I recently had the unusual experience of binding a Bible that had been written out by hand. I was contacted by someone whose father had written out the whole Bible by hand over a period of a couple of years. His father is now deceased and he wanted to have the Bible nicely bound for the family to keep.
I regret that I have lost the “before” photo of this work. It came to me in large files and was written on ordinary lined A4 paper. Unfortunately (from a bookbinding perspective) there was not much by the way of margins, so I was not able to trim the book blocks of the 4 volumes that were produced. But the leather covers with a debossed Cross and ribs on the spine gave the volumes a pleasing finish.
I haven’t posted on here recently because of the demands of trying to establish a business and also the fact that much of my recent work has not been terribly original. I’ve realised that I’ll have to keep this blog for rather exceptional things, rather than run of the mill work.
However, this is a book that I bound recently as a gift. It incorporates an original water colour painting that my father did shortly before his death just over year ago. I’d asked him to experiment with some small paintings and he’d sent them to me, but I hadn’t got down to doing anything with them until recently. I think that I’m going to keep the rest of them for special personal projects. But it does give an example of the sort of things that one can do with original artworks.
I have recently been busy with rebinding some Roman Catholic altar missals. About a year ago the Catholic Church introduced a new English translation of the Mass, which of course necessitated that all English-speaking parishes get new books. However, the – very substantial – version of this text for use on the altar does not seem to have been well bound and I was approached by a priest who was concerned that his books were beginning to come apart. We decided to rebind them in a simple but sturdy leather binding. Here are some before and after photos.
The original binding. They had used an elaborate foiling block, but on a very cheap synthetic material. The book block itself was well stitched and glued, but not well attached to the rather flimsy cover.
One of the back covers that was beginning to tear. When I took the book apart I discovered that this was not just due to the inferior material used . There was also very little mull used and it had not been well glued.
I rebound the books in dark brown leather, with substantial cover boards, beveled edges and a simple Cross debossed on the front cover.
As this is a very heavy book that will be used often, I strengthened the book block with an extra layer of mull, and added a hollow which helps to prevent the book block becoming detached from the cover.
I haven’t been very good about posting on here recently, partly because of business and the pressures of moving and partly because I’ve often forgotten to take photos of my work. I hope that things will get more organised in the future.
In the last few months I’ve repaired and recovered a number of soft-covered Bibles, something that I hadn’t done much of before but which there seems to be a demand for. Personally I’ve been more inclined to prefer Bibles bound in hard covers, so soft-cover leather binding has been a new experience for me. Here are a few that I remembered to take photos of.
I recently completed a fairly extensive restoration of a book which was in pretty bad condition. The cover had come off, the spine was gone and quite a number of the pages were loose and torn.
Here are some photos of what it looked like “before”:
I took the book apart and carefully removed quite a lot of sellotape. This is one of a book restorer’s worst enemies and should never be used to repair books as it colours the paper and leaves a horrible gluey substance behind that has to be chemically dissolved and carefully scraped away.
I then washed the pages. I normally avoid chemical bleaching, but washing in ordinary water can help to not only clean the paper, but also to remove the acid that has built up in it.
The next step was mending the torn pages with Japanese paper. The outer pages of most of the signatures or sections of the book had torn in two and so these had to be reattached using Japanese paper if I was to be able to restitch the book.
The leaves were then refolded, arranged in their signatures and placed in the press before being restitched.
The book block was then given new end pages, glued, given a hollow and a new spine was made. I realise now that I should have taken more photos at this point, but such is life.
The new spine was attached, the cover boards were mended as far as possible while keeping the look of the original book, and were attached and glued down.
I have just restored another family Bible, this time a Swedish one. I’m afraid that I forgot to take photos of how it was before restoration – it was a case bound Bible (from the early twentieth century) with the book block basically intact except for a few tears to the paper. However, the cover was coming off and the spine was badly damaged. I gave it a new cover (quarter bound with leather and linen as the original had been) and reattached the leather from the spine and the linen from the front and back covers (which must have a name in English, but I can only think of the Dutch word!). I also gave it new end pages and headbands. Anyway, here is the final result:
Part of the reason why this blog has been so inactive recently is that I have been involved in moving. At the beginning of the year I moved all my binding things to Robertson where I am for the weekends – and as much other time as I can scrape together. (This is part of a broader project to establish a small house of prayer which, if you are interested, you can read about here). I’m still in Cape Town during the week, but will soon rework this site to reflect the new reality.
Anyway, I am gradually getting settled there, and one of the best aspects of it is that I actually have space for binding which is a wonderful luxury. Here are some photos – the last photo is of an antique guillotine that was a real find, although transporting it was something of a nightmare!
Anyway, it may look a little chaotic, but it is a joy to work in, and means that I am getting back to some regular binding work.
This is a book that was commissioned as a gift. It is half bound in leather (but with a side rather than a corner half-binding) and a collage cover. The headbands are from leather and the end pages from handmade paper. I must say that I am rather pleased with it…
I’m afraid that I forgot to take “before” photos of these books. They all had pretty badly damaged covers that needed to be replaced, although the book blocks were all in a good condition. I replaced the end pages, reglued them and trimmed them and made new quarter bound covers with black leather and coated linnen. Here are the results:
This is a somewhat provisional book. I mentioned previously that one of the advantages of having priest who is pioneering the translation of Orthodox liturgical texts into Afrikaans is that it presents unique opportunities for bookbinding. This book is the text of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom that is used on the altar. Until now the loose pages have been in a ring file with plastic pockets for the variable texts, but these tend to reflect the light, so I have placed frames made from handmade paper on the blank pages for inserting loose sheets of variable texts. Unfortunately these are not evenly spread throughout the book and so the book block tends to be rather irregular and I have since thought of a better way to minimize this. I was also planning to do an embroidered icon for the cover, but simply don’t have time at the moment. So, instead of making this a very drawn out job I have bound the book with a simple cover (with a sunken icon print and brown linnen) and will hopefully produce a better designed book with a more elaborate cover at a later stage.