Worcester, MA: St. Onge, 1966/2019. Limited Edition. Hardcover. The original book was produced in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the launching of the first liquid-propellant rocket in 1926.
This unique iteration is bound in a Muonionalusta meteorite binding with engraved lettering and an engraved portrait of Goddard on the front cover, gilt lettering to spine. Concept by Arno Gschwendtner and bound by Roland Meuter, Switzerland, 2019, one of three bindings (and one artist proof binding).
The book's colophon states, "One thousand nine hundred twenty six copies of this book were printed by Joh. Enschedé en Zonen, Haarlem, Holland, and bound by Proost en Brandt N.V., Amsterdam, Holland to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the launching of the first liquid-propelled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts, March 16, 1926”.
A copy of this book (original bound in full blue calf with gilt lettering and a portrait of Goddard to the front cover) was taken in 1969 on the first space launch to the moon (Apollo 11). When the handsome leather volume, returned from space, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., commander of the spacecraft, presented the copy to The Goddard Library at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. There the celestial object remains today. [Bondy, p170; Bromer/Edison, p165]
The making of a meteorite bookbinding by Arno Gschwendtner:
" The time and thought that went into the planning of this unique meteorite bound book was incalculable. I am sure it was much more than 100 hours in the last two years. Finding the perfect meteorite was the first formidable obstacle. I purchased numerous pieces of different meteorites to select the perfect one. I searched each meteorite to appreciate the difference in sizes, shapes, and thickness. I investigated how they would look when they were polished and etched with nitric acid or plated with Rhodium or gold.
For me the perfect meteorite has to be a Pallasite or an iron meteorite.
The Cape York iron meteorite is very nice, but the pattern is too big for a miniature book binding. And the most beautiful and oldest iron meteorite with the best Widmanstätten pattern - not too big and not too small - is the Muonionalusta meteorite which fell over a million years ago. And it was the perfect size for the perfect cover.
I previously had tried a Pallasite-binding and had bought one Pallasite that was tried to be cut in a slice. I was the most beautiful Pallasite – The Esquel. But it broke at one corner. And the slice was still too thick for a miniature book....
To try slices with other Pallasite pieces it is now quite difficult because beautiful pieces are rare to find and they are very, very expensive.
But the bigger problem was in cutting the perfect slice – if it was too thick (like mine that I tried) it looks clumsy like a brick as a binding. And if it is too thin – it breaks. And the Olivine in the Pallasite meteorites breaks very easily.
It would be possible to do a Pallasite inlay in the binding – but the visual look was just not at all pleasing.
Finally, I found someone who could properly cut a Pallasite into a correct size. He had already done a with a pocket knife handle.
But the prices were absurdly high. The cheapest pocket knife costs 30,000 Euros!!! I believe he had to cut many slices of the Pallasite until one slice was exactly right and not broken.
And a book? Well, that might cost a little less...
However the next problem with a Pallasite is that the edges are rounded. It is not possible to cut a pallasite with sharp corners.
Round edges have the wrong look on a miniature book.
Finding the perfect meteorite was, of course, only half of the task. Locating a trained craftsman who could slice the meteorite was quite difficult. It had to be someone who could delicately slice to the perfect thickness of only 1 mm. After an exhaustive search I found an old-world craftsman who was experienced in meteorite handling and processing. This skilled artisan cuts and etches meteorites for the dials for Rolex and Jaeger LeCoultre wrist watches. He only uses the best quality meteorites. They have very few inclusions, are nearly flawless, and are the finest that can be attained in any market. The next question was to find a minibook that is worth being bound in a meteorite - not too small and not too tall. At a 10 cm tall book a meteorite binding looks too big - a little bit like a brick. The book will also be too heavy and it doesn't fit very well as a book. At 5 cm size it is too small and the surface is not large enough to see the wonderful pattern of the meteorite.
About 7 cm x 5 cm would be perfect for a binding. And the Goddard minibook fit that requirement. All of the elements of a perfect marriage of subject matter, ultra-rare material and the consummate artist combined in the Muonionalusta meteorite Robert Goddard book. Just the mere act of holding the meteorite bound book in your hand gives the sense that this is no ordinary miniature book. This is a true work of art. And is now the center of my own collection of miniature books.
The key was finding the perfect subject matter and, of course, the topic had to do something with meteorites or space.
St. Onge books are among the best made miniature books in the world. From paper choice to printing and binding, they are as close to perfect as one can get. On the Robert Goddard book there is this wonderful gold printed circular text and profile of Goddard on the front binding. And the subject is of the biography of one of the most famous rocket scientist, the father of rockets and the space age. It was a perfect fit for a meteorite bound book.
It was important that the special meteorite bound book remains true to the original design of Achille St. Onge. So, I insisted that the meteorite book would have the same title on the spine, the same type, and the same design as on the original. I talked to several companies to see if they could do this as well as to some jewelers and goldsmiths. But none of them had the right skill or confidence to take on this kind of a delicate project. Fortune finally shined on me when a friend gave me the name of a company in Switzerland who could engrave anything on any surface, who had experience engraving on meteorites and who could guarantee the integrity of the meteorite would stay intact. And the company was also comfortable with slicing and then engraving on a meteorite only 1 mm thick! The finished product far exceeded my wildest dream of perfection.
This project has been years in the planning, has required painstaking research, but has been a true labor of love.
I am very proud to offer to you this rare chance to own a part of the history of mankind’s adventure into space and of the stars themselves." Fine. Tight, bright, and unmarred. Meteorite binding, 8-cent Gaddard US postage stamp tipped in, frontispiece; special endpapers illustrated with rocket blueprints, aeg; gray paper slipcase with beveled brown leather foredge; this copy includes a second portrait engraving on the inside of the rear cover exposed by a cut away in the pastedown. 72x53x9mm. 85pp. Numbered limited edition of 1,926 copies, this being 1527. Item #10021