A Look at the World of Islamic Book­bind­ing with Yas­meen Khan – Day 2

I started the morning by working on the headbands for another text block. Still really difficult to do. Argh.

Preparing text block for Islamic headbands

Today’s new work involved creating the leather case for our text blocks. A few good quotes from Yasmeen at the start of class:

“Nothing wants to become a book.”

“Leather wants to be on the animal’s back.”

Getting materials to become a book takes “coaxing and love”.

The cover boards came out away from the spine approximately 2 mm, then adding a bit extra to accommodate additional materials used on the inside of the cover. You use a piece of paper to mark off the width of the spine. Boards are cut flush with the text block.

Islamic binding cover template

Cover template

Something I had never done before was to create spacers out of bookboard when gluing. The pieces of board stayed in place when in the press to keep the leather from losing its stretch. Pieces of mylar were placed under the spacers so they wouldn’t stick to the leather. This was a great tip.

Islamic bookbinding in process

Yasmeen told us that the proportions for the cover flap weren’t exact, it was more about what was pleasing to the eye. All of the board edges should be a little bit round.

Here’s the procedure we followed when pasting the leather for the cover:

  1. Wet the hair side of the leather.
  2. Paste out the flesh side.
  3. Use a ruler as a setting straight edge.
  4. Start laying out board pieces (including spacers) from the flap end.
  5. Press the board into the leather.
  6. Take out the spacers.
  7. Start pulling in the leather at the corners., then put down the side flaps.
  8. Use a bonefolder on all of the edges.
  9. Check for air in the turn-ins.
  10. Replace the spacers with mylar underneath them.
  11. Put in the press.

Scored lines were common on Islamic covers and the procedure for making them was pretty simple:

  1. Wet the hair side of the cover.
  2. Using a straight edge, score lines using a bonefolder – don’t press too hard.
  3. Use a divider to ensure that all lines are of an equal width from the cover edges.
  4. Lines can go off the edge of the boards.

We created hand-painted end papers, which I really enjoyed. These papers were often spattered with gold – they wanted everything to catch the light. For that reason, they liked the papers to have a high shine. We had two options for accomplishing this – burnishing or shellac.

You can burnish paper using stone or glass. We had glass blobs to use. I wasn’t very successful at creating a consistent finish and mostly ended up creating streaks.

Glass ball

I am a glass blob

I eventually gave up on the blob and went for the shellac – stinky, but highly effective. I added three layers to my papers before gluing them into my book.

End paper with shellac

I believe that the loss of brain cells was worth it – oh how shiny!


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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