Today’s post comes from Kelly Bliss, Cataloger at the Rakow Research Library.
Batch books are usually notebooks in which glassmakers wrote their chemical recipes for different types and colors of glass. Some are handwritten in ink and carefully preserved; others are written in pencil and have become smudged through everyday use by the glassmaker. The books vary in size and length, and may have scraps of paper stuck between the pages with additional notes and recipes.
William Leighton’s 1850-1887 batch book—my favorite batch book—is a little different from the rest. When I came across this unique book in 2004, I felt like I was holding someone’s treasure in my hands. A lot of care went into creating it, and it had survived in wonderful condition for over 100 years in the hands of the Leighton family. The book came into the Library’s possession in 1993. The contents make me think of toy books that are made for dolls. A tiny notebook (about 4 inches) with a green plaid cover is tucked in the pocket on the left side. This notebook, dated Oct. 28, 1850, contains 46 pages of meticulously handwritten recipes, followed by an index of what were perhaps the glassmaker’s favorite recipes. Behind this notebook are 27 numbered loose slips of paper, each one with a typewritten recipe dated between 1856 and 1887. Most have “Wheeling” followed by a date typed across the top, but the last few have “N. Eng. 1858-66 FB.”
I am pretty sure that this was not the batch book that was used in the factory, but perhaps it was an archival copy meant to keep the recipes safe from loss and damage. I am amazed that someone chose to make it so small, but perhaps it was so that its owner could always keep his treasure close to his heart in his shirt pocket.
The Rakow Library collection includes around 100 batch books, including several tied to Leighton and members of his family.
The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.
Batch books might be fascinating and marvelous and individualized…but they’re either unique or not. There are no degrees of uniqueness. Batch books cannot be *very* unique.
I have my uncle’s 🙂