Published On: 15 January 2023487 words2.4 min read

Being the gigantic book nerd that I am, I asked for a compendium of the Bookbinding Trades Journals, a publication of the National Union of Bookbinders and Machine Rulers between 1904 and 1910 for Christmas. To my even nerdier delight, I received it.

It’s filled with tips and tricks, instruction, history lessons, as well as an interesting insight into the state of the trade at the turn of the last century.

Every issue includes a round up of reports from various chapters. Most had to do with how business was doing, union recruitments, but occasionally there were other inclusions such as this educational update:

EDINBURGH. Trade has been very slack, an average of 20 members signing the book during the past month. We have 13 forwarders, 8 finishers, and 1 blocker unemployed. Our annual “social” took place in March, all local kindred trades as well as our Glasgow branch being represented. Mr. Geo. Reid has resigned the secretaryship, which he held for six years, during which time he has successfully piloted the branch through some stormy periods, securing a reduction of hours from 54 to 50, and an increase from 30s. to 32s. in the wages together with an increased membership. Mr. Reid is highly esteemed by the members, who accepted his resignation with reluctance. There are three bookbinding classes in the city, one held under the auspices of the Scottish Board of Manufacturers. This board is responsible for the administration of the Government grants for art purposes, and are the custodians of national art treasures. The instructor in the class is one of our members. The second class is held in the Heriot-Wall College. This, too, is a finishing class only but, being the local Technical School, I believe it is a a matter that could be remedied if the branch made representations to the proper quarter. The third class is hardly worth notice, being run by a local bookseller for amateurs, and the instructor is a lady. – T. Kennedy-Vipond.

That final sentence is both amusing and infuriating. Amusing in the context of it’s time and level of unnecessary vitriol, infuriating for both the obvious reason and because I am now insanely curious.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the woman in question was Annie S. Macdonald. I know she was in Edinburgh around that time, and she was a key member of the Edinburgh Social Club and helped arrange classes at the firm of A. & T. Constable printing.

There’s a wee bit of information about Annie in Marianne Tidcombe’s excellent Women Bookbinder’s 1880-1920, but beyond that I’ve not been able to find a huge amount more.

Surprisingly, though, I do have pretty direct access to two of her bindings here on the tiny island of Iona. There is a bible and a psalter bound by her in the Iona Abbey Heritage Collection. For a small collection it contains a number of really interesting books – but the two by Annie are my favourite.

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