India Johnson and Jeffrey Turley, Spanish and Portuguese
This project is an illustrated online Spanish/English glossary of bookbinding terminology. It was created to fill a void: although cross-cultural interaction in the bookbinding community continues to increase, no comparable resource exists online or in print.
My search of existing bilingual lexicography, both at the HBLL and on worldcat, mostly unearthed resources that were too dated or general to be useful to those who fabricate books. Notable exceptions were William Pepper’s dictionary for the printing trades and monolingual bookbinding manuals in Spanish. One of the main weaknesses of even good glossaries, such as Menno Hertzberger’s, is that antiquarians are their target audience.
However, in this internet age, bookbinders can easily share process with each other in casual online forums: facebook groups, listeservs, and blogs. Although younger practitioners dominate electronic usage, it’s the best place to find examples of written usage. For example, the glossary on the blog Encuadernación al poder is more comprehensive than any of the paper and ink resources I have consulted. Additionally, digital usage is likely to be illustrated with photos or videos, such as this array of headbands at Artes del Libro. Because it is current, plentiful, and likely to be illustrated, surveying digital usage on blogs and facebook groups was the most useful way to compile the initial glossary.
After deciding which words to include, I organized them in a google spreadsheet so that the glossary would be easy to share and edit. I drew diagrams, each of which covers the necessary vocabulary for a step in the process of book making, like sewing or leather covering. I scanned the drawings, edited the scans, and laid out the diagrams in InDesign. The labels are on a different InDesign layer than the scanned images, enabling both to be edited easily. I asked four English-speaking bookbinders and conservators in Utah to go over the diagrams with me and give me their opinions and suggestions. When discussing English usage, the Etherington and Roberts dictionary was helpful. Then I circulated the digitized diagrams and glossary spreadsheet to bilingual and Spanish-speaking binders.
I’ve had more success circulating the diagrams than I have had in getting people to edit them. Perhaps this is due to the time of year they went out (early November). Another factor could be that there are so many entries–perhaps the size of the project is overwhelming for potential editors, or requires too much time to edit thouroughly. Lastly, the diagrams could actually be sufficient and require less editing than I thought they would. For example, the first formal edit to the Spanish, from a book historian in Chile, filled in missing translations, but didn’t correct or expand many existing entries.
Overall, the diagrams have had a positive reception: when shared on Notas de Arte, a popular bilingual bookbinding blog, they became the blog’s most viewed post of the year. They are also the most popular entry on my personal blog this year. Replies to my personal emails to invite edits from Spanish-speaking bookbinders (acquaintances from bookbinding school or workshops) praise the project. The challenge, going forward, will be turning this warm reception into more edits. Even if it seems sufficient as it stands, the project will better reflect current usage as it accumulates edits.
I am presenting the project at the College Book Art Association conference on January 8, 2016. Presenting the project at a national conference for book arts educators will drive the diagrams’ continued circulation.
The main difficulties I faced in this project were balancing descriptive and prescriptive usage, and dealing with two different cultures of book manufacture. An example of the former is the entry for ‘section’ in English, which refers to a gathering of folded sheets of paper. This is frequently called a ‘signature.’ However, ‘signature’ actually refers to the letter printed at the foot of the first page of a ‘section’ to help the binder assemble the pages in the correct order. While this project is intended to be descriptive in nature, there are times I’ve erred on the side of prescriptivist usage: in the case of ‘signature,’ English-speaking bookbinders are making a successful and concerted effort to make the ‘section’ the most widely taught usage to novices. I think the distinction is helpful and have decided to honor it in the glossary.
A good example of dealing with two different cultures of book manufacture is the matter of endsheet attachment. Continental fine binding, which also prevails in Latin America, favors glued endsheets. English fine binding, which is also common in the US, favors sewn endsheets. In English, glued endsheets are called ‘tipped-on’ endsheets. No such designation exists in Spanish, where tipped-on endsheets are the norm. In this case, only the English term is given. So far, terms that don’t have a direct translation have been left without any translation. I’ve noticed that many of these kinds of terms become loanwords, and have decided to leave them alone.
Sensitivity to these cultural differences in book manufacture makes bilingual lexicography especially appropriate, although it is less common in this field than lexicography that also includes French, German, and Italian. Such large multilingual projects are unable to be specific and accurate enough to be useful.
As I had anticipated, this project provided a needed and warmly received resource for the book arts community. Although I wish the invitations to edit I sent would have generated more edits of the Spanish language terms, I will continue to maintain and improve the resource. I hope that it will become a go-to for bookbinders traveling internationally for conferences and workshops, and also that this kind of resource will enable cross-cultural exploration of book culture and patrimony.