Standards 2011

The Guild of Book Worker’s annual Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding conference was held at the Park Plaza Hotel here in Boston this past weekend. Overall, an excellent time was had by all. I volunteered to assist throughout the conference and was able to see two demonstrations and meet a host of bookbinders and conservators whom I greatly admire. It was a good opportunity to stock up on supplies for the school year and got me fired up to experiment with some new materials and structures.

Each year the guild gives out several awards and the second-year students were asked to make some portfolios for the certificates.

This is a simple structure that is done in two parts and offers a quick, but elegant enclosure for important documents. As first years, we had made this style of case before for the graduating second year students. My photos show both the portfolios fabricated for graduation and for the conference.

The outer case is made from Davey board, cut 1/2″ larger in the height and width than the document it will house. Any material may be used in covering, but we did these in either a quarter or half style with goat skin.

The spine strip and corners were flat pared to the thickness of the in-fill material, then the turn-ins further pared until they could hold a fold. The joint area of the spine is a also scooped out a bit at the headcaps so that the turn-ins will not show through the outside of the spine. They were pasted up and attached in the usual way.

The outside of the boards are then filled with thin board or paper so that the whole surface was flat and the siding up material (in this case marbled paper) is put on.

In each case,  I cut the siding up material for each board from the same sheet, so that the marbling pattern was continued across the spine of the case.

The case was finished off by tooling a single blind line at the edge of the paper to give a nice, crisp edge.

After trimming out the inside, the pastedown can be done with either paper or cloth and is cut wide enough to cover the inside of the joint. Depending upon the lining of the outside of the boards, the inside can also be in-filled to counteract excessive pull.

The second component of the portfolio is the back pad that holds the document. This is constructed of thin board (such as museum board) and is covered with the same material as the pastedown. Short sections of ribbon are glued to the back corners, and the whole thing is adhered to the inside of the back board.

At this stage, the case can be decorated or titled as desired. We used magnesium dies to stamp the guild logo in gold on the outside of the front board (see top) and the school logo  in carbon on the inside.

These portfolios are a good example of the ways that traditional binding materials and style can be adapted for uses other than the covers of printed books. With a little adjustment, this structure could probably be used for e-reader or ipad cases.


Back to work…

The second year of the bookbinding program starts off with gold tooling, and this is probably the first part of the curriculum that I had absolutely no prior experience with before beginning coming to Boston. To be honest – it’s going pretty slowly. I have burned a lot of leather over the past few days trying to get my head wrapped around just the process of blind tooling, but then you add gilding into the mix and it all goes south. After seeing Jeff demo the process a number of times and watching the GBW video from 1997 with Don Glaister, it is starting to make a little more sense. I have quite a ways to go.

We start off by laying waste to a handful of simple plaquettes. These are just a scrap of leather, flat pared in the scharf-fix, and pasted to a board.

The goal of the exercise is to completely cover the surface with repeated lines and decorations in order to get at a consistent depth and color of impression. After 4 or 5 of these, the results are becoming a little more uniform.

This is something we will be working on for a while and I will share more when I’m able to produce something decent.

Over the summer I had put together a rather extensive list of books to read. Of course I only managed to get to a tiny portion of them, but one thing that I did cross off the list was a review of some chemistry. Like all aspiring conservators, I’ve gone through several general and organic chemistry lectures and labs. The college level courses I took gave me a pretty good understanding of general principles and at least made me familiar with the periodic table, but did little to address the specific questions I had regarding the materials and reactions commonly found in a book conservation lab. Now that I’m not forced to do stoichiometry problems everyday, I was concerned that I would start to forget things. Use it or lose it!

I wasn’t too excited about going through the material in my old chemistry textbooks again, so I began looking for new curriculum material online. I started with MIT’s Open Courseware. This is an open and free web publication of MIT undergraduate and graduate course materials. While it might be good for other subjects, their chemistry material is a bit spotty. Most courses have posted old homework assignments and exams with answers, but few have class notes or videos of the lecture.

After reading this article in Wired Magazine, I also checked out Khan Academy and found it a more comprehensive online resource. Also free and open to the public (thanks in part to funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), this site offers a catalog of approximately 10 minute instructional videos on a topic or principle. I was surprised at the sheer quantity of material offered under their general and organic chemistry sections.

In the end, however, I spent most of my time with printed books – most notably with the 3-part Science for Conservators series from the Conservation Unit of the Museums & Galleries Commission.

These books offered exactly what I was looking for. Volume one goes through a complete review of basic chemical concepts, while the second and third volumes take on the subjects of cleaning and adhesives/coatings, respectively. Throughout the discussion, example reactions are pulled from cases of material degradation or conservation treatments. While not all of the examples were applicable to book and  paper conservation, the writing was clear and well presented. This series would probably not be as helpful to someone with no previous chemistry experience. I think it is an excellent resource, however, for individuals with a few chemistry classes under their belt. The perspective these books take really had an impact on my thinking. The volume on cleaning, particularly, completely changed the way that I think about certain types of reactions and cleaning in general.


I keep promising posts on German paper bindings, laced paper cases, and limp vellum bindings – they are still on the schedule! I’ve just finished re-assembling a new and improved photo documentation setup and reshot photos of them for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned!

Portfolio Production

In February and March, the Boston University College of Fine Arts showed works by South African artists in two exhibitions celebrating the Caversham Press. Founded in 1985, the Caversham Press was created to give South African artists access to a professional and collaborative printmaking studio. Featuring over 120 works by 70 artists, the exhibition titled South Africa: Artists, Prints, Community, Twenty Five Years at The Caversham Press celebrated Caversham’s history and the diversity of South African printmaking. You can find a short article with a digital slide show here and the original press release here.

A central figure in the early years of the press, William Kentridge was also featured as the seventh annual Tim Hamill Visiting Artist Lecturer and in a concurrent exhibition, titled Three Artists at The Caversham Press: Deborah Bell, Robert Hodgins and William Kentridge.  As a side note, Kentridge also directed War Horse, an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s World War I novel, currently playing at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York. While I haven’t yet seen the play, I recently watched the TED talk featuring Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company and thought it was absolutely amazing.

But what does all of this have to do with bookbinding? As part of the exhibition, our program was approached by BU to create a number of large, custom portfolios for selections of prints from the show. This project gave us an excellent opportunity to experience the particular challenges of designing and completing a larger production project. The initial design called for a cloth-covered portfolio with three flaps to hold the prints, all enclosed in a case secured with ribbon ties.

While there are a number of ways to fabricate an item like this, the design of this particular portfolio had to play to our strengths, but not be slowed by our equipment and space limitations. On the one hand, we had 15 individuals capable of churning out a huge amount of work rather quickly; however, our department has only a single standing press that would accommodate the portfolio’s final dimensions. In our case, we made use of a modular structure composed of individual parts that could be fabricated by small teams and nipped in smaller presses, then assembled en-mass at the end. Before beginning work, we planned the entire project on paper, built prototypes, and received approval from the client. Templates of the individual parts of the portfolios were created during the design phase and, using these, all of the materials were first cut to size.

From these piles of individual parts, assembly began in stages.  Three flaps of 20 pt board covered in red Canapetta book cloth were created to fit the head, tail, and fore-edge of each portfolio.

A separate team went to work constructing the back out of matte board and Nideggen, a mouldmade paper.

The flaps were attached to the back board, leaving enough joint space to accommodate the thickness of the set of prints.

After placing a board of equal thickness to the prints inside the assembly…

…the whole thing was put into the standing press.As the stack of “print trays” pressed and dried, we prepared the cases of the portfolios. A chisel was used to cut slots into the cover boards for lacing through the tying ribbons.

We then set up an assembly line for the case construction. Two students used foam rollers to give the boards a quick, even coat of PVA. Another student placed each board onto pre-cut cloth, using a jig to line them up and give consistent hinge space at the spine.  After working the cloth down with a case folder and cutting the corners from the cloth, the cases were quickly nipped in the press.

In the next stage, the ribbons were laced through  the boards and the turn-ins were done.

The inside hinge of the case was then finished off with a strip of cloth.

A custom die was made for carbon stamping the titling using the Kensol.

At this point, the two parts of the portfolios were ready to be assembled. The back of each print tray was glued out and carefully aligned in the case.

The portfolios were then nipped again between press boards to ensure a good bond between the tray and case. In the final step, the inside front board of the portfolio was trimmed out and finished with a Nideggen paste-down to match the tray back. Here I am, working quickly to glue out the paste-down. It’s somewhat comforting to know that, at NBSS, Tini Miura and Bill Anthony are always looking down upon you as you work.

The portfolios were given a final press and allowed to completely dry under weight.

As a group, we had a lot of fun doing this project. Most of our curriculum is focused on individual work, and we don’t often get the chance to work together on a single project or develop our production methodology and technique. While we did not get to see the items that eventually went inside these portfolios, and we do not know where they will go or who will eventually own them, I like think that through this project and our intra-departmental collaboration, we were able to contribute to an international collaboration of craft.

Leather Case Bindings

Having just returned from a bookbinding pilgrimage to London, I’ve got loads to share about the many wonders we witnessed across the seas. But in the meantime as I sift through the trip photos, I’m going to try to get through a few quick posts about recent projects.

I thought an appropriate sequel to and co-mingling of the posts on case bindings and paper marbling would be to share the two leather case bindings that I finished using the textblocks with marbled edge treatment. In both cases, I used siding-up paper pulled from the same tray as the edges to get a marbled-all-over look. The results are a little over the top in that 19th century account book sort of way, but exude a certain degree of, shall we say, opulence.

I started out with the same basic form of textblock that I’ve used in other case bindings. The sections are sewn on flattened cord with a thick enough thread to get some swell. For these books I used an endpaper structure that included a waste sheet. As the leather is worked damp, I wanted to avoid any dye transfer to the endpapers during covering.

After sewing, the textblock was glued up and rounded and backed. The textblock forwarding did distort the edge marbling a bit: I ended up with a bit of stair-stepping on the fore-edge that produced some white lines through the pattern. I imagine this effect would be reduced if my rounding and backing were better. Practice, practice!

The case is constructed in much the same way as the “built-in” groove or Bradel-style case: a stiff spine strip adhered to strong paper that is attached to the boards before covering, with enough space between the spine and boards for an open joint. The leather-covered case structure has two adaptations: increased joint spacing to accommodate the thicker leather and a bit of a headcap “cheat” known as the Bart. To achieve this feature, the spine strip material is trimmed slightly longer than the height of the boards and given a rounded shape with many, small darts. The final shape looks like Bart Simpson’s head – thus the nickname. I failed to get a picture, but here is the diagram from my notes to illustrate.

A horizontal score line at the tips of the darts allow the shape to fold over after covering – but more on that later.

Arthur Johnson’s Manual of Bookbinding (1978) has a nice description of covering a quarter or half binding with an open joint (pp. 108-114). The method I used for covering and finishing these case bindings was similar, except for the formation of the headcaps and, of course, being done off the book. As a first year, I’m still grappling with the very basics of leather paring and covering. Quarter or half-style covering are excellent starting points for me because most of the paring can be done on the Scharf-Fix, and the pieces of leather are not very large – so any mistakes aren’t all that expensive. After flat paring the leather for the spine and the corners to the same thickness as my in-filling material (~0.5mm), I further pared the turn-ins German-style to a thickness that would easily hold a fold. Linda Blaser and Frank Mowery’s handout from the 1998 GBW Standards seminar has a good description of German paring with the Scharf-Fix (found here). As a final step, the head and tail turn-ins of the spine strip are further shaped and “feathered” out with the knife.

The leather is evenly dampened from the hair side with a sponge, thickly pasted up (with flour paste), and set aside for a moment. The paste is then carefully scraped off with a bit of board and a new thin layer of paste is applied. The corners and spine of the case are then covered and the headcaps set with the textblock in the case.

Of covering with leather, Johnson (1978) says, ” Leather is an amenable material: it can be modeled while wet and will retain its shape on drying. However, it is marked easily in its wet state and excessive use of the folder will cause scoring” (p. 108). I learned this lesson all too well while covering these books, and lo, it was a painful one to learn.

The headcaps made with “the Bart” are satisfying because they hug the endbands well, although I’ve got some improvements to make on mine.  Like many aspects of bookbinding, unrefined work early on compounds as you go along; Uneven and asymmetrical paring with the knife results in headcaps that are puffier on one side than the other.

The same headcap from the back.

When the leather has had ample time to dry, the case is then ready for siding up.  I did not edge pare the leather that goes down onto the board, and because it is quite thick. The face of each board must be in-filled to the same height so as to avoid unsightly lumps in the transition from leather to siding up material.  As a finishing touch to these case bindings, also I tooled thin, blind lines where the leather meets the siding up paper at both the corners and the spine edges. The image below shows some detail.


In the queue, I’ve got split board bindings, German paper bindings, a portfolio production, limp leather bindings, and our trip to England. Your patience, Gentle Reader, soon will be rewarded!


Blaser, L. & Mowery, J. F. (1998). “English and German Style Leather Paring. Guild of Book Worker Standards of Excellence Seminar, Greensboro, NC.

Johnson, A. W. (1978). Manual of Bookbinding. New York: Scribner.

On-set Boards

As a segue between case binding and split-board binding, the first years spent some time making a style of book known, at least around our department, as On-set Boards.

Laura Young (1995) calls this a Bradel binding, a Bonnet, or a Bristol Board Binding. Technically, there is no real difference in sewing or board attachment from a Bradel-style case – the covers are just built up on the book rather than being constructed separately and attached to the textblock later. The on-set boards structure mostly just functions as an academic exercise in covering  in-boards, but it does allow you to get very small and even squares. In describing the method for putting one together and comparing the final product to a case structure, this should become more clear. I have images of a couple of different books in this post to illustrate the process.

First off, the textblock is prepared in the usual way, but with two slight modifications to the endpaper structure and sewing supports. The endpapers for this binding must include a waste sheet. This is either a single folio that is wrapped around the flyleaf/pastedown or a stub that is tipped between the first and second sections with a conjugate leaf that wraps around the outside of the textblock. Either way, you end up with a protective sheet, sewn through the fold, on the outside of the front and back of the textblock. The sewing supports should be of a variety that can be fanned out and pasted down flat, such as German-style linen tapes or flattened cords. The tapes are a bit easier to work with, since they start out woven and can be frayed out when the sewing is done.

Flattened cords are a bit trickier to handle. Beginning with a medium weight cord, the individual parts are unwound and “combed through” to separate out the fibers. The frayed cord is then worked with the back side of the bookbinders knife to remove all of the short fibers. When finished, only the long individual fibers are left and these can be wrapped in paper to keep them together during sewing. Now they are known as moustaches.

As the sections are sewn, the paper wrapper can be shifted out of the way.

When finished, it looks like this:

Next the book is glued up, rounded and backed, endbands put on, and spine lined with textile and/or paper, etc. At this stage, the frayed out tapes or cords are pasted to the waste sheet and fanned out. The waste sheet is also torn down from the head and tail at the tip of the shoulder enough to accommodate the cloth turn-in. This will make sense later on.

In the next step, the bonnet is constructed. This is composed of the spine stiffening strip, cut to spine width and oversized in length, and a piece of thin, strong paper that is about 4″ wider than the book spine and about 2″ longer. The bonnet is glued out (leaving a half-inch or so on the sides unglued) and the spine stiffener is placed at its center. The bonnet is then gloved onto the textblock and worked into the shoulder and flat onto the waste sheet. When dry, the edges of the bonnet can be scarf-torn off – like in the image below.

At this point, it is best to re-open the torn waste sheet at the head and tail with the bonefolder, just in case any adhesive got in. Next, boards can be cut to height – but left long at the fore-edge. A few inches of the spine edge of the board is glued up and the board is placed in position on the textblock. When both boards are evenly on, the book is nipped. After drying, the part of the waste sheet that is not adhered to the inside of the board can be scarfed off and lightly sanded smooth. The extra length of the bonnet is trimmed flush with the boards using scissors, and the fore-edges of the boards are trimmed to give even shoulders all the way around. The book is now ready to be covered. For full cloth covering, the whole piece of cloth is glued out, placed onto the front board, worked into the front joint and around the spine. The next joint is then worked and finally, the cloth is adhered to the back board. At this point the head and tail edges of cloth are turned in, going between the spine of the textblock and the bonnet and taking advantage of those tears in the waste sheet at the head and tail. The image below shows both the board attachment and one complete turn-in. The turn-in in the foreground is about to be done.

After that, the fore-edge turn-ins are done, trimmed out, the endpapers pasted down, and the book is nipped again. The resulting binding is structurally like a case, but maybe a bit more refined on the inside since the squares are usually smaller and the board attachment is sanded smooth.

The finished inside looks like this:

This particular book – a copy of The Ghost Hunter and His Family that I was given in sheets – has a single core endband with a bead on the front. So far, I have better luck getting a nice a headcap shape when covering in-boards, rather than covering off the book. I guess I have a bad habit of crushing the endcaps of my case spines after turning-in.

This particular volume is kind of small and printed on thick paper, so there isn’t really any drape in the opening.

I also used this structure to bind a copy of Don Etherington’s Bookbinding & Conservation : A Sixty-year Odyssey of Art and Craft. This one is covered in black Canapetta with a black goatskin label stamped in gold.

Trying to keep it simple, I used black Ingres for endsheets. I also learned that completely black books are very hard to photograph clearly on a light background.

This book is much larger than the other, so the opening looks a little better.

I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet. It’s next on my list after I finish Julia Miller’s Books Will Speak Plain.


Next time on Work of the Hand: a workshop with the Chena River Marblers, a portfolio production project, and split-board bindings. Not sure which order, but they are all in the works!



Young, L. S. (1995). Bookbinding & conservation by hand : A working guide. New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press.

Etherington, D. (1999). Bookbinding & conservation : A sixty-year odyssey of art and craft. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press.

Clamshell Boxes

A custom-fit enclosure can protect a book from abrasion, environmental damage, and – if the volume is in particularly rough shape – keep all the parts together. In the first year curriculum we practice a few different styles of book enclosures and some time ago we spent a few days making drop-spine or clamshell boxes. These enclosures are constructed in three parts: a three-walled tray of binder’s board is made to fit the object and covered with book cloth, a second tray is made to fit the first, and the two trays are then put in a cloth-covered case. The trays are often lined with pH neutral paper.

This enclosure was made to hold my Medieval link stitch model.

On this particular box, I included a label well in the spine piece with a leather label with blind stamping. Unfortunately the text of the label did not come out in any of my pictures.


In bookbinding (as is probably true of craftsmanship in general), one can always learn a new way of doing things. Before coming to NBSS, I had learned at least two different methods for constructing and covering a standard clamshell box, and this time around I learned a third. We went by Linda Lembke’s instructions for construction and covering, and I found this method to create less bulk at the corners of the trays. Lembke is the proprietor of the Green River Bindery in Vermont and has taught workshops at NBSS in the past. One must contact her directly for a copy of her instructions, but the Preservation Department at Cornell’s library has made their instructions for creating a clamshell available in PDF form here.

In addition to the regular clamshell, we also made a form known in our program as the French Tray. Jeff says that he learned this one from Adam Larsson – so it might be known in other circles by a different name. This box is particularly useful for stacks of loose items (like cards or pictures) because the open sides allow the user to easily grasp and lift them out.

Note: we unpacked a new digital camera at school, so I’ve started putting a ColorChecker in my photos to ensure that I’m getting a representational digital image. Please bear with me as a work out the kinks.

This enclosure was made to hold my aluminum sharpening plates and strop.

The construction of this style of box is a bit different from the standard clamshell. The walls for each end of the open-sided tray are adhered in a line (with joint space between) to a strip of book cloth. The cloth is then turned in at the sides and rolled around the walls to completely cover them. A flange of cloth remains. The walls are then folded around the base and the cloth flange is adhered to the bottom of the tray. The top tray and case are constructed in the usual way.

I used this box as an opportunity to try making securing straps with snaps. On a recent field trip to the Boston Athenaeum, I noticed that a number of their vellum over boards bindings are kept in clamshells secured with snaps instead of a box with a pressure lid.

I used a snap-setter (kind of like this one) to put snaps in long strips of folded and glued bookcloth. At the stage in which the trays are being cased in, the straps are adhered between each tray and case. The snaps are much more secure than I anticipated – but in the future I will leave a bit more of a pull tab on the strap so that they are more easily opened.



Next episode: Onset Boards


Cases – Pt 2

After experimenting with case bindings for a bit, we were assigned to make a set of 12 that had common materials, but variations in covering style, endbands, and endsheet structure. I’ll break the parts of my set down in that order. Once again, certain features, such as book dimensions, textblock paper, and sewing supports remained constant. I also made all of these cases as a built-in groove (Bradel) structure and keep the spine linings the same to speed up the production work.

Covering Style

All of the books in this series were covered, in part or in whole, with the same paper-backed Asahi book cloth (available from Talas).  I really like this stuff because of its thickness, nice texture, and variation in color – plus I had quite a bit of it lying around. The books were covered in three different styles:  quarter, half, and full cloth. The quarter style has just a strip of cloth covering the spine and extending about a fifth of the way onto the boards. The remainder of the board is then covered (“sided up”) with paper. This one is sided up with Ann Muir marbled paper.

In addition to the cloth spine strip, the half style bindings have cloth-covered corners.  The book below is also sided up with Ann Muir paper.

I tried to create some variation along the series – for instance, the example below is sided up with Egyptian tow flax Cave paper.

Finally, several of the case bindings were covered in full cloth.

Each of the books in the series had to be labeled or stamped, and because typesetting in the Kwikprint takes quite a while, I went with two title layouts and varied the material with which the cover was stamped. The quarter and half style bindings above were stamped on the spine, while the full cloth cases immediately above and below were stamped on the front covers. The book above was stamped with gold foil, the book below was stamped with carbon.

I really enjoy the clean, matte impression that the carbon gives. I also think it is easier to do well. For stamping with foil one first has to make several blind impressions (that is with just the hot brass type), then one or two quick impressions with the foil in place. The gold is difficult to successfully work into book cloth and any movement of the case position on the stamping platen during this process will ruin the job – so great care must be taken. With carbon stamping, the hot type is first “loaded” up with carbon and the case is then stamped with a single, firm impression. As long as you don’t screw up that one stamp, you are good to go.

Another titling technique that I used on some of these books was a stamped paper label set in a label well. The well allows the label to sit just below the surface of the cover, protecting it from abrasion when the book is shelved. These labels are often done in leather, but I found that Cave paper also takes a rather nice impression. I’ll share more about leather labels in an upcoming post on in-boards bindings.

To create the label well, the boards were made by laminating a piece of 20pt board – with the label square cut out – to a piece of thin Davey board. It is important to keep the final board thickness in mind, as it must fit inside the shoulder of the bookblock to create a well working joint. It is also sometimes necessary to line the inside of the board before covering to counteract the “pull” of the 20 pt. When the book is covered, the covering material is worked into the label well with the bone folder. The label material is stamped, trimmed to size, and adhered inside the well. This titling can work on both full and quarter style bindings, however, one must shift the label position depending upon the covering style for it to look centered.


Across the 12 case bindings, I tried several different styles of endband to go along with the endsheet and covering materials.

As these are case bindings, I thought it appropriate to do simple stuck-on endbands in different styles for a number of them. The first is bookcloth (the same used for covering) rolled around a hemp or linen core that is trimmed to size and stuck on the spine with PVA. This is about as unobtrusive as you can get.

I also experimented with stuck on endbands made from marbled paper wrapped over a rolled paper core.

I’m still not sure how I feel about these – they are more a little more lively than the rolled bookcloth, but also look a bit strange and are very stiff.

For the sewn endbands, I also tried to keep them as simple as possible. As I said in the last post, a complex endband on a case binding is a bit weird. All of these are two or thee color silk thread on a round leather core. You can find excellent instructions (with diagrams) for sewing these endbands in Jane Greenfield’s book (see bibliography below).




Back in December I shared the process for doing a graphite edge on a book. I only did this for two of my case bindings – mostly just to get a bit of practice.

In each case, I gave them a pretty dark headband.

One of those edges is also gauffered or “impressed with finishing tools in repeating patterns” (Etherington & Roberts, 1981). The photo below is not the greatest, but it will illustrate the point.

Endsheet Structures

Several different endsheet materials and structures were used in this series of case bindings. Both Johnson (1978) and Middleton (1996) provide excellent diagrams of a variety of endpapers and discuss the relevant merits and shortcomings of each. Of the different papers used as endsheets in this series, the “vellum” shade of the Mohawk (pictured below) was the most plain.

Ingres, a mould made paper with a laid finish manufactured by Canson and Hahnemühle, offered a nicer alternative.

On the full cloth bindings, I tended to go for a marbled endpaper to spruce them up a bit.

As marbled paper is often discolored on the back, I would use it in a made endpaper. In this form of endsheet, two fly leaves are laminated together to form a stiff leaf.  Here is an example with marbled and mohawk papers.

This one is made with marbled paper and Ingres.

A few of these case bindings incorporate an exposed cloth hinge (of the same cloth as the spine covering) that is incorporated into the endsheet structure. In this case the outer leaf of the endpaper is not pasted down, but a separate paper is put down to counteract the pull of the covering material but does not cover the hinge. I’ve seen this referred to as an “island paste-down” (Smith, 1998, p. 351) – I do not know if Keith Smith or Gary Frost coined the term.

Johnson (1978) includes two rather interesting variations on exposed-cloth jointed endpapers for account books that are “designed for extreme hard wear and durability” (p. 59). Even though these models are rather small and in no way require such a reinforced structure, I thought they were fun to do and looked nice.


Well, that is about all I have to share of interest in the case binding department. I just finished a few new projects and photographed them this weekend, so stay tuned. Up next will be either clamshell boxes or a structure we call onset boards… I haven’t yet decided


You may have noticed that I changed my blog theme to more prominently display my blogroll. Do you have a book related blog or photostream? Comment with your link!




Etherington, D. & Roberts, M. (1982). Bookbinding and the conservation of books : A dictionary of descriptive terminology. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress.

Greenfield, J. & Hille, J. (1986). Headbands : How to Work Them. New Haven, Conn.: Edgewood Publishers.

Johnson, A. W. (1978). Manual of Bookbinding. New York: Scribner.

Middleton, B. C. & Nixon, H. M. (1996). A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique. New Catle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press.

Smith, K. A. & Jordan, F. A. (1998). Sewn and Pasted Cloth or Leather Bookbinding for Book Artists Requiring No Special Tools or Equipment. Rochester, NY: Keith Smith Books.