How to pimp your nipping press! – Ντοπάροντας το πρεσάκι!


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I’ve been looking for a solid metal press for a while now. Big standing presses are massive beasts and I had neither the budget nor the spare space for one. My lying press does the job but it is often occupied by other bookbinding tasks. I’ve been using a small wooden press I made 8 years ago as a nipping press but she’s past her glory and has been asking -through various squeaking sounds- for a semi-retirement for some time now.

Dimitri's Bookbinding corner - Modified and restored nipping press I found this used old press at a fair price and decided to make an addition to the bindery. It is somewhat larger, space-wise, than your average nipping press but boy – talk about beefy for its size! There’s a “1880” engraved on it (along with the number 7 on the handle. Anyone able to enlighten me on that – perhaps a model/size indicator by the maker?), which shows this fellow carries some history on his back. Furthermore the previous owner had made a modification to enlarge the pressing area by attaching 2 wide metal plates.

My problem with it was its opening span, which was less than 8cm (3.1 inches) – simply too small for pressing several books simultaneously. Owning several presses is currently not an option and having to press books in turns is impractical. I had the idea of upgrading the press by adding my own modification; 2 industrial-grade steel cylinders that increase press height.

Now the press is tailor made for my needs; it can accommodate 5-6 regular sized books, exert tremendous force and still be -by general standards- a “small” press.

Dimitri's Bookbinding corner - Increasing press heightThis upgrade should be possible with most nipping presses and can save you a lot of money and space if you need a stronger press or one that fits more books. All you need is a visit to a local machinist!

I took the press for a sandblast and painting before putting it together, turned out great.
Till next time!

Marbled Diamond pattern


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Here’s a small experiment of mine; presenting the Marbled Diamond pattern.

Dimitri's Bookbinding Corner - Marbled Diamond pattern 2The idea behind this journal was to take classic elements, most notably marbled paper, and use them in a way that would look new but at the same time convincing and natural, as if this kind of decoration could have existed as a standard form in the 19th century.

This is the design I had in mind; a diamond pattern onlaid with marbled paper. As far as I’m concerned I have never seen anything like it, however if some experienced or knowledgeable binder/conservator out there is aware of any similar historical binding/s please do share the information (and as a bonus trash my creative excitement in the process)!
On the one hand it strikes me as strange that there aren’t at least a few historical examples of such a design, even as an odd piece or excercise of creativity. Then again, judging by the time and measurements it required, production or time-efficiency wise it is a somewhat impractical design.

I opted for the longstitch because much as I wanted to try the technique I wasn’t very keen on producing a laborious sewn-in boards fine binding.

Dimitri's Bookbinding Corner - Marbled Diamond patternAs you can see I committed the sacrilege of using 2 different decorative papers for the cover and endpapers, a marbled and a paste paper. Before you grimace in disgust and search for stones to throw stay your hand and consider my reason behind such blasphemy; the marbled paper I wanted to use had the grain wrong. So, if it would be used as endpaper it would have to be placed in the correct grain, thus the pattern would be running horizontally in contrast with the vertical pattern of the cover pieces.
I preferred to match it with a paste paper of very similar colors hoping to achieve some relevance between the two designs. It’s not ideal but I suppose it wouldn’t be called “the ugliest juxtaposition of patterns one has ever seen”, to quote Brien Beidler on one of his findings!

As for the verdict, I really like the pattern and the resulting visual. I believe there’s more to it and will definitely return sooner than later for a second go. I also have a couple of ideas that could make it less time consuming and more repeatable.
As an extra note I have to admit there’s something a bit “off” about this specific journal, a few people who saw it expressed the same feeling. Longstitch aside, I attribute this to the blind tooling. I wasn’t sure about it but after completing the marbled diamond pattern the remaining spaces felt somewhat empty so I decided to do some blind tooling as a remedy. Came out a bit too “chatty’ for my taste, should have gone with double gold lines so that an inner linear rhombus would be created in each gap – more discreet.
In any case I look forward in trying the design again, next time on a more classic form.
Until then what do you make of it?

Binding Cicero – Δένοντας τον Κικέρωνα


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It’s been a long trip in the company of the famous orator from ancient Rome and I’m happy to finally present you the bindings of Cicero. Are you ready for an extensive reading (you can skip the later half of the post which is more technical)?

Dimitri's-Bookbinding-Corner---Cicero-full-coverI have an affinity for the history and culture of Rome. There’s something special about this city which became the crucible that -perhaps more than any other- paved the way (see what I did?) for our modern civilization. It is the amalgam of mankind’s greatest aspirations and worst inclinations, and the continuous clash of the two elements drove each other to extremes until Rome was torn apart many times. It is amidst the chaos of this clash that Cicero can be found.

At this point allow me to make a recommendation, not related to bookbinding. If you want to get to know about Rome in a way that is both entertaining and accurate watch HBO’s Rome, a two season 2005-2007 series. The series gives the most historically accurate represantation that I know of the era and all that defined it and it is evident that the producers went to great lengths in order to create a full and vivid image of Rome, from its streets to its people, their beliefs and mentality, from the power struggles and glory to everyday life’s small details. Apart from those it is a well-knit and interesting story blending excellently fictional characters which have depth with historical figures and events, with good directing and casting and overall great production value. Try it and you won’t be dissapointed.

Dimitri's Bookbinding Corner - Cicero with case1Back to bookbinding though. When my client got in touch I was very interested to hear that I wasn’t just going to be binding Cicero but a Folio edition as well. I have talked in a previous post about Folio Society and their wonderful editions. These books would be a joy to bind and I loved the topic as well.

CiceroMarcus Tulius Cicero is one of the most important figures of ancient Rome and his intellectual magnitude defined literature not only during his time but in a vast way until today as well. He was a philosopher, politician, lawyer, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist (check the Wikipedia article). His most influential attribute though was his excellence in the use of words. Cicero was one of Rome’s greatest orators, and widely considered among the best throughout human history in general, and his prose and speeches transformed Latin. According to Wikipedia; “he is credited with transforming Latin from a modest utilitarian language into a versatile literary medium capable of expressing abstract and complicated thoughts with clarity”. Quntilian declared that Cicero was “not the name of a man, but of eloquence itself” and Michael Grant said ” the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any other language“.

He also lived during a most turbulent time; the republic had succesfully expanded a great deal and was about to enter a troubled period that would transform it into an empire. Civil strife, conspiracies and power struggles along with the growth of Rome’s influence defined Cicero and in return he played a key role in the turning points of the city’s history and Rome itself.

Dimitri's Bookbinding Corner - Cicero with case2We discussed a lot with the client on the details of the binding and what its visual result should convey. However almost from the get go there was a certain idea in my mind; that of a golden river traversing the binding. This came to be the cornerstone of the whole design.

Dimitri's Bookbinding Corner - Cicero SpineMy thoughts behind this element were the following.
Cicero and the events and identity of Rome are intertwined. The design should emit a sense of splendor, novelty, but also of distortion and transformation. The river symbolizes the gradual transformation of the Roman republic (wide beginning at the back cover) to civil strife and power accumulation by ambitious individuals which led to the decline of the Senate (narrower part of the spine), eventually leading to an empire with a single dictator (narrow part at the front cover). At the same time it represents the “flow of words”, the growth and enrichment of the Latin language which is a core aspect of Rome and Cicero’s personality, leading to a finesse peak – a pinnacle of form and meaning. Combined with this visual element Cicero’s name on the spine adopts a narrative role – it shows us that he was pivotal in all that transpired.

The cover however would feel empty with just that. There was need to fill the rest of the binding in a way that displays its content but at the same time remains discreet. The golden river in the middle zone dominates the design, I couldn’t have something as intense – rather the opposite, so in order to celebrate Cicero I decide to blind tool parts of his orations in Latin. The text is in capitals and you can also notice the absence of punctuation – that is how Latin texts were written or inscribed on surfaces. I took exerpts from his speech “Against Catilina”, one of his most famous orations. You can locate the renown phrase “O tempora, o mores” (“what times do we live in?”) in the text.

Dimitri's-Bookbinding-Corner---Cicero-Headband The final result was two full leather fine bindings gilt in 22 Carat gold leaf, bound in Maroon Valencia goatskin. They feature leather joints, handmarbled paper, handstitched endbands (french, double core, 3 color) from silk thread, blind stamped decoration and gilt leather onlays. I also made two bookbinding cases with velvet interior and covered in cloth.

Dimitri's Bookbinding Corner - Cicero both books with cases
From here on it gets a bit technical folks. Carry on reading if you’re a bookbinding enthusiast or wish to get a glimpse of how such a binding is made!

Separating the signatures - Sewing - roundingThere were many things that had to be factored in realizing the design, which proved quite challenging and time consuming. After the book was covered the metal dies for the latin text had to be made. I didn’t trust a hot-stamping machine to make the impression since if something went wrong (for example misalignment) the binding would be ruined. I opted for wet-stamping which is a traditional method of leather forming and would allow more control over the process. The dies would be pressed with a gradual increase in pressure over the leather which would have been moistened right before.

Metal dies - Shaping the diesMaking the dies to align was one of the major problems I had to tackle, both when designing them and during the pressing as well, so I had to come up with various solutions. They were very large to leave a uniform and equally deep impression so they were pressed in multiple stages, for example first the upper half of the back die, then the lower half, then all over again.
The initial pressing was the most difficult, if the die didn’t leave a deep enough impression over most of its surface then I wouldn’t be able to place it in exactly the same way when the process would be repeated, resulting in a double impression that would totally ruin the binding.

Trimming the margins Surface gilding allows covering a large surface with gold leaf. It is a demanding technique and although I had experimented a lot this is the first time I use it on a binding and in such a scale. I’m very pleased with the result – and I rarely feel so.
My guide for the technique was James Reid Cunningham’s article on surface gilding in Bonefolder Vol 6 No1 from the Book Arts Web. If you feel like having a go you can find the PDF at the bottom of this post. It is well written and comprehensive, thorough and accompanied with step-by-step pictures.

Before applying glaireFirstly I masked the outline of the area I wish to gilt and applied the glaire, a chemical solution that will bond gold with leather when heated. Applying the glaire is tricky; one has to evenly spread a thin layer with as few brush strokes as possible. Less and the gold won’t adhere, successive or overlaping applications of glaire will show when then gold is applied and using anything but a brush as soft as a baby’s hair will result in poor results.

Gilding process1Applying the gold is stage 2. I used my Polishing Brass tool to do so. The gold is applied in pieces that are heated with the tool in multiple successions until the bonding element of the glaire is activated and the gold melts and blends in the leather. Too much heat and the gold will be ruined, too little and it won’t adhere uniformly leaving non-gilt patches here and there – a disaster!
Another thing that can go wrong is having sharp lines visible at the places where the gold leafs overlap. It has taken me a lot of effort and gold leaf -that thing is expensive mind you!- practicing but I believe the result is great; I challenge you to find the edges of the gold leafs on the finished binding, there are 6 meeting points on each.
The design was also double-gilt; it was gilt entirely and then all over again with a second layer of gold. I found that by doing so the gold has a much deeper color and shine and the meeting points of gold leafs become impossible to distinguish. Double the cost though…

Up close there are small parts and areas, especially on the second binding, with clusters of tiny holes/streaks showing the leather underneath. As can be seen in the pictures of Cunningham’s article that is a result of the leather’s grain and irregular surface. It can be avoided if someone “crushes” the grain using the polishing tool but then much of the leather’s allure is lost…

Cutting the lettersI was inspired to do the title on the spine in this particular way by Luigi Castiglioni, a very talented designer binder. Spend some time to see his marvelous bindings and “making of” pictures. The general idea is to surface gild a paper-thin strip of leather, cut out the letters and then paste them as onlays on the binding.

I also used my most treasured marble paper, one I’ve been saving for years. It is not visible in the photos but the marbler used a paint that imitates gold instead of some yellow hue, which shines and makes interesting plays with light upon handling.

Last but not least, I used a Valencia goatskin from Harmatan to bind the books. For all you people interested in trying bookbinding leather from them here’s a review of sorts.
I want to underline that my experience has been overall great. There are two things however that I’d like to mention.
First one has to do with leather thickness. I bought 5 leathers two of which where from the Valencia range they offer. Although they were listed as 0.9 thickness, upon arrival I was dissapointed to find out that one of the 2 was closer to 1.5. That is way thicker than 0.9. Not all binders know how (or want for that matter) to pare down an entire leather with a spokeshave and even if that’s not an issue I wouldn’t have bought the leather if it was listed as 1.5. If it was 1.0-1.2 I could make do but that is simply too much.
The second and most important has to do with packaging. The leathers were practically wrapped around with a cardboard, and not a thick one at that. They were shipped to a relative of mine in the UK who then brought them to Greece, so maybe it’s their way of packaging leathers for inland shipping. Nonetheless it is fairly insufficient and any mishandling along the way could easily bent the package and crease all of the skins… Cardboard tubes or triangular boxes are very resilient and must certainly be inexpensive if bought in bulk, can’t really see why they didn’t use one.

These aside the leather was excellent in every way. Great texture, works like a charm, tools and pares very well. My only complain is that while the color is really vivid under natural or strong light it loses most of its intensity and appears almost dark under normal room light. Other than that it is a wonderful leather and a pleasure to work with.

Till next time!

Bonefolder vol 6 no 1

Λεξικό βιβλιοδεσίας – Μέρος Ι


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(An article about the greek terms of Bookbinding and their equivalent in english. For all my enlish readers; If you intend to leave your country behind and come to seek your fortune as a bookbinder in Greece then this will definitely prove to be an important reading.)

Σας λέει κάτι η λέξη τεζάκι; Εντάξει, αυτό ήταν εύκολο… Πόσοι από εσάς όμως ξέρουν τι είναι το ρεφελάρισμα ή που χρησιμεύει το κομπάσο; Γνωρίζετε μήπως την αγγλική ονομασία για την τέλα;

Κόκκαλο..Το υπέροχο κόκκαλο της φωτό (το δεξί απ όσο ξέρω) ανήκει στην MHR από Bookbinder’s Chronicle.

Με αυτό το άρθρο επιθυμώ να βοηθήσω όσους αναζητούν υλικό σχετικά με την βιβλιοδεσία online και δυσκολεύονται λόγω άγνοιας της αντίστοιχης αγγλικής ορολογίας (μεγάλος μπελάς αυτό!) και την εξοικίωση με τους ελληνικούς όρους για εκείνους που κάνουν τα πρώτα τους βήματα στην τέχνη αυτή.
Όπως είναι λογικό δεν πρόκειται για ενδελεχές λεξικό της βιβλιοδεσίας, έχω συμπεριλάβει κυρίως λέξεις που είναι δύσκολο να βρει κανείς την αντίστοιχη αγγλική ή να περιγράψει τι προσδιορίζουν.

Θα επακολουθήσουν και μέρος ΙΙ και ΙΙΙ που θα περιλαμβάνουν: κάποια από τα ανατομικά μέρη μιας βιβλιοδεσίας καθώς και στάδια, τεχνικές και είδη που θα συναντήσει κανείς.
Στο μέλλον είναι πιθανό να προστεθεί περαιτέρω υλικό στο παρόν αλλά και στα επόμενα μέρη, καλή ανάγνωση!


Douglas Cockerell - Sewing the bookΤεζάκι – Sewing frame
Ξύλινη κατασκευή η οποία χρησιμοποιείται για το ράψιμο των βιβλίων. Πρόκειται επί της ουσίας για ένα πλαίσιο και τη βάση του, πάνω στο οποίο τεντώνονται κάθετα κλωστές (οι “σπάγγοι”). Τα τυπογραφικά του βιβλίου τοποθετούνται πάνω στη βάση με τη ράχη τους να ακουμπάει στις κάθετες κλωστές προκειμένου να ραφτεί το βιβλίο.
Εικόνα από το βιβλίο “Bookbinding” του Douglas Cockerell.

Garry Harrison - Indiana University Libraries Preservation DepartmentΚόκκαλο – Βone folder
Το βασικότερο εργαλείο στη βιβλιοδεσία, το οποίο και χρησιμεύει σχεδόν σε όλα τα στάδια. Παρά την ονομασία του, που προκύπτει από την πιό συνηθισμένη εκδοχή, υπάρχει πλέον και σε συνθετικά υλικά καθώς και hardwoods. Το κόκκαλο διπλώνει, σημαδεύει, τσακίζει, ισιώνει, μετακινεί, διαχωρίζει, φτιάχνει καφέ, στρίβει τσιγάρα, καθαρίζει το εργαστήριο και εκπληρώνει ένα σωρό ακόμη περιστασιακές λειτουργίες. Αν θέλετε να καταλάβετε την αξία του δοκιμάστε να κάνετε βιβλιοδεσία χωρίς αυτό…
Φωτογραφία από Gary Harisson -Indiana University preservation department.

Sarah Bryant - Big Jump PressΚομπάσο – Divider
Πρόκειται για ένα είδος διαβήτη που επιτρέπει την αναπαραγωγή ενός μεγέθους σε διαφορετικές επιφάνειες χωρίς να χρειάζεται χάρακας η συνεχής μέτρηση αποστάσεων.
Φωτογραφία από την θιασώτη του κομπάσου Sarah Bryant – Βig Jump Press

Σε διάφορα στάδια της βιβλιοδεσίας το βιβλίο τοποθετείται υπό πίεση προκειμένου να επιτευχθεί μια ομοιόμορφη κόλληση, να ισιώσει το χαρτί, να μη σκεβρώσει μέχρι να στεγνώσει η κόλλα, να ισοπεδωθεί κάποιο διακοσμητικό στοιχείο, κτλ. Υπάρχουν 3 βασικά είδη πρέσας -και οι παραλλαγές τους- που θα συναντήσει κανείς σε ένα βιβλιοδετείο.

279575089338217835_7NeLcdaT_cα) Σφυριστική – Backing press
Η πρέσα στην οποία γίνεται το σφύρισμα της ράχης, καθώς και άλλα στάδια ή τεχνικές ( πριόνισμα, ξάκρισμα στο χέρι, χρύσωμα ακμών, κτλ). Το κύριο χαρακτηριστικό της είναι ο οριζόντιος κοχλίας , η πρέσα είναι δηλαδή “ξαπλωμένη” σε κάποια επιφάνεια ή βάση, όπως φαίνεται και από την άλλη αγγλική ονομασία της: lying press. Παραλλαγή της αποτελεί το finishing press που είναι μια μικρή πρέσσα με δύο κοχλίες.

35c568c4a910794555b195e9a0d83ac8β) Μικρή/επιτραπέζια πρέσα – Nipping press
Πρέσα μικρού μεγέθους στην οποία τοποθετούνται τα βιβλία ύστερα από διάφορα στάδια που απαιτούν τo στέγνωμα κόλλας, έτσι ώστε να φύγει ο εγκλωβισμένος αέρας, να κολληθούν οι επιφάνειες ομοιόμορφα και να μην κυρτώσουν από την υγρασία.

γ) Μεγάλη πρέσα – Standing press
Πρόκειται για πρέσα μεγάλου μεγέθους. Κάνει ό,τι και η επιτραπέζια με τη διαφορά πως χωράει πολλά βιβλία μαζί και μπορεί να ασκήσει πολύ μεγαλύτερη πίεση.

Sonya Sheet's John Jacques shearΨαλίδα – Board shear
Αυτό που λέει η λέξη: ένα τεράστιο ψαλίδι που επιτρέπει στο βιβλιοδέτη να κόβει το χαρτόνι ίσια, σε ορθή γωνία και σε οποιαδήποτε διάσταση με 2 κινήσεις.
Φωτογραφία από Sonya Sheets – John Jacques shear (είναι προκλητικό το πόσο ωραία είναι αυτή η ψαλίδα!)


Αμυλόκολλα – (Wheat/Starch) paste
Κόλλα φτιαγμένη από φυτική ύλη που χρησιμοποιείται ευρέως στη βιβλιοδεσία. Η λιπαρή της σύνθεση επιτρέπει το χειρισμό και την προσαρμογή των υλικών για κάποια ώρα αφότου περαστεί και έρθουν σε επαφή. Είναι επίσης υδατοδιαλυτή.

Τέλα – Callico/Mull
Πλέγμα που τοποθετείται στην ράχη του βιβλίου για ενίσχυση.

Μαρμαρόκολλα – Marbled paper (Ebru)
Διακοσμητικά χαρτιά που φτιάχνονται με ειδική τεχνική και ποικίλουν σε σχέδια και χρώματα. Χρησιμοποιούνται συχνά για εσώφυλλα καθώς και εξωτερικά στο κάλυμμα του βιβλίου.
Φωτογραφίες από Susan Pogany και Robert Wu.

Εάν αναρωτιέστε που μπορεί κανείς να βρει μερικά απ’όσα αναφέρονται παραπάνω μπορείτε να επισκεφτείτε το άρθρο μου σχετικά με τους προμηθευτές.

How books are bound by the Chelsea Bindery


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Here’s an excellent video that was recently shared on the Book Art’s Web by Peter D. Verheyen, showing the process of binding a book in Chelsea Bindery.
A number of reasons makes videos like this very rare so consider spending 10 minutes of your life to get acquainted with the craft of Bookbinding!

Two things to keep in mind as you watch the video;
Firstly, what you see are highlights of the binding process. Various stages are not included, probably to allow a shorter duration and make it more comprehensible.
Secondly, don’t be deceived by how smoothly everything is performed – this is the result of good craftsmanship. Every action, from cutting away a slice of leather to tooling the title with a single motion, requires a lot of dexterity and experience.



A Matter of Laws – Part III


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This has been a long and complicated project, mainly because it required the coordination of various things, but the 3rd and final binding marks its end.

A Matter of Laws, all 3 bindings - Dimitri's bookbinding cornerThe principle of Legality in European criminal law – which was shortened to “Legality”- is a recently published book by Christina P. We talked an extra lot with the client regarding the decorative approach; it should be something that would stand out on its own but at the same time fit in with the other two bindings.

Legality 1 - Dimitri's bookbinding corner
Legality 2 - Dimitri's bookbinding cornerAs I was given to understand the book tries to find the balancing point between the need for a sentence and human rights when a crime has been committed. Obviously a topic of great significance and dispute that is unlikely to be ever settled one way or another. How does one find the line where those antithetical factors meet?

If you recall the theme of the bindings intended to make a correlation between Mathematics and the law system. Well, this one screamed for “golden ratio”!
According to Wikipedia “In mathematics, two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities”.
This ratio is represented by the Greek letter phi (φ) which equals 1.61803398875. Φ can be found in/on many patterns in nature, living creatures and man-made objects or structures and is supposed to be aesthetically pleasing. The golden ratio is graphed as a logarithmical spiral and an example of it in nature would be the Nautilus shell.

Legality 3 - Dimitri's bookbinding cornerI did a leather case binding with small colored onlays and blind tooling. I sewed triple colored french headbands and used one of my favorite (hear that C.P.?) handmade marbld papers for endpapers.

Here’s a picture of all three bindings snugly waiting in their travelling case which will be packed to withstand a fall from the Eiffel tower!

A Matter of Laws, travel case - Dimitri's bookbinding corner
You can revisit a Matter of Laws part I and part II to have a look at the other two bindings!

I used my Stylus set, BFM tool, Versatile typeholder and Line rollers for this binding.

Now, what was that thing that Cicero said…

A Matter of Laws – Part II


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Actus Reus 1 - Dimitri's Bookbinding corner
Here is the second of the three bindings revolving around laws and legal matters. Actus Reus is Latin for “guilty act” and according to Wikipedia is “sometimes called the external element or the objective element of a crime, …, (which) when proved beyond a reasonable doubt in combination with the mens rea, “guilty mind”, produces criminal liability“. In other words, for many legal systems a crime to be treated as such needs to comprise of both an intention or motive and some kind of act.

Actus Reus 2 - Dimitri's Bookbinding cornerThe idea behind this decoration was that a crime is a distortion of “normality”. If one considers society as a continuity of sorts, lines that flow uninterrupted fulfiling a specific purpose each, then a criminal act is a violent alteration that either breaks or diverts those lines in various ways and creates inteference. The image of a seismograph came to mind. The flow is restored when the effects diminish, representing society’s return to normality. Laws facilitate this process.

This is a case binding on a lovely terracota leather with hand-dyed blue onlays. The headbands were handsewn and I used hand-marbled endpapers. I used my Bookbinding Finishing Multitool, Line Rollers and Versatile typeholder to accomplish this design.

Actus Reus 3 - Dimitri's Bookbinding corner

A Matter of Laws – Part I


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Christina P. approached me some months ago with an interesting commission in mind; she and two other people are researchers of a Dutch university and they have been involved in a project regarding criminal laws. The idea was to bind the book each researcher has written during the project.

Mens Rea 1 - Dimitri's Bookbinding cornerBindings of legal content are usually expected to be uninteresting – bound in dull colors and maybe tooled with a small amount of classic decorative motifs, right? Christina, quite the daring spirit, wanted something more design-oriented and so I suggested that we make three design bindings, different from each other but with a unifying theme related to the books’ content. Something that would perhaps be unexpected and -maybe- even thought provoking.

Mens Rea 2 - Dimitri's Bookbinding cornerThe way I perceive it Laws are an artificial construct of the human mind, a structure that uses axioms and values (whichever those may be) as building blocks and establishes its integrity by the connections/correlations each block has with the rest. A structure that obeys and fuctions through certain rules, thus becoming their proof and projection. There is another thing that works in a similar way; Mathematics. The Wikipedia definition is “Mathematics is the body of knowledge justified by deductive reasoning about abstract structures, starting from axioms and definitions”. What could be more abstract than the concepts of right, wrong and Justice? And is not the strive of the human society to produce a system of laws an effort to somehow “quantify” those concepts by using axioms as a base? I believe that, although there’s room for debate here, the analogy is more than obvious.

Mens Rea 4 - Dimitri's Bookbinding cornerEnough pondering though, time for work! Because ideas are great and all but as a craftsman you have to translate all that into something tangible.
The first book is Mens Rea by JΒ. Mens Rea is Latin for “guilty mind” which -again according to Wikipedia- is viewed by criminal law as one of the necessary elements in various crimes.
In order to utilize this as a base for the binding’s design I tried to tackle it on a more abstract level – what would the mind of a criminal look like? I remembered pictures I’ve seen showing the chaotic trajectories of particles and thought it as the ideal representation of the criminal mind. A single thought starts from a point in emptiness until, after expanding enough, it bursts into a thousand different ones that move on unpredictably, a chain reaction. One could say that inspiration and creativity could be described by the very same process, isn’t that ironic?
You can argue that this is actually Physics and not Mathematics, but I tink there’s a certain amount of overlap – you can’t do Physics without using Mathematics. I used particles and their trajectories as a portrayal of quantifiable aspects, kinda like fractals.

particles 2aaIn any case I used this image to create the design. The end result was a case binding with hand-dyed green leather and hand-dyed yellow leather as onlays. Onlays are made by thinning leather to almost paper thickness and then carefully pasting it down. There are a lot of different onlay techniques and many ways to perform them.
The endpapers are paste papers from Decopapers. The binding also features double colored french headbands which were hand-sewn. I sewed the yellow parts gradually wider to make a correlation with the design, hinting at the expanding thought which eventually leads to crime.

The blind tooling was performed using my Stylus set, although I did certain parts with the assisantance of a pyrography tool – mainly the end of the small spirals due to their irregularity which prevented me from using gouges. I also used my Versatile typeholder for the lettering.

The second book will follow in the near future, until then cheers!

Mens Rea 3 - Dimitri's Bookbinding corner

“Poems, poems everybody…!”


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“Do your worst!” shouted in defiance yours truly as he was backing books in his bindery during the relentless summer heat of the sun-scorched Athens. “Do your worst vile summer for I will not be deterred by your stupefying blaze, nor will the books remain unbound on my bench! I’d rather die and my remains be found hanging from the press with the backing hammer still gripped by my unresting hand!”. And the battle carries on…

The bookbinder has always been the unsung hero and this post pays homage to his endeavors and hardships, frustrations and desires, flaws and virtues and overall magnificence. Take some time to read a few interesting poems devoted to bookbinders, one way or another…
Presented in order of chaos, from bad to worse;

By Susana Dominguez Martin - Encuadernacion de Arte1) The Gilder’s lament
One of the decorative techniques in bookbinding is edge gilding, which was popular until the late 19th century. The gold is laid on the edges of the book, sometimes adorned with tooling as well. It is a very demanding technique that requires skill and experience.
Even so, things can go wrong as you will find out in this poem by a frustrated gilder from the 17th century.

Image by Suzana Dominguez Martin from Encuadernacion de Arte

My size is prepared,
The leaf is laid out,
My agate is polished and smooth.
The press, it is loaded,
The edge has been scraped,
I feel like I’m in the groove.
I put on the size,
I lay on the gold,
My confidence reaching its peak.
I polish the edge,
Till I see by its shine,
The edge of perfection I seek.
I take the book out,
Fan open the leaves,
My heart stops still in mid-beat.
Where has the gold gone,
I look all around.
As the leaf flakes onto my feet.
Oh, where did I err,
I did everything right,
But the gold, it just didn’t stick.
I love the gilt edge,
But the process is such,
That it leaves me feeling quite sick.

Papercut binder by Roger Grech2) How not to do it!
Backing is when the book’s spine is given a “mushroom” shape by striking it with a bookbinder’s (or cobbler’s) hammer. It takes time, effort and a lot of ruined books to be able to perform a good backing. The blows need to be in a sweeping manner, initially delivered almost horizontally while progressively moving to a steeper angle.

Image by Roger Grech from Papercut bindery.

A bad backing can be a horrific sight! And that’s why the following poem by Tom Conroy (a fine binder from Berkley California) is a prospect terrifying beyond words for the bookbinding mind…

Malcolm bashes books he backs,
Hammer falling straight and hard,
Lets them set in crooked stacks,
Asymmetric, dented, jarred,
Twisted heads and crumpled tails.
Seems to think he’s driving nails.

Foolish lad! He now is binding
Toolmakers’ catalogues
Full of hammers for the finding,
Hard as hearts and big as logs.
Out they come when backing’s noised.
See the books with hammers poised.

Malcontented books back Malcolm
Bash his spine from head to tail,
Straight blows! Hard blows! None can balk ’em!
Malcolm crumples with a wail.
He lies crooked on the ground.
Futile tears won’t bring him round.

The_Scream3) The curse
And now my personal favorite; A Solemn curse by Ben Burnisher pronounced upon a Master Bookbinder, circa 1880.

What follows is the absolute nightmare for every bookbinder there ever was. Period. Everything described is a heart stopping, mind numbing and blood chilling prospect.
Dimitri’s Bookbinding Corner honors the writer of the poem with the award for the most inspired and horror invoking but also elegantly phrased curse.

May rats and mice devour you paste,
Your paper and your leather;
May your hand letters be defaced,
Your types all mixed together.

May all your pallets, stamps and rolls,
Be on their faces battered;
Your beating stone packed full of holes,
Your hammer in pieces shattered.

And may your standing press fall down,
Your pressing boards be cracked;
May your law leather all turn brown,
Each law book edged in black.

May you be bothered all your life,
With workman brandy lovers;
With sandy boards and dull plough knife,
Thin paste, and horny covers.

And May your gilding all rub off,
Your roll burn through the leather,
And you hereforward be obliged
To finish in dry weather.

And may your polisher upon
The face be full of scratches,
And every cover you put on
At least have twenty patches.

May all your colours be too strong,
So as to rot your leather,
May all your books be lettered wrong,
Your fly leaves stick together.

May your laying press all get broke,
Your books be wrong collated;
And may you with foul charcoal smoke
Be almost suffocated.

May your apprentice run away;
Your business be diminished;
And may booksellers never pay
You when the work is finished.

God grant that the distressed may be
from Constable to Beadle;
And live till you can’t feel or see
Your press-pin from your needle.

Fellow binders, before you condemn Ben in total disgust for uttering words so foul, please take a moment to appreciate the imagination and passion that went into the creation of such a poem. Remarkable truly!

And with that I wish you all a nice summer!

Small journals II – Μικρά σημειωματάρια ΙΙ


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3Lots of interesting things going on, hopefully I’ll be able to share them in time. In the meanwhile enjoy some pictures from small leather journals I’ve been making on the side for The Bookbinder’s Bench. 56


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