Guards! Guards! Part Four: The Road to Completion

So the time had come to get covering. I made up some paste with strong white bread flour and water on a Bain Marie. The front side of the leather was spritzed with a water atomiser and the back side of the leather pasted out three times, folding the pasted sides on top of themselves and leaving for 5 minutes between applications so that the paste penetrated into the leather.

The leather was then applied to the text block, with an additional run of PVA applied to the boards joints on the text block to aid adhesion here. The leather was turned-on on all four edges and the head-caps formed. Once this was done it was left between blotting paper and boards, with a weight sitting on top. The blotting paper was changed regularly to help to draw the moisture out of the leather.

~ Pasting out the leather

The leather was left for 24 hours in order for all the moisture to be drawn out. Once dry, I applied a little water to the board joints with a water pen and left it to penetrate in for about 15 minutes before carefully easing the boards open for the first time. The leather joints were then stuck down (ensuring both the front and back boards of the binding were open during the process), and the inside of the boards were infilled with a layer of watercolour paper.

The watercolour layer was sanded flush with the leather turn-ins, before then sticking down a layer of Zerkall to about 2mm smaller that the size of the board the whole way around. This layer was left to properly dry before sanding to remove any lumps and bumps underneath. The binding was then ready for the application of the paper doublures.

Within the story there is mention of a missing or lost book which is quite a stark image for a book collector. I chose to represent this by cutting a hole in the endpaper, the size of a single book on one of the shelves showing as a void through to the plain coloured paper behind. This was cut out using sharp scalpel blade with a small cutting mat slid in underneath the endpaper.

~ Cutting out the “missing” book from the endpaper

The below image shows the Zerkall layer that was applied and then sanded on the inside of the book boards ahead of the paper doublure being stuck down. If you look closely at the decorated doublure, you will see the faint outline of a ladder. As I was going to add a ladder in on the front doublure, I marked the border of it on the endpaper. This was so I avoided adding any embroidered detail here that may have been damaged due to the ladder being cut away from the paper doublure at a later stage.

~ Preparing for the decorated paper doublures to be stuck down in place

Once the doublures were stuck down, it was time to properly work out where I needed to cut away a section of it to then stick the ladder down. The paper template was put in position and drawn around.

~ Marking the position of the veneer ladder

The ladder was created using teak wood veneer. This was backed with paper and the ladder shape was pierced out using a sharp scalpel with a 10A blade. I did quiet a few passes rather than trying to cut through the veneer in one go.

The outline of the ladder was also cut with a sharp-bladed 10A scalpel, and then the paper was carefully peeled away.

The white backing paper that was revealed when the top layer was peeled away would have been very visible around the outline of the veneer ladder if I had left it as it was. I therefore toned down the white with some brown acrylic paint before the ladder was glued down in place.

~ Toning in the paper behind where the veneer ladder was to be glued

I wanted to keep a record of the book titles that had been illustrated on the shelves. With the help of a diagram and the knowledge of the binding owner I was able to create a list to refer back to.

  • Front #1 – Moore’s Almanack Improved or Wills’s Farmer and Countryman’s Calendar for the year, 1824 being Bissertile or Leap Year [This title is very Pratchett and Granny Weatherwax used almanacks; at the end of the year the paper came in useful in the outhouse too]
  • Front #2 – Holy Bible, London, 1645 (contemporary embroidered binding)
  • Front #3 – Manuscript Anthem Book for the Chapel Royal bound by Samuel Mearne in the 1680’s [probably the closest book I have to the grimoires in the Unseen University Library – it is much bigger than all the other books but you were not to know that from the photos]
  • Front #4 – Book of Common Prayer, London, 1713
  • Front #5- Devout Exercises of the Heart, Edinburgh, 1768  by ‘The Late Pious and Ingenious Mrs Rowe’ [it’s devotional not a keep fit book]
  • Front #6 – Book of Common Prayer, London, 1817
  • Front #7 – Elegant Extracts, London 1810-20 by Vicesimus Knox [probably a publisher’s binding for John Sharpe]
~ A key of the back endpaper and doublure
  • Back #1 – Goldsmith, An Almanack For the Year of our Lord God, 1817
  • Back #2 – Officiae B. Mariae Virginis, Paris, 1653 [probably bound in London in the 1660’s]
  • Back #3 – Rider’s British Merlin for the Year of Our Lord God, 1793
  • Back #4 – Church of England Liturgy, London, 1677 (contemporary London binding)
  • Back #5 – Carion’s Chronicle, Lyons, 1564 (bound for Jean Grolier)
  • Back #6 – Mercurius Anglicanus, London, 1692 by ‘George Parker, a Lover of the Coelestial Sciences’ [another good Pratchett title!]
  • Back #7 – The Spectator, Edinburgh, 1776 (bound by James Scott)
~ A key of the back endpapers and doublure

One the doublures were stuck down and finished, extra pen detail was added to the onlays of the wings of the dragon using a fine-tip pen.

~ Adding wing detail

And finally, the book was ready for a title! Tooled in carbon onto discs of white leather for the spine, and in gold foil onto purple discs for the box.

~ Tooling titles

In order to get the title of the book dead straight on the spine, I tacked a piece of thread with masking tape at either end down the centre. There was enough slack in it to allow me to slide the leather discs underneath it in order to glue them in place them correctly.

~ Applying the title to the spine

The year 2021 saw many changes for me as a self-employed bookbinder working from home and this binding took place during a lot of chaos! It was started in my old studio, I largely then worked on it in my temporary studio (whilst lots of building work was going on a couple of rooms away), and photographed it in my new studio!

~ The first photography session in my new studio


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