Spring has been busy so far. In between making customer work and discussing projects back and forth, I have had precious little time for books of my own. I’m hoping this will pass, because in the midst of everything I have managed to conceive several ideas I would like to start developing already; things for sale and things for shows. Stay tuned for that.
Here is one of my own books that I have been working on a bit. Don’t you just love that edge? This is an early 20th century book which was clothbound and getting loose from its covers. I decided to give it a new life by making a half leather binding out of it. I liked the character of the dirty, foxed edge so much that I decided to leave it be. I’m now sort of regretting making the new headbands out of silk thread - a stained linen thread would have appealed much more to my interests. This is one of the simpler projects I have decided to keep handy so that I can just continue making them whenever there is time and interest.
The 17th century, when the Sun King Louis XIV reigns in France. The Togukawa Shogunate marks the beginning of the Edo period in Japan. Queen Christina reigns over Sweden and never marries. The Gunpowder Plot. The Commonwealth ends 1660, making England a monarchy again. In 1665 the last of the Great Plague reaches London, and 1666 the city burns. Peter the Great becomes a czar and some twenty years later builds the beautiful, impossible city of St. Petersburg on the swamps where the river Neva meets the sea. Johannes Vermeer paints in Delft. Bunyan writes the “Pilgrim’s Progress”.
Twenty people are executed as witches during the Salem Witch Trials between 1692-1693. During the unusually cold years 1696-1697 the great famine in Finland leaves even the wealthiest houses without crops and grain, and eventually kills one-third of the population. Tea and coffee become popular in Europe. The Dutch East India Company is established and competes in the spice trade with the English East India Company.
How infinitely more lovely is the repair of old books when you begin to think of the era they come from, and all the eras they have survived. It’s a somewhat justifiable trick for keeping yourself interested in fondling and patching completely boring pieces of old rag paper.
The backlog of project photography and writing feels a bit terrifying. I will be going through the pictures when I have a moment for them. In the meantime, see these pictures of a small limp vellum binding I made last month. It is not quite finished in these pictures but you can see the process. If you’re wondering about the Kendal mint cakes, that is a box in which I keep my watercolours. It has also loyally acted as a weight and a book-stand.
I am currently making a Carolingian binding, a work which has in a few days time reached many newly found planes of self-torture. While this early Medieval structure is rather easy to understand and should be delightful to work on, almost everything has gone wrong with the book itself. I shall write more about it some time later, but because I rarely complain about things in this blog I’d like to have a moment for it:
- The boards were never quite the size they were supposed to be and for some reason I didn’t double-check, which means I cut the pages a few millimeters too small. I couldn’t find other paper that would have suited my needs, so I was stuck with two dozen too small sections.
- Also, I didn’t know what to take with me so on the first day of the class I had to constantly borrow materials and tools that I wasn’t familiar working with. I rarely borrow materials because I don’t know how to use things that everyone else in the world is accustomed to. For the sake of everyone’s convenience, I shall never do this again.
- The cords that I chose for sewing supports were just a bit too too thick and stiff to handle and to lace in. The other option was to use cord that was a bit too thin, but in retrospect it would have been a thousand times better than the one I ended up using. Somehow, materials still matter a lot when you’re trying to learn something.
- I had lost my knife, too. What kind of person loses his knife?
- I had to go do my Other Work™ yesterday, so I fell behind and missed some information on the headband, which is really quite simple too, but I wanted to improvise on it and ended up making three awful looking headbands, one of which I cut off. The other two were sewn with coloured waxed thread, which was great at first but by the time I was halfway done looked like a hideous mess. Never going to do that again, either.
- I couldn’t find the right kind of leather: I didn’t have bookcalf so I settled on some brick orange goatskin, the colour of which was somehow revolting even before the covering, and even more so after. Some sick fine binder part of me also wanted to aggressively pare it all the time which caused much agony.