Colonial Booking

Happy Independence Day! In honor, here is my experience with Colonial Booking.

Really, I went on vacation with my family to ride steep roller coasters and get pictures like this one ———>Photo on 2013-07-04 at 12.54 #3

For one day though, we took a trip over to Colonial Williamsburg and I was expecting historic signs everywhere telling me what houses belonged to who, but really it was like we were walking through someone else’s tiny village.   I wanted to see where Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married, but Colonial Williamsburg is 173 acres large and we weren’t able to hike the pinnacle to the place of marriage artifact.  It was really hot and although we stopped to drink water and take pictures with wise, knobby trees, we weren’t in the spirits to be swamped in sweat.

There were two places I had to go in Williamsburg once I discovered they were there on a map: The Bindery and The Printing Press.

DSC_0294We went to The Printing Press first and the man reenacting had some choice words about e-readers (the fourth wall was broken).  He told us that Virginia would circulate much fewer newspapers than other beginning cities such as Philadelphia and Boston.  The main purpose of the printing press in Virginia was for the government to circulate information.  One of the more important documents to come-off the Virginia Printing Press was Thomas Jefferson’s “Ideas on American Freedom.”  It’s insane that the printer then used similar tools as the ones I saw in the shop that day.  Ink colors were limited to at-max ten colors.  To inset ink into the page, the printer took a plunger-like object, dipped it into an ink pad and stamped the page.  Just imagine how long it would take to create one book.  Since I’m not the best historian (although I do have an itching to get my masters in history), I wanted to share some pages I found about the printing press in Virginia and those that work(ed) there.

Shelf of Text in the Book Bindery

Shelf of Text in the Book Bindery

Luckily, a girl in my group of tourists was very interested and asked the printer how long it would take him to print something like Shakespeare.  He said many months, up to years to print a Shakespeare play.  I just thought that was unbelievable.  It’s practically unfathomable for me to think printing could possibly take that long.  Current news took up to two weeks to reach people in the city and people in the country might be fresh out of luck for longer.  This is one of the reasons I don’t want to give up on the art of letter writing.


Tools in the Book Bindery

The bindery man confirmed the amount of time it took to create and then own one book.  He told us that one bound book (which was usually in journal form because very few could afford a printed book) would cost the average man fifteen days of pay.  Now, the journals were beautifully bound, all leather, hand-dyed, but for a family to afford just one journal it would take months to save up.  Now, we work long hours to save up for cars, houses, expensive clothes, and in that day they would have to save up just to own one bound journal.  I’m not sure I could have lived then because I would be scrounging for paper.  My life would depend upon the amount of handkerchiefs the man I loved owned that I could write on.  It makes me so thankful to have an outlet to voice my thoughts, my bookishness, and really just myself through this blog.  Obviously, without the use of computers or internet (even air conditioning) in Williamsburg, this blog wouldn’t exist and neither would the countless ones I read every Sunday morning when I cipher through my emails.  All my thoughts would have had to be in a journal that would probably cost my family far too much to buy.  When you have to feed a family, when do you have time to buy journals?

Just after the bindery, photo by boy.

Just out of the Bindery smile.  Ignore that large ropes course bruise.  Being a teacher is tough like that.

This was probably the only educational part of my vacation.  It’s hard to run a book blog and not seek out all the bookishness you can in a historic town.  I did find a really interesting article that I wanted to share about the hiring of African American people at Williamsburg.   The article is posted at Indiewire and titled “It’s Not Easy Being a Slave (And Neither is Playing One).  This was just something I found while searching around for a little more information and I wanted to share because it was another unimaginable situation.

The rest of vacation was normal vacation fun and like always I have a June picture montage to share with everyone.

June, 2013

June, 2013

7 thoughts on “Colonial Booking

  1. Let's CUT the Crap! says:

    All these lovely ‘s’ sounds are lovely, …”we weren’t in the spirits to be swamped in sweat.”
    It boggles my mind thinking about printing: from months to minutes, today. From paper boy delivery or publisher to INBOX instant.
    Do we not realize how easy we have it?
    Thanks you for a heart-thumping and head shaking post.

    • Cassie says:

      My thoughts exactly dear. We definitely don’t realize. I know whenever I write a hand-written letter, I ramble so much more as well. I believe it’s part of the reason our language has started evaporating. The instantaneousness of writing. It’s a lot to think about all at once, quite overwhelming. BAH!

  2. Peter says:

    Nice article! As a historian I appreciate such things. I must admit you aroused some curiosity in me about long past printings techniques. Thank you.

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End (formerly Jenny's Books) says:

    I thought they weren’t allowed to EVER EVER EVER break the fourth wall! I thought that was a huge important rule? It’s a reason I’ve sort of not wanted to go to Colonial Williamsburg, because I feel like the non-fourth-wall-breaking would slightly stress me out and irritate me.

    That’s insane, though, about the bookbinding. I can’t imagine. I feel sad about the books being so expensive though — did he say, were there other ways of doing bookbinding? I make small stitched journals that take a couple of hours to do, but maybe they did not know how in Colonial Williamsburg?

    • Cassie says:

      Maybe I just got lucky, but he was definitely aware of the times. : )

      I was a little disappointed because I’m the kind of history dork that wants to read every single sign and there really weren’t that many because (I suppose) they expected you would understand what it was like from the people acting. I really just wanted to the detailed historic perspective and not from a 21st century human.

      He didn’t say there were any other ways. I’m not sure if there were. I also have no idea how much paper and binding would cost if that were the case. Then again, would they even have time after work because back then there was no working condition laws, working restrictions, etc. I’m just not sure. I have far too many questions! It would definitely be something interesting to research.


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