The Binding of Six Months in a Convent: Mr. Bradley's Profitable Stroke

July 23 2020
Six Months in a Convent, an anti-Catholic work first issued in March of 1835 became an immediate best-seller, reportedly selling more than 22,000 copies in the first month. More remarkable even than the number of copies sold is the fact that one bindery, run by Benjamin Bradley, was binding all these volumes, turning out between 1,000 and 1,200 finished books a day. In this talk led by conservator and bookbinder Todd Pattison, multiple copies of Six Months will be used to demonstrate that books produced with industrialized techniques in the 1830s are not identical and moreover how books in the 1830s are different from preceding decades in their use of new binding structures, materials, and stamping techniques. Comparing extant copies reveals valuable insight into the book’s production and provides insight into how this one book is representative of changes in American binding during a critical moment in binding technology. This information will then be used to better understand Bradley's bookbinding business in the late winter and spring of 1835, a pivotal time when the bindery changed over from binding in-boards to case binding, and briefly place Bradley in the context of other major binders working at this time. Six Months is likely one of the first books that Bradley bound using this new binding structure and we will examine how Bradley embraced the unique possibilities of case binding to grow into the largest bindery in New England by 1850. We know that the binding of a book shapes how it was sold, marketed, and consumed. By looking at the work of one binder and bindery, we can better understand the physical conditions of production and the ways these conditions more broadly shaped the creation of material items sold, bought, and read by a multitude of mid-19th century Americans. Instructor: Todd Pattison is the Conservator for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Previously, he worked as a book conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center and was the Collections Conservator at Harvard College Library, supervising a lab treating Harvard’s general collections. Todd first became fascinated with the binding of books in the Boy Scouts while completing his Bookbinding Merit Badge He is an active member of the New England chapter of the Guild of Book Workers and a Fellow in the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) and teaches American Publishers’ Bindings, 1800-1900 for Rare Book School in Charlottesville, VA.
Tod Pattison (created by)
Bibliographical Society of America (published by)
Pattison, Tod. "The Binding of Six Months in a Convent: Mr. Bradley's Profitable Stroke." July 23, 2020. Lecture delivered virtually on Zoom. MP4, 1:11:59.