Last week I spent a day making books with my uber-talented bookmaking and calligraphy artist friend, David Ashley. He also makes jam, and bakes like a french chef. My kids also love him. In other words, he is guy you want to know.
Making traditional books is for the fussy. Seriously, you have to love that kind of thing to tolerate on day of formal book making. This set of books started for me when I found a vintage series of books that had very cool covers. I took them off.
Then I had to make new text blocks, the inside of the book. I used 140# Fabriano Artistico Hot Press (smooth) watercolor paper for this, so it would have thicker and fewer pages. Fabriano does not crack when folded, I like that. Each of the five signatures were stitched together on tapes before I went, with maps between each signature.
When I got there, we glued up the spines, rounded the spine with a hammer, then build up the area between the tapes with mull cloth, a stiff mesh that fills the spaces between the tapes. I also added green leather headbands. You can see a good video for that here.
The last step is to add a paper tube on the spine, which is called and “Oxford Hollow” because the bookbinders at Oxford Library used it. It allows the book to fully open, and makes the spine strong and flexible.
David convinced me to add stitching to the headbands, and a bookmark.
Now I am finally ready to glue the book into the covers, which I have prepped by carefully pulling up the end sheets (which are maps, btw, another reason to love these covers) to allow the mull cloth and tapes to go underneath. Are you getting the anal retentive part of this process yet?
I am invested now, in time and materials. When I go to set the text block into the book, it is way, way too narrow. Egads. see how the fore edge sticks out way past the pages?
Aside from feeling amazed that I could have done this, I was determined to make it work. I had three covers, and three text blocks done. Then it hit me. My favorite pen would fit right in that space! David has a way of making loops for pens, so we chiseled a hole for the loop to go through to the back, lifted some of the back cover material off and set in the strap, replaced the cover material and voila! It looks just right, and I don’t have to worry about having at least one pen with my journal.
I often tell my students to make their mistakes in class so I can help them learn to turn things around. This time, it applied to me. I blew it royally in the presence of an expert, and between us we invented my new journals, better than the original idea!
A very happy accident indeed.