Tag Archives: binding

Lesson learned in the bindery today

It had been my intention to post photos of today’s production. But worker No2 was busy playing the cello while worker No1 had her hands full of glue.

In my pleasant workshop I was devising ways in which I could bind the Perfume of Books; the hardest part is coming up with a design. Initially I was going to use the paper stock I had. As the book has grown to 400 pages, and weighs one kilo, I couldn’t make paper bindings. Sides are ok, but a paper spine, for a book I hope will get much used, would not be appropriate.  Besides which, the paper bought in fits and starts from various suppliers doesn’t actually suit the theme of the book.

So I am left to use cloth and some papers for the sides.

This is the most consistent binding time I have had in a long while. And then it hit me that I still needed to add a title to the cover. Too many things to think about at one, and with so little time.

I like horizontal stripes. I do think that less is more. I like plats rapportés, a kind of simplified binding, where the covering material goes over the sandwiched spine.

I like having lines going across one side to the other

I like having lines going across one side to the other

I also like millimeter binding

Type of millimetre binding

Type of millimetre binding

Will I be using leather or paper? Still how do I get the title on.

The type I have is too small for the size of this book, and I will be going to a tooling workshop with Dominic Riley way after the books are due, so I guess it’s up to my printer and me. I can print on japanese paper, and after a bit of swearing I can print on cloth; afterall I wanted to keep the style of the title Susan designed for me.

So the books will be made in 3 pieces, with a hollow. Is that cheating or is that actually making more work for myself?


Lesson 1: This pile of books now has their spine linings and inner boards attached. I found when I was trying a millimetre binding that this was an impediment to adding a piece of leather across the top of the binding. Millimetre binding can occur either as a case binding or with laced-in boards; it is harder to do when it is a strange combination of both. Photos to come….

Lesson 2: When covering a board for simplified binding or plats rapportés, don’t glue down the spine side first as it will create tension in the paper and will result in diagonal lines  along the paper.

Lesson 3: clean your remay so that you don’t have glue left on it. It will transfer onto your paper.

I wish my students could watch me; they would hear me talk to myself as well as get glue all over my fingers. But they would see me learn from previous experience and use patience to case-in my book and leave it open. Photo to come…..

I went to the Code X, the international bookbinders’ exhibition that is part of the Australian Bookbinders’ Conference. There were apparently 25 different binding styles. And at least 4 bindings in New Oriental binding, including mine.  However the bindings inspired me; made me think about my own design issues.

Lesson 4: patience is a virtue. Wit for things to dry before going to the next stage.

After all this talk I still have only bound 3 books….





Leave a comment

Filed under bookbinding

A year of teaching

The end of the school year is looming; this week is my last class at CIT (Canberra Institute of Technology). I inherited a class of my very own at the beginning of the year. How lucky am I?

Neale had actually thrown me in the deep end last year when he suggested to the vocational course co-ordinator from tech that I could so some casual replacements. Neale, colleague and mentor, was my first teacher in 2006. I’m still a newbie myself and so it was with some trepidation that I did a few replacements for Sally, and when she decided to hang up her bonefolder, the college offered me the job.

My inheritance included messy cupboards full of half finished work from bygone students, some sad looking brushes and glue pots and a jumble of papers and book cloth. This space is shared with the screen printers, and more often than not there is ink left on the tables.


Cleaned out cupboards

Every Thursday Bookcraft services experienced binders who come in to do their own projects and beginners who come bright eyed to discover how a book is made. It’s been going for years, and has more or less remained in the same format. Unfortunately we are now in separate rooms and the newcomers don’t get the benefit of watching the more experienced binders at work.

I’m new, keen and have a plan. Actually, it’s Neale’s plan; I basically devised an eight week course that mirrored what he taught me. I had found his teaching schedule useful and great because it took me slowly from the basics, like finding theIMG_0548 grain of cloth and paper to making a book of my very own, like a bought one.

In my first class I inherited 2 new students. I simply continued from where they had started; the next term I had a full class of 7 plus more return students. My class plans aimed to get the students to go home with a finished product at the end of every week. The tasks get progressively harder, building on skills learned the previous week.

I love teaching beginners; I love showing them basics ways of making a book, of sewing a few folios together and getting something worthwhile.


Throughout the year I get a different bunch of students; I teach them a bunch of stuff from my plan; I hone down the teaching palaber until I find the correct words, the words that they will understand, that will make them do the task more easily. Teaching makes me better understand what I am doing.

Mostly I enjoy meeting new and different personalities. I try to remember their names; I think the more new people you meet, the easier it becomes. Bookbinding attracts a certain type of person: not so much fussy as patient and who pays attention to detail. Some people have more hand dexterity than others; some are more artistically inclined.

I’ve learned that I can’t push the students too fast; they will work at their own pace and the class plan seems to grow organically. IMG_0550

Alf waiting for his book

Historically bookbinding was a man’s trade. Now it seems this art is, in this country at least and in my classes, dominated by women. We’d like to have more men, I think it changes the dynamic. Ultimately though, the tasks at hand make us silent. There’ll be a brief flurry of conversation, and before concentration takes over once more. Cheese is de rigueur at teatime. Here we gather with the more experienced clan: Peter and Helen reminisce over the good old days with Neale, and I talk about the future. Over cheese and a cup of tea we find out how each of us came to binding, what makes us tick.

I have further plans for this course. I’d like to start a continuing class on another day, where I would have the occasional guest teacher showing them something wonderful. I would like to make an excursion to the Canberra Bookbinders Guild (who meet on Thursdays!). I don’t want to keep just teaching beginners because I know I will reach a saturation point; if I see that they are heading in a direction, that there is a better goal for them to achieve, then we will have more and better skilled bookbinders and the art won’t die. The powers that be just need to give me a classroom.


Filed under Uncategorized

And finally but not least….my wanderings through bookstores

Wandering slowly through bookstores used to be one of my favourite pastimes. I would buy books just to own them; cooking,  crafting, secondhand books, new ones.  I couldn’t bear going to a library; how could you obscure a cover with a label, or worse, stamp an ugly stamp on a page?

As I grew wiser, I started collecting books. At first woodworking, specifically on boxmaking, then papercrafts and calligraphy. When I became a mother, I turned to children’s literature. My son has a fine collection of interesting books, and I do believe that reading him unusual picture books made him into the boy he is today. I would buy one book in several different editions simply for their bindings. I started buying hardcover books

But now I am thriftier; I use the library, and simply stroll in bookstores to see if I can find that special, out of print book, or perhaps some special manual. Besides, it is only when one moves house that one realises that books weigh a tonne.

But here I was in England, land of the book, of the secondhand book. What was I going to find?

Tell you the truth, not that many bookstores at all. I took some pictures of some of the more interesting stores. I suppose nearly everyone is reading ebooks on some sort of device. Not me. I still love the feel and smell of books.

On my reconnaissance day I found Treadwell’s store near Senate house. When I mentioned this to Anthony fellow student and nail biter, he laughed derisively and said : “the witches’ bookstore?”

Treadwell’s store, closed on Sundays, open for browsing

I hadn’t realised it was an esoteric bookstore behind its grills. What attracted me was the small sign in the window that said something along the lines of “ Browsing is a lost art. Please feel free to come in and browse”. Its cosy  interior was also a nook for fortune telling.

Again in my wandering I came upon “The School of Life”. Not exactly a bookstore; a self help organisation which sold books by Alain de Botton. I wished the shop had been opened because it looked like an interesting place to be.

When I asked about, the locals suggested two places: Foyles or Skoob Books. Foyles was disappointing, hence no photos, but Skoobs was the quintessential second hand bookstore, and cute to boot. It reminded me of a similar underground bookstore we have in Canberra “Q Books”.


The entrance alone deserved a whole page to itself. It promised to be a fount, a treasure trove, and had I larger bags, I would have bought more books.

This is the type of store I can see myself owning. Tumbles of books everywhere about anything and everything. I had been expecting second hand books stores to be like pubs; one around every corner. So  it was disappointing , and a sign of the times. I still believe that people read, however access to the internet makes reading and publishing any piece of writing so much easier than having to go through a body of peers or a bunch of editors and publishing houses.

At the Last Bookshop in Oxford you can buy any book for two pounds.

How could I be in Oxford and not visit the Oxford University Press? It wasn’t a very inviting store I must say. I don’t know what I images I had in my head.

Oxford University Press; where so many books, text books, non-fiction, have been published. It is so famous. It was silly to have expected something grandiose; grandiose isn’t even the word. Possibly,  interesting. But it really was a mildly boring shop, and could have been anywhere amongst other thousands of boring shops with books whose covers left nothing to the imagination and purveyed no sense of wonder.

Maggs Brothers in London held a reception for all the students from the Rare Books Summer School. The diminutive entrance belies what is hidden behind the facade.

Mr Maggs, Ed, was a very solicitous host. It was an opportunity to talk to our class mates socially. But with every event where people are thrown together, the evening flet a little forced. Not many of the students turned up; but of those who did we had an enjoyable and relaxing evening.

We were left to wander through the one room store, perusing books from the shelf. I found out a little later that the real Maggs store was the basement warehouse underneath the large patio area where we were picking on pork pie and samosa and chatting. We were not invited down there.

Perhaps it was because Iw as travelling that I resisted the urge to buy. However I can now see that I could get a lot more out of a second hand bookstore than simply another book to read: it could be another book to rebind!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized