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Book History: Two Notes From The Past Week

September 17, 2007

Book history enthusiasts will be interested in two noteworthy Chicago Tribune articles from the past week. One looks toward the past, and the other the future.

On the past, renowned bookbinder and book repairman, Edward R. Lhotka, passed away. Here’s his Tribune obituary. He worked for R.R. Donnelley and Sons for nearly fifty years. My interest in R.R. Donnelley first arose when I discovered that they published the first, 1952 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World. Lhotka worked for R.R. Donnelley as an apprentice bookbinder until 1935, when he succeeded Alfred de Sauty as chief bookbinder. Lhotka then worked full-time there until retiring in 1972. He apparently worked part-time afterwards, and also trained other Chicago-area bookbinders well into the 1980s.

On the future, apparently there now exists an on-demand, super-fast bookmaking machine. Known as the Espresso Book Machine, and produced by a company appropriately called On Demand Books, the contraption can make a book in 5 minutes or less. Here’s Tribune article on the device. The machine was designed by a St. Louis engineer and inventor, Jeff Marsh. Machines are currently at the following locations: the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business branch; Washington, D.C.’s World Bank; and Alexandria, Egypt’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina. – TL

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