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I just finished my first day of Karen Hanmer‘s workshop, Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures, Part Two. This was a sequel to a workshop I took with her at the last FOBA conference and the focus was on board attachment.
Before I go any further, I have to mention that the person with the largest army of miniature sewing frames wins.
Karen started out the class by passing around around 2 dozen cutaway models of historical and modern bindings. Even though I’d seen them before, who gets tired of looking at a box of candy?
We completed two bindings today – the Ethiopian binding and the Medieval binding. Most of the work had already been done for us – drilled holes, beveled board edges – but we still had plenty to do.
The Ethiopian binding is part of the Coptic family. It doesn’t use sewing supports and is sewn with double needle link stitch.
We used poplar for our covers. The boards have multiple holes, one of which enters at an angle from the edge of the board through the front.
Starting inside the first signature, exit both sewing stations with the thread distributed evenly, or as Karen put it, hanging out “like a very long odd pair of pants”. Boards are attached by sewing them on like an additional signature. We then worked our way through the signatures, adding the second board in the same manner as the first.
Here are some shots of the outside of the completed book:
For more information on this binding, Karen referred us to J. Szirmai’s book, The Archeology of Medieval Bookbinding.
Next came the Medieval binding. Wheee!!! Another kit!
This binding was more complex than the first one we did. It’s sewn on double cords which are then laced into the boards. The insides of the boards are beveled at the shoulder and the book rounds itself by the action of closing the boards.
When sewing, you wrap the threads around the cords in the direction of your sewing. I had to remind myself of this every time I did it. I think I messed up a few of them, but this is my learning book so I’m letting it go.
Next, we flattened the spine edge of our signatures by rubbing them with a bone folder. We glued up the spine and attached a vellum lining in between the double cords. We scraped up the shiny surface of the vellum prior to gluing – that’s some slippery stuff! We worked the PVA in with our fingers and let it dry.
Our boards had pre-drilled holes, but we got to cut the channels for the cords. I got to play with a 1/4″ chisel that I absolutely have to have now.
We applied paste to the cords and worked them through the holes, resting them in the cut channels. To secure the cords even further, we created leather “pegs” that helped tighten up any of the looseness in our holes. The cords and pegs were cut flush to the cover. The last step was attaching the vellum spine lining to the inside of one of the covers.
Here’s the completed cutaway model:
I’m pretty damn happy with today’s work and I’m looking forward to my second day! I’ll leave you with some awesome Karen quotes:
“You can’t use my finger.”
“Everybody look at me, look at me!”