your book tree to stay standing, you have to fill the center with books or other objects on each level. Filling the center can be tricky on the upper levels since the interior can get smaller than a paperback. Our tree started out small so after the first three levels we had to get creative with filling the void. We resorted to using stacks of left-over bookmarks from programs past and other odds-and-ends. Whatever works, right?

Let me know if you have made a book tree, will attempt to make a book tree, have been awed by a ginormous book tree, or have seen any kind of tree that isn't a tree that strikes your fancy.

I once saw a show describing a town tree made out of crab traps and zip-ties!

Also, be sure to visit your local branch to check out all the festive decorations and book displays keeping our book trees company. In fact, plan a holiday tour of all our branches! I just focused on book trees in this post but there is plenty of other fun stuff going on.

Troke's Mitten Tree.
Before I end my post, let me introduce you to our last tree. It's not a book tree but it's a very important tree you can visit at the Margaret Troke branch. This one is topped with a cute little hat and the garland is made of scarves. There's a reason for this. Ever since 2007 the staff at Troke has put up a mitten tree asking for donations of hats, scarves, and gloves that will go to the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. If you want to participate and donate something to help keep someone warm this winter, go to Troke and leave a donation!

Malia & Kaye

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just Life| Just Like a Kid in a Candy Store

For me, working in a library is like being a kid in a candy store.

Every time I process our new books at the Troke Library. I come face to face with delicious pages like these:

So, this week, while processing new books, I came across these brand new cook books that I want to share with you.

The first book that I almost bit into was: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan.

From the second book, Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food , I almost ate the following pages:

Now you have it, books are delicious and cookbooks are the most delicious of all, specially around Christmas time.

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha