In Principio By The Doves Press Part Two: The Binding

Part two of this blog post follows on from the research and preparatory part and focusses on how I came up with the design for this commission. Ombre dip-dyed handmade paper was laminated to some thick dark blue Canson Mi-Teintes 165gsm paper, and pressed between boards and blotting paper until it was dry and flat. This was to make up a laminated ‘inner cover’, which is how I will refer to it throughout the rest of this blog post. As I dip-dyed small pieces of paper, I positioned the join between two sheets where I knew it wouldn’t be seen on the finished binding.

The inner cover was scored and folded, and the single section text block and extra paper sheets were sewn into it using a pamphlet stitch, with the knot tied on the outside of the inner cover so that it would be concealed once the text block was cased in. I set this aside and then began work on the outer case.

~ Laminating the ombre dip-dyed paper to thick paper to make the outer card sleeve for inside the case

The case structure I chose for this binding is not new to me as I have made up books with false-round spines on a number of occasions before now. Once I had worked out the thickness of the pages along with the inner cover, and I had laminated the boards to the correct thickness, I was able to stack them all together to work out how wide the spine dowel needed to be. 

I took a piece of half round wooden dowel and added extra layers of watercolour paper to build up the width to the desired size. I attached the flat of the dowel to the edge of a board using little pieces of masking tape and then dampened the watercolour paper strips before gluing them and holding them in place across the rounded side of the dowel with a piece of silicone release paper and clips whilst it dried. The watercolour paper strips were left overlong and then trimmed to the level of the flat side of the dowel once dry.

~ The laminated half-round dowel with watercolour layers

The last thing to go onto the spine was a layer of linen, left overwide so that it could be stuck to the boards to create a hinged joint. The boards were bevelled on the outer edges and a spacer cut to make sure there was an even joint gap left once the boards were attached to the linen. As there was then a discrepancy in the flatness on the front of the board once the linen hinge had been stuck down, this was levelled out by gluing down a piece of Zerkall butted up to it.

As with the sample book, I was going to add brass tubes to the foredge of the boards to act as part of a clasp. I channelled out some of the board and stuck in a strip of linen, 1cm wide. I left this overlong and then folded the extra length around onto the inside of the boards and tacked it down with a piece of masking tape. I would come back to this later and add in the brass tube.

Finally I lined the outside of the boards with a piece of handmade paper and waited for the glue to dry. I then sanded the boards flush so that no lumps and bumps were visible.

~ Sanding the handmade paper on the book covers flat

I chose a slightly lighter blue goatskin for the binding than I had used for the sample book. I had the leather split to 0.8mm in thickness for the cover, and two pieces split to 0.3mm to use as edge-to-edge doublures. I additionally pared the onlay leather to about 0.3mm and backed it with lens tissue to stabilise it.

~ The design of the cover, doublures and endpapers

I marked the size of the book onto the back of the leather. The various scattered letters were then transferred and located onto the back on the leather in different ways:

  • I pricked through the tracing paper template into the leather to get the outlines of the letters, the pricked holes were just visible enough to register the lines.
  • I cut the letters out of the tracing paper template with a scalpel, and then drew around the inner edge of the letter onto the back of the leather using a fine pen.
  • I cut out a positive of the letter, and reversed it onto the back of the leather and drew around the outline with a fine pen.

Used a few different shapes of scalpel blades with small motions, moving my hand and the leather regularly to get round the tight curves.

To mark the letters onto the paper inner cover, I transferred the outlines by using pencil – drawing onto tracing paper so that the graphite pressed through and deposited a corresponding outline onto the inner cover. I had to push quite hard with the very end of the scalpel at regular intervals to get right through the laminated paper neatly.

I tested my cutting skills with this, managing to successfully cut out a few very tiny letters, like the ‘r’ in the below left picture! I kept all the cut-out letters to re-use elsewhere on the binding. Plus, because these letters were being cut directly through the inner cover, some parts of them would potentially be vulnerable to catching so I chose to cut them off and instead stuck these pieces onto the first loose leaf of paper within the inner cover. For example the v-shaped section at the top of the letter ‘y’ and the n-shaped section within the letter ‘n’.

I also cut red onlays from both thinned leather and red paper. On the red paper I printed the font in mirror image on the reverse of it so I could cut out the shapes directly and it sped up the process a little.

~ Cutting out red paper onlays

The paper letters were applied to the inner cover, and the leather ones to the outer leather case and the leather doublures. The leather onlays applied to the blue leather were back-pared using a French paring knife. I also embroidered the outline of some letters with fine red thread.

The title of the book was also going to be pierced out of the leather too, before being backed with Moon gold. I drew the title outline onto thin Japanese tissue that was then stuck to the reverse of the leather as a guide. I really carefully cut out the letters, again trying to keep the cut-outs so that I could use them to title the box for the book.

~ Piercing out the book title from the spine

During the whole process of making this book I kept little boxes with all the cut outs in them. I wanted to use the time I had spent cutting out each of the letters effectively and use them all up across the whole of the binding. I painted the edges of some of the blue leather letters with red paint, so when stuck to the cover leather they stood out a bit more.

I adhered gold to Japanese tissue by first appliying PVA glue to the tissue using a roller and then lifted this onto a piece of silicone release paper. I then floated a piece of gold leaf onto the glued surface using a gold knife (some didn’t quite land exactly where intended but I did a few for luck!).

The gold sucked down onto the wet glue and then I carefully rubbed it down lightly through another piece of silicone release paper. The whole thing was then removed from the silicone release paper and left to dry sat on top of a piece of acrylic, chosen so that it would be able to be removed after it was dry.

Once dry, I was then able to cut up these sheets as required for use on the book. I cut strips of the gold in different widths to adhere to the first paper sheet behind the inner sleeve. This allowed the gold to be visible through the pierced out letters of the laminated inner sleeve, whilst also giving a fun appearance when flicking through the book. To this was also stuck the vulnerable bits of the letters mentioned previously in this post, along with the centres of the letters such as for the letters ‘o’, ‘a’ and ‘d’. I also added some small pieces of red leather and paper to this sheet too.

~ Strips of gold stuck to show behind the letters cut through the inner sleeve

I also cut small pieces of the gold to stick behind the letters pierced directly through the cover leather and doublures. I used Lascaux glue to fix this in place, chosen as it would stick the non-porous gold face to the back of the leather.

~ Adding gold behind the cut out letters

The leather was then ready to stick to the case. I would need to proceed with extra caution given the series of potentially moveable parts on it though – the Japanese paper with the gold on it may want to shift during the covering process. I dampened the front of the leather using water sprayed from an atomiser and let the water penetrate in.

I decided to just glue up the spine area of the leather first, to make sure that was on properly before sticking down the rest of the covering leather. I applied paste to the back of the leather and PVA glue to the case, especially around the joint area to make sure that it was well adhered in this area. The front and back boards were then pasted out and stuck down in position.

I cut a slot out of the leather in the turn-ins at the point the brass rods were placed, so that the turn-ins could wrap around the boards. The brass rods for the catch had been added previously using the linen strip I had attached to the board edges earlier in the process, and they had also been covered in the blue and red leather.

I then glued the turn-ins down, and worked on the endcaps. The leather was cut into little triangles and glued down onto the end of the dowel. Once dry, I applied a small piece of Zerkall on top of the leather and sanded it flush, to level out any unevenness.

Once the text block and case were complete, it was time to join them together. I cut a strip of blue leather and pared it down to 0.4mm in thickness. This would be used to attach the text block to, whilst also creating the leather joints for the book and also would cap the had and tail on the dowel ends. I marked the size of the spine of the inner case onto the reverse of this piece of leather and trimmed the ends round to match the curve of the dowel.

~ Marking out the leather to attach the inner case to the outer case

The spine of the inner case was glued and sewn to the leather using a thin thread and left to dry. The text block with the leather attached was then in turn glued into the outer case at the spine area and left to dry again.

Once I was sure that it was held in properly, I stuck down the leather joints. I opened up the boards and rested them on a board so that they were level, mitring them into the turn-ins of the cover and gluing them in position.

The rounded leather tabs at the top and bottom were then glued down onto the end-caps. I had edge-pared them so that the join was fairly imperceivable. The inner boards were then infilled and lined, firstly with a layer of watercolour paper in the centre, followed by a layer of Zerkall cut a few mm shorter than the size of the inner board.

The inside of the board was lined with Zerkall and then sanded flat once dry. This would give a perfectly smooth surface on which to glue down the edge-to-edge leather doublures.

~ Sanding the Zerkall lining layer before gluing the edge-to-edge leather doublure down

As part of the design I wanted to try out placing some embroidery across the board edge to see how well I could get it to match up. The covering leather gets stuck to the book first, with the turn-ins going around the book edge. I tried to be as accurate as possible working out where my embroidery needed to be sewn up to so that it finished on the inner edge of the board, which is where the edge of the doublure would sit.

I then placed the cut edge of the leather doublures in exactly the position I was going to stick it down to the book and worked out where the rest of the embroidery needed to be lined up in order for it to ‘flow’ around the board edge. The below image shows how I used masking tape to help position where to place the stitches.

I did the same with some letters. I used the cut out paper shape to work out what remaining sewing I needed to do on the doublure. To get the stitches in the correct place on the outer edge of the doublure, I cut some tiny little slits for the thread to locate into.

One of the final things I had to do to the book was to add the centres to some of the letters, for example ‘e’, ‘a’, ‘D’ etc. I scratched away some of the gold where these need to be stuck down to give the glue a bit of a key to stick to and worked my way around the book cover and doublure.

I then worked my way through the cut-out letters I had left, adding them to the book until I used them all up. I mainly applied the paper letters to the paper inner cover and the leather ones to the outer case.

~ Close-up detail of the lettering

Where the sewing of the doublures met the sewing on the cover there was a tiny little gap in between the ends of the stitches, so I painted in a little red acrylic paint to join them up.

~ Joining up the embroidery with red acrylic paint

I added some coloured leather strips in dark blue and red to wrap across the spine to add a bit of contrast to the design in this area, cut to work around the title lettering.

And the final thing to do was to add the bent metal clasp. This was firstly bent to shape, to hold the book boards closed at the correct position. The brass was then covered in a coiled strip of Japanese tissue, using Lascaux glue to allow the paper to be stuck to the non-porous surface of the brass. Once dry, the clasp was then covered in a strip of dark blue leather and then lightly sanded. The final thing that needed to be done was to add an extra wind of leather around the longer end of the clasp so that it couldn’t be pulled through the brass tube connected to the book edge.

~ Detail of work on the clasp

Once the book was complete it was time to make a container for the binding. I commissioned a Tulipwood box to be made to a drawing I had done, with a stepped/tiered look on the inside. The original plan was to stick graduating coloured papers to the internal steps of the box, but in fact I changed my mind on this and thought it wasn’t required.

The wells in the lid and the base were made over-deep for the book, so I stuck some pieces of board into them to raise the book up a bit within the space. These were weighted and left to dry.

The lid of the box had another piece of the dyed paper stuck into it, made in the same way that the inner cover of the book was with the words, ‘IN THE BEGINNING’, cut into the paper and backed with Moon gold. The base of the box matched that of the book, lined with book cloth with the final words of the book, ‘WHICH GOD CREATED AND MADE’, cut into it.

The bottom tray also had an extra wall added into it, to keep the book secure and to stop it from sliding around. I cut some pieces of 1mm Gemini board to the correct size and covered them with red paper to match the book. These strips were stuck into the box and finally the corners were secured with some discs of blue leather.

~ Detail of the box linings

I am thrilled to have finished this book and I am thankful to the client for being so patient with me. To see images of the completed binding and box please visit my website here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *