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The Evolution of Embossers

Of the many changes that our library has seen over the past century, one that is easy to overlook is the way we mark our books. When we first opened, our librarians embossed each new book they added to the collection. Labels on the embossing stamps show we were still embossing books into the early 1970’s. Sometime thereafter, we began instead to mark our books using ink stamps.

We recently uncovered several of our old embossing stamps, and our librarians are going to start using them again. There are several benefits to embossing as opposed to ink stamping. Firstly, inks can negatively affect paper, making it degrade over time, whereas embossing only adds an indent or small holes to the paper and therefore does not cause as much long-term damage.

Secondly, embossed books are harder to steal than books stamped with ink, because the skilled thief can laboriously remove traces of ink, but the only way to remove traces of embossing is to remove the embossed page itself. And finally, aesthetics. Embossed books look and feel nice. There is a timeless feel to them, something that brings to mind classic libraries with beautiful old books. In addition, an embossed stamp looks the same every time, whereas ink stamps often appear messy.

For all these reasons and in deference to our history, we are going to bring our embossing stamps out of retirement. Stop by sometime to see some of our new materials, embossed as of old!

The story of these tools and the epic building will be further explored in the Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. Go back in time in this one hour tour, up and down the catwalks and through the vault in a nooks and crannies inspired experience.  Our June tour sold out, so get your tickets early!


The oldest embosser, which creates a raised impression of our corporate seal.


The corporate seal created by the oldest embosser.


The newest embosser (really a perforating stamp), with a 1971 note instructing librarians to stamp the page after the title page of a book.


The perforated stamp.

The ink stamp currently used by librarians, which marks the date as well as the name of the library.

Ink stamps create a less aesthetically pleasing stamp than embossers or perforators.


Written by Leah Kodner, James J. Hill Business Librarian. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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