Once I was happy with the fact that I had embroidered everything I was going to onto the leather it was time to make the paste! This was made on a bain-marie with strong white bread flour and water, stirred and heated until it was the correct consistency. The paste was then left to cool.
I laid out all of the tools and equipment I needed for the covering process: waste sheets, steel rule, scissors, scalpel, metal spatulas, Teflon folder, fine pen, water atomiser, PVA glue, paste brush, paste and of course the book block and covering leather!
The leather was spritzed on the front side with the water atomiser and then pasted out three times on the reverse with a large paste brush, leaving it for five or so minutes between applications to allow for the paste to penetrate in.
Extra PVA glue was applied to the board joints of the book block to aid adhesions in this area. This was important due to the movement of the leather in this area because of the book boards opening and closing.
The covering stage of the binding is an intense one as there’s not much room for error. I never manage to get any photographs during this time as it requires two (or probably more!) hands to get the leather on the book and turn it round the books boards and down the hollow of the spine. One day I’ll have someone on had to help capture these steps…
What I did manage to capture was a couple of the stages in forming the headcaps. Once the leather was turned in down the hollow of the spine, using the metal spatulas I pulled the leather back up slightly to allow more material to form into the headcap. This was initially shaped by working it over the endband with my teflon folder. After that stage I placed the headcap face down onto a piece of glass. Glass is of course very flat and smooth therefore a good material to use for this process to flatten out the leather in the headcap area.
I used my Teflon folder to square up the headcap by tapping it around the curve of the spine whilst the headcap was still pressed onto the glass.
Where the boards had been back-cornered before covering I formed the covering leather into this area, also using a piece of cord to pull the leather in at these points to create the required shape.
Once the headcaps were formed and the leather was adhered properly across the whole binding it was time to put the book between some blotting paper and boards under a weight. The blotting papers were changed regularly in order to draw the moisture out of the leather and the whole book was left for 24 hours to fully dry.
The following day I was able to open up the boards of the book for the first time. I applied water to the outside of the leather at the area of the board joints and let it absorb in for ten minutes. I was then able to carefully open up the boards for the first time.
The text block was capped up with a layer of paper and cling film earlier in the forwarding process to protect the pages. It was now time to remove this, plus the waste sheets that had been added to the endpapers. Both the front and back boards of the book were opened up and propped on appropriate boards so that the book could lie flat.
The leather joint was mitred at each end, along with the turn-ins, so that when glued down they would match up exactly. the leather joint was glued down with PVA glue and carefully pulled round and rubbed down into position, ensuring it was glued properly along the whole length. It was left to dry for about fifteen minutes before I closed the board for the first time. This process was then repeated on the opposite side of the binding.
The centre of the inside of the boards were infilled with a layer of watercolour paper, which was the same thickness as the leather turn-ins. The whole area on the inside of the boards were then sanded flush and any dips filled with extra pieces of paper to bring them up to level, as can be seen on the turn-in area of the below image.
Once this had been done, a piece of smooth Zerkall was cut to a few millimetres smaller than the size of the board, it was glued in place and left to dry before also being sanded. At this point it was very important that the inside of the board was totally flat as the final layer to go on next was a green paper doublure. It is very obvious to see if there are any undulations in the surface as plain paper is not at all forgiving so the Zerakall lining layer had to be sanded perfectly.
Finally the binding was finished! It was therefore time to work on the container for it. I pared down a piece of the covering leather and backed it with lens tissue to add stability. I then marked the title lettering onto it by pricking holes through a template which I drew around with a fine pen to get the outline on the reverse of the leather.
Using a new and very sharp 10A blade in my scalpel I carefully pierced around the letters so that I could use both the ‘positive’ cut-out letters and the ‘negative’ piece of leather they had been cut from as labels.
The negative cut-outs were to be used on the front of the wooden box that the binding would be housed in. The other set would be going onto the spine of the outer conservation box I had made to protect the wooden box on a book shelf. A bit more jolly than printed labels I like to think!
The cut edges of the leather were toned in to match the dark maroon as they were pale from the suede side of the skin being revealed during the piercing of the letters. The leather was then stuck on green paper to match the paper doublures in both cases.
The label for the wooden box was embellished with stitches in the same way the cover of the book was to tie them together visually, as can be seen in the lower of the two labels below.
The top-most label went onto the spine of an outer conservation box. I order these to house the bespoke wooden boxes for my bindings in. It’s a bit like Russian dolls in box-form but I want that book to be super safe on the inside!
The book was finally photographed and the images selected and edited. I am very pleased to share the images of the final binding and this project was a real joy to work on!