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[BKARTS] Sweet Buckeye and Bookbinding



I've been reading a great book off and on for the last few months called "A
Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America" by Donald
Culross Peattie (Houghton Mifflin, 1950). I was reading initially for the
illustrations by Paul Landacre, which drew me in, and then found that the
text was actually quite engaging. And now, at page 480, I find a connection
to bookbinding that makes me curious to know if the practice desribed is
still used by some bookbinders, or if it is something that has faded away
in the 53 years since the book's publication. It involves the Sweet Buckeye
tree, also known as Big Buckeye, Latin name "Aesculus octandra" Marshall,
not known to us here in Florida:

"Country folk have named this tree for its big shiny brown seed which, with
the large pale scar upon it, has looked to them like the eye of a deer.
They are seeds pleasing to look at and satisfying to hold, but there is
poison in them, as there is in the young shoot leaves. Pigs, horses, and
cattle--even children who were tempted by the seeds--have been repeatedly
reported as poisoned by them, with symptoms of inflammation of the mucous
membranes, vomiting, stupor, twitching, and paralysis. The glucoside
aesculin is one, at least, of the poisonous elements involved.
       Yet with this bitter principle removed, the very starchy seeds are both
edible and nourishing. The Indians roasted the nuts among hot stones, thus
loosening the shells, peeled and mashed them, and then leached the meal
with water for several days. Thus there was left to them a highly
nutritious meal. The very presence of the poison, however, serves to make
the seed useful in another way; bookbinders prefer above all others a paste
made of its starch since it is not eaten by the insect enemies of books."

With great curiosity,

John Cutrone
Red Wagon Bookworks
Lake Worth, Florida
http://www.redwagonbookworks.com

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