The poor apprentice, lost without his Master’s hand.

I’m told that it was traditional to show your grief in a passively dramatic way in Victorian Society by showing that you’d rather go to ruin that live with the loss, evident in this poem by a bookbinder apprentice of the late 19th century – talk about heavy!

~Bookbinder’s Lament~
A solemn curse by Ben Burnisher, pronounced upon his Master’s Passing.
circa. 1880
“May rats and mice devour your paste,
Your paper and your leather;
May your hand letters be defaced,
Your types all mixed together.
May all your pallets, stamps and rolls,
Be on their faces battered;
Your beating stone packed full of holes,
Your hammer in pieces shattered.

Your pressing boards be cracked;
May your law leather all turn brown,
Each law book edged in black.
May you be bothered all your life,
With workman brandy lovers;
With sandy boards and dull plough knife,
Thin paste, and horny covers

And May your gilding all rub off,
Your roll burn through the leather,
And you hereforward be obliged
To finish in hot weather
And may your polisher upon
The face be full of scratches,
And every cover you put on
At least have twenty patches.

May all your colours be too strong,
So as to rot your leather,
May all your books be lettered wrong,
Your fly leaves stick together.
May your laying press all get broke,
Your books be wrong collated;
And may you with foul charcoal smoke
Be almost suffocated.

May your apprentice run away;
Your business be diminished;
And may booksellers never pay you
when the work is finished.
God grant that the distressed may be
from Constable to Beadle;
And live till you can’t feel or see
Your press-pin from your needle.”
Thanks to Hewit&sons Leather for this bonza poem.

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