I apologize. Gremlins seem to have attacked the image files. I will retrieve the originals and have new ones posted soon.
Partly in preparation of writing THE PALIMPSEST
(and partly out of insatiable curiousity) I undertook to teach myself
the art and science of bookbinding in a medieval method. I love books.
I used to run a bookstore. I write novels. I have a personal library.
Not because they're pretty, or because my home would be naked without
books (though both of those things are true) but because I love books.
It is only natural to me that at some point I would attempt to make my
own from scratch.
Yes I happened to have a manual of bookbinding on the shelf. I'm a bibliophile. Deal with it. I also have a book that would allow me to replicate Nelson's Flagship to the last nail if I had a mind to, so it’s not as unusual as you might think.
The book will be a small one, an "Octavo" it's called, meaning that the paper making up its pages have been folded in half twice so that - once they are cut - they make eight pages. The cuts were all done by running the back of a butter knife along a creased edge, giving the paper that ragged look which modern binders call the "deckle" (which is just a fun word to say). If you do it right, you're left with individual rectangles creased down the center, which are stacked to look like a little pamphlet. The individual section is called a "bifolio" (two leafs) and together they form a "quire" or "signature". The signatures are stacked and sewn to a series of cords using something that looks a lot like a chain stitch. Some books also feature signatures sewn to one another sans cord with what looks like a buttonhole stitch.
I will be raiding my wife's supply of resume paper for paper of the correct weight and cotton-rag content. I'm working with 14 signatures of 4 bifolium each. I stacked them and drew a line down the spines of the signatures and then pricked them along the three lines as I will be doing a three-cord binding. The pricks in the paper will allow the sewing to take place without having to force my way through multiple layers of paper with each pass of the needle.
of the things I found in the magpie stage of my bookbinding planning
was a frame which - with some suitable modification - makes a smashing
good sewing frame for the binding of books. Keeping the cords taut
makes to them much easier. The dowel along the top allows me to
tighten the cords which are secured to the frame by pushpins. My
setup is crude, but effective.
Most binding was done
with either pasteboard or oak boards. Pasteboards were/are a cheap and
speedy alternative to woodworking and oak resists warping. I had
neither oak nor pasteboard handy so I went with pine. (I might regret
it someday but it's an experiment, so it doesn't matter that much to
me, to be honest) The pine was sanded, the edges beveled and the wood
treated with a hardener.
Paleographers and Codicologists (historians who study old writings and books, respectively) describe a book 'that resists opening' as being a good binding for our style and time period. That's what I'm going to be going for.The ends of the cords are trimmed and then dragged along the edge of a knife to fray them. The frayed ends are then splayed out along the board so as to avoid unsightly lumps beneath the leather that will eventually cover them. This means they are twice secured: once by the pegs and once by the paste sandwiching them between wood and leather. As you can see below, I pasted mine down in advance to keep them out of the way until I got around to gluing leather over them.
The leather you can see lying beneath the nascent book in the picture above is the leather I chose. It's a buff leather chosen in keeping with the 'things I had lying around' theme. This used to be a poorly-assembled vest that some RV enthusiast had plastered with patches and stickers from their travels and then sent to Goodwill. I was happy to peel off the stickers, clean the leather and give it a good home in my project box. Now it's a book cover. Wouldn't that RV'er be surprised what happened to their old vest? I love recycling!
Once it's out of the press, the edges have to be mitered so they will meet cleanly on the insides of the covers once you're ready to glue them under. So the corners are lopped off at a 45 degree angle, the width of the cover boards away from the corners. That's important, that's why its in italics.
Some fudging is possible if you're going to use metal corners, but a bad fit is a bad fit and it will show, even with the corners on there. I've seen it, even if I wasn't binder enough myself to say what was wrong with the book in my hand, I knew it was wrong somehow.
Now its just a matter of glue, fold and press...
I use a combination of tacks, clamps and binder clips to hold the flaps down while I do the others. Be sure to tuck the leather under the bound edge of the book and clamp that area especially. That double-thickness at top & bottom of the spine add a lot to the stability of a book.
(Left) In the press. You can begin to see the trademark (and oft-imitated) raised sections of the spine caused by the cords. NOTE: Since I'm doing this at the dining room table I decided to raise my ersatz bookpress up off the wood to keep from scratching things up. The title struck me as appropriate.
At the top of the page is a montage of the finished book. Frankly, I'm ecstatic with the way it turned out. It was fun and surprisingly easy, not to mention kind of a Zen thing to do, sewing the pages into my very own book. I think perhaps the next one will be a real Psalter like the one in Ex Libris with a nice Moroccan leather binding. Seems like a nice way to bring the research that went into writing that book full-circle. I don't think I'll be able to palimpsest the thing, but it's an idea.
In the meantime, I'm going to have fun scrawling questionable poetry in my current one.