Pictorial Webster’s Encyclopaedia

deluxe-websters-624x623John Carrera of Quercus Press has created a hand-bound, letterpress printed book of all of the imagery from the 1864 edition of the Pictorial Webster’s Enyclopedia, a snapshot of all the things that were interesting to 19th century America. The project originally started with the discovery of the 1864 edition’s original letterpress printing blocks, donated to the Yale University library in the 1970’s… over 13,000 tiny, dusty, out of condition lead blocks, unlabelled, unsorted and unidentified. Over the best part of 10 years, he cleaned and curated the blocks; identifying, labelling, bringing them to type height, and arranging them Engravingsready for printing along with newly cast labels. During this time, he purchased a Vandercook cylinder press and a Linotype type caster – and learned how to use them both – to get the edition printed. Each page of the hand-bound editions is printed manually, one at a time. Not just one at a time… but one colour at a time.

The prints were hand-bound between end-papers made up of a three-colour letterpress print using a collage of all of the label type. The prints were trimmed and folded into 5000 sections for hand-sewing, followed by edge decoration (using the same design as the end-papers) full-leather binding or half-leather for the ‘delux editions’ (available from Quercus Press).


There is also a commercial hard-cover binding (available from bookshops and online). There’s a great video of the process available on Vimeo (and linked from the Quercus website), which includes the back-story, progress and completion, including the hand printing and hand binding, narated by the book’s author, John Carrera.

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