Birth of a Book – Aeon Video

Today Aeon released this video under the title, “What’s as satisfying as a good book? Seeing one made the old-fashioned way, by hand.” The website then gave this introduction. Read it, then watch the video below.

Ah, the good ol’ days of quality book making. But, wait, some are still doing it in this modern age. Hats off to them. Are you reading any of late? 🙂

Books are many things to many people, from status symbols to life-savers to dangerous portals to unwanted experiences, but few of us get to see them born. This charming short offers a swift tour of the Smith Settle printing and bookbinding company in Leeds, in the north of England, where books are still made the old-fashioned way. The director Glen Milner charts each step in the process as bookbinders piece together a new hardbound edition of the memoir Mango and Mimosa (1974) by the British writer and painter Suzanne St Albans. From folding pages to sewing and gluing paper to the leather spine, skilful human hands are front and centre throughout. Milner documents this melding of mechanics and craft with an almost musical rhythm, conveying skills and methods born of centuries of refinements.

Published in: on June 28, 2019 at 5:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

The End of Another Seminary Semester (Dec. 2018), a New PRT Journal Issue, and Updated Addition Work Pics!

Sem sunrise - front

(Today was the official beginning of the winter season (Dec.21), though it is not quite this wintery looking currently. This was taken during last year’s winter.)


Today marked the last official day of the first semester at the PRC Seminary. It was exam week, and while no exams were actually held today (Friday), students had papers to finish and turn in today. And thus, another semester comes to a close.

Although, it may be noted that one specially blessed student still has a Hebrew grammar exam to take Christmas Eve morning. It seems a certain registrar forgot to put that on the schedule (which, in his [own flimsy] defense, was full at the time! [as if he couldn’t have moved things around if he had thought of it!]), and a certain Hebrew professor is now in Singapore, far from the very Singaporean student he taught! So now said registrar must administer the exam to the student Monday morning (as if the latter deserves to be “punished” for the miscue of the former!). No worries, as we say, all are happy and content. Or should we say, will be happy and content Monday around 11 AM. 🙂


The end of another semester is always a bit sobering. We stand amazed at how quickly 15 weeks of classes go by. And yet there was marvelous Reformed instruction given again by the faculty, and growth in grace and knowledge and gifts on the part of the students. Our two seniors (Jacob M. and Matt K.) were mostly absent from us (and yet they mysteriously seemed to appear in time for our “Friday brat/burger” lunch), busily engaged in the work of their internships, getting a taste of the “real” life and labors of a church pastor. It was obvious they loved the experience and are being made ready for the grand goal. Soon they will return for their final semester (where did those four years go?!). Humbling, all of it.


Our new professor (D. Kuiper) is working quickly toward the goal of his advanced learning too, starting to write his main thesis for his ThM degree through Calvin Seminary. Next fall, Lord willing, he will begin teaching some of his courses.

sem-secr-sharonk-fall-2018-2.jpgA new secretary moved in mid-semester (Sharon K.), to take the place of our beloved Mrs. J. Doezema, who has only “retired” to less work (“just” the manifold denominational labors she is involved with, and the Standard Bearer). But grace was given to both ladies to take up and to carry on, and the transition has been as smooth as it could be. We praise God.


We were also able to produce our 103rd PR Theological Journal – Volume 52, No.1 (Fall 2018). As you will see from the cover, it is  another fine blend of Reformed scholarship and practical theology, with articles and book reviews to benefit preachers, teachers, students, and laymen. The pdf may be found here; the print copies came in today and will be mailed out or delivered next week. If you would like to be added to our mailing list to receive the PRTJ (free!), contact the seminary at 616-531-1490 or

God is good. His grace is abundant, and therefore amazing. We see His hand guiding us for good in all things, and we give humble thanks to Him for another semester. Remember us in prayer, even as we remember you.

I include here a few other pictures taken throughout the semester, with a few notes for each. Enjoy!

We are blessed by many visitors during the semester, sometimes from faraway places, such as Singapore.

Our final Friday lunch was delicious burgers from Sheldon Meats (Tim B., who keeps us well supplied – thank you, Tim and Kate!)

Once again, I was personally blessed by the help of Kevin R. and Elijah R. in the library.

Once again the sem (and pre-sem) student ping-pong team showed itself highly competitive, winning 50% of its games.


And in the animal realm, a red fox made a rare appearance one night when our janitor was here. He was able to capture a quick shot of it for all of us to enjoy.


Finally, we note that, while Pres. D. Trump is having trouble getting his border wall built, the new seminary addition’s walls made good progress this week, thanks to some mild weather and Bouwkamp Masonry. The new archives and offices are taking shape!



Merry Christmas from all of us at the seminary! May the joy and peace of our sovereign Savior be yours in this season of the year.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)


Friday Fun in Images: Seminary, Gardens, and Books

This first Friday in October is rapidly coming to an end, so before it does let’s have a little “Friday Fun” through images. Some of these are personal photos I have taken at home or at seminary.


Among the regular visitors to seminary are wild turkeys who have a habit of pecking on the glass at the front door. We are a welcoming community, but we have our limits. Now, some will tell you that the turkeys at sem are not all outdoors, but we don’t need to get into that. 🙂


The deer around the area of seminary were very quiet for a few months in late summer. But of late they have returned to graze and play on our property.


We’ve had a funny looking mum plant by the sign at the sem driveway entrance. Mrs. Judi Doezema thinks that the light at night under which it sits is making half of the plant think it is daylight all the time (so flower away!), while half of it is blocked from the light and that makes the other half think it need not flower just yet.20180914_125417

Yes, indeed, ping-pong has returned to the “extra-curricular” activities at seminary. Some “rookies” are getting initiated (“schooled”?) by our Singaporean students, who play a fairly mean game (but with a gracious spirit!). That’s Matt Kortus and Elijah Roberts playing Marcus Wee and Josiah Tan (a little hidden).


And then there are the musically interested ones, who gather around the piano for a new song to play and/or sing (That’s Josiah Tan and Jacob Maatman).




And, with the flower and vegetable gardens winding down, we share a few images of their rapidly fading glory (but still amazing glory!).


And, finally, from time to time, people will send me images of things related to books and reading, which I always appreciate. Sometimes they are humorous, sometimes serious, and sometimes just really creative (the above ones are from the 2018 Home Show in Grand Rapids;

A Boston bookstore in an alley, seen on vacation this summer by a friend

but they always carry a good message about the place books and reading (and libraries!) have (and should have!) in our lives.


Thanks to all who have sent me these things over the last months! Have a wonderful weekend!

Published in: on October 5, 2018 at 10:19 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Wonder of a Sprouting Bean | Aeon Videos


Two days ago I referenced Aeon Essays for the first time year. Today, for our “Friday Fun” item we point you to Aeon Videos for the first time. They have some wonderfully inspiring clips of the simplest things, but things that make you say “Wow!” all over again.

Such as the miracle of a bean kidney seed sprouting. I realize there are thousands of such videos on the Internet, but Aeon does some unique things with theirs, such as adding classical music to the sprouting bean.

So, enjoy the amazing growth of a bean plant, bottom to top. And stand in awe not just of “nature” but of nature’s God. For this is our Father’s world and He is Designer, Maker, and Sustainer of every such little bean seed. Watch His work and wonder!

Here is Aeon’s brief introduction:

Though it’s rather more ordinary than its Jack and the Beanstalk cousin, the kidney bean in this timelapse video puts on quite a performance as it sprouts, breaks through the soil’s surface and springs upward into a plant. Just as enchanting is its development below ground, where a single tendril expands into a complex and deeply embedded root system.

Whimsically employing Johann Strauss’s famous waltz ‘The Blue Danube’ (1866), the video puts one of nature’s unsung spectacles front and centre stage.

Source: It might not be magic, but a sprouting bean can still hold you under its spell | Aeon Videos

Published in: on September 28, 2018 at 9:25 PM  Leave a Comment  

What’s New at the PRC Seminary? A Summer’s Collection of Pictures

It has been a while since we posted anything specific about the activities at the PRC Seminary – virtually a whole summer! – so before summer passes and so you know there was and is plenty going on, we post a part of my personal collection of pictures over the past summer.


Of course, we welcomed some new deer members to the property – 3 new fawns we counted (this is a Google enhanced photo, splicing two images together) – always a treat.

Skip’s Painting came in again to repaint another section of the main floor and then give the main part of the lower level a makeover too – looking so much better!

I also did some basement cleanup and reorganization this summer – much-needed! Now some of the special files from the Letis collection and from other special libraries we have purchased are becoming more accessible.


We had the carpets cleaned by Zandstra, as we do every August – thanks for another great job!

Of course, I had time to shop for books too, including Baker Book House’s annual tent sale (I went twice that week!) – a lot of great $1 books and other bargains for the seminary library!

We enjoyed our first Friday brat/burger lunch the first week of school, and had a nice group (some of the wives and children came too).


We marked our new year with our annual Convocation this past Wednesday night (for more on this visit this PRC webpage.)

And tonight we held our annual Fall Seminary picnic at Hagar Park in Jenison, MI. It was a good night of great food (thanks, ladies!), wonderful fellowship, and stiff yard-game competition. I think we will all sleep well tonight. Not sure who is more tired, the kids or the adults. 🙂


Thank you for all your support and prayers! Remember us as we busy ourselves in the work this Fall.

Published in: on September 7, 2018 at 10:03 PM  Leave a Comment  

Soar around the Moon, carried by the music of Debussy | Aeon Videos

Not too late to squeeze in our “Friday Fun” item while also appreciating amazing video of the moon and a beautiful piece of classic music.

Below is the introduction; click on the link at the end to view the wonderful video.

Behold the handiwork of God – in creation and in creative music! Enjoy!

Vast lunar landscapes set to the aching, shimmering piano of Claude Debussy’s 1905 composition ‘Clair de Lune’ (French for ‘moonlight’) offer an enchanting melding of science and art through the interplay of light, texture and music. The video, which traces the flow of sunlight over the Moon’s surface, was created by NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio using images captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It was first shown at a celebration of NASA’s 60th anniversary along with a live performance of Debussy’s music.

Source: Soar around the Moon, carried by the music of Debussy, in this breathtaking space flight | Aeon Videos

Man Finds Thomas Jefferson in a Dumpster! (Some of His Rare Books, That Is)

Before this Friday is over, we need to take time for a “fun” item, and for that we turn to this great story that appeared this week on “Inside Edition.” It is one of those rare book tales that boggles the mind and stirs up one’s own dream of falling on such volumes.

Well, I’ve teased you with the story – the headline has given you its content. Now read on to find out what this man found in a Nevada dumpster. The full story is at the link below.

Max Brown doesn’t usually dumpster dive, but on a day in 2014, he was scavenging through a Nevada garbage bin for a community service project when he spied old 1980s-era cassette tapes.
He scooped them up, and saw underneath a pile of very old books. He gathered as many as he could, and scampered out of the receptacle as it began to rain.
Thus began a journey of many stops and starts that would ultimately connect him to people he’d never before met, and to one of the country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson.

*Image courtesy of CBS News

The ancient and well-worn books sat in his South Lake Tahoe home for some six months before he and a friend carefully turned the manuscript’s fragile pages. They also found old notes and family photos.

Inside one of the books was a handwritten note: “From the library of Thomas Jefferson.” The tome was one of two volumes written by French Catholic theologian and philosopher Pierre Charron. The books were written in French. The publication date was 1621.

Source: Inside a Dumpster, California Man Finds Trove of Ancient Books Owned by Thomas Jefferson

Published in: on August 3, 2018 at 9:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

Found: 3 Poisonous Books in a University Library – Atlas Obscura

Beware of poisonous books! Manuscripts laden with what – arsenic?!

Read on, as the folks at Atlas Obscura tell a tale of bookish woe – one of the few times we have to warn you about getting too close to books. 🙂

Here’s part of the story; visit the link below to read the rest.

The librarians at the University of Southern Denmark weren’t looking for poison. They just wanted to read the scraps of manuscript used to make the covers of three rare books from the 16th and 17th centuries.When they put the books under X-ray analysis, though, they found they had a real danger in their hands, they write at The Conversation. The books’ covers were suffused with arsenic.

For years, in the 19th century, arsenic was considered dangerous to eat but safe enough to use in other ways, including as dye in postage stamps that were meant to be licked or in green dresses worn to fancy balls. It was regularly used as an ingredient in green paint, to help the color last longer. Now, though, we know that when arsenic is used in paint, it’s still very dangerous. It can form microscopic particles that can make their way into people’s lungs. In some circumstances, arsenic paint can even give off a poisonous gas.

One of the most dangerous books ever created was meant to warn against exactly this danger. In the 1870s, an American doctor tried to raise awareness of the hazards of arsenic-laced wallpaper by creating a book of potentially poisonous samples and sending it around to libraries. The intent was to help people identify dangerous wallpaper in their homes, not to poison librarians. Today, only four copies of that book still exist, and they’re treated very carefully.

Source: Found: 3 Poisonous Books in a University Library – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on July 13, 2018 at 7:06 AM  Leave a Comment  

A Glimpse of the History of Camping in Michigan |


For our first Thursday history/archives post this month (and a little “Friday fun” too!) we start with a great summer activity – camping in Michigan. If you have lived in our Great Lakes state and camped, or perhaps visited and done some camping in our great outdoors, then you know the beauty of our state parks as well as of our national parks, whether perched at a lakeshore, by a riverside, or deep in the woods.

Today (a Michigan news source) featured the history of camping in Michigan by taking us back to the old days of camping – the days of tenting but also of hard-shell campers. You will be impressed by the interesting article Emily Bingham wrote and by the fascinating pictures of campers on various parts of our state.

Here is the beginning of her article and a few pictures to get you started. Read the rest and browse the other pictures at the link below. And if you are scheduled for a camping trip in Michigan this summer yet (as my wife is at Lake Michigan in August), then “happy camping.”

Source: These old photos capture the history of camping in Michigan |

The Surprising Practice of Binding Old Books With Scraps of Even Older Books – Atlas Obscura

For centuries, an older manuscript sheathed a 1480 edition of the Vulgate. Courtesy Newberry Library

This article appeared in the Atlas Obscura email yesterday (June 14), and what a fascinating story it is concerning a former era of book publishing and binding – especially the example it features at the outset! But wait until you find out about the hidden sermons of St. Augustine that made up another book bound from other books.

Here are the opening paragraphs on this lost book-binding art and the treasures that it contained (Although I will say that I have found later examples of this in some 18th and even 19th century books in the seminary’s library, when the spine had begun to break down.).

Last year, Megan Heffernan, an English professor at DePaul University, was at the Folger Shakespeare Library and studying a folio of John Donne’s sermons printed in 1640. When she opened it up, she was surprised to find that the inside of the front and back covers were plastered with sheets taken from a book of English psalms. “I just thought, ‘How amazing is it to think about sermons sort of spending eternity rubbing up against a totally different kind of liturgical writing?’” she says. The texts’ creators didn’t intend for them to live together, but when the psalms became “book waste”—essentially, printed garbage—they could end up anywhere.

Suzanne Karr Schmidt, a curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Newberry Library in Chicago, jokingly describes these as “turducken books”—a book (or manuscript) within a book within a book. Repurposed scraps like these show up in several dozen places in the library’s collection, either as bindings, mends, or pieces used to reinforce spines.

From the earliest days of bookmaking, binders made use of scraps. Sometimes, it was just mundane material: leases or contracts that had expired or been rendered moot by a scribe’s mistake. In other cases, the bindings illustrate some seismic cultural shift. In these instances, the materials indicate to modern scholars what was important to the people assembling books—or, conversely, what had little or no value to them.

After the Reformation, for example, when Catholicism gave way to Protestantism in Britain, monastic libraries were dissolved and centuries’ worth of manuscripts were suddenly homeless and largely unwanted. This made them “available to a burgeoning print trade,” Heffernan says, “and they could be torn up into strips, or wrapped whole around books.” The change of faith sapped the Catholic materials’ “value as documents to be read,” she says. But their value as raw material—such as vellum, made from animal skin—remained.

Conservators found this 10th-century fragment of a sermon attributed to Saint Augustine in a book from the 1500s. Courtesy of the Newberry Library

For more on this – and the St. Augustine fragment story – visit the link below.

As an aside, I recently purchased a Kindle copy of the Atlas Obscura book, and what a treasure-trove that is! If you haven’t subscribed to their daily (or weekly) emails yet and you are interested in this kind of information (geographical and historical wonders found throughout the world), do so.

Source: The Surprising Practice of Binding Old Books With Scraps of Even Older Books – Atlas Obscura