Techniton Politeia – Interview with Samuel Feinstein Part 2


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Welcome to Part 2 of our interview with Samuel Feinstein.
You can read Part 1 here.

Which would you say are the projects/bindings that have intrigued you the most and why? This applies to commissions you’ve received but can also be extended to the work of other fellow binders that caught your interest.

  I’ll share two of my favorite commissioned pieces and a quick binding that I did on the side:
  Into This World, a poem by Natalie Goldberg, illustrated by Clare Dunne and printed by Sialia Rieke, is a binding that was able to be somewhat emotional. I wanted to capture the femininity of the poem & illustrations in the design, as well as the strength of spirit necessary it takes to become one with the world, dying with grace: “let us die/ gracefully/ into this world”.  I also wanted to convey the sovereignty of nature over our lives, and that it will be here when we are gone, beautiful as ever.  The waxing and waning moon is at once an expression of nature itself interacting (drawing the waves up) within the world, a physical representation of the constant change in the world, as well as a metaphor for the progression of the human life.  It is also meant to strike a chord with the overall tone of femininity. The death explored in this poem is not about the pain that often comes before death, but rather a celebration of the transformation of the body and the spirit in its continuation of being a part of this world, in a different form: “…let us […] not hold on/not even to the/ moon/ tipped as it will/ be tonight/ and beckoning/ wildly in the sea”.

  My binding on Paul Needham’s “Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings” was a fun and somewhat technical binding because it allowed me to make a statement about the history of bookbinding. Often the history of bookbinding is more correctly the history of book decoration and -even more correctly- it is most often the history of gold-tooled bookbindings. The time period covered in those twelve centuries was 400-1600, so there’s not too much time in there for gold tooled bindings, however, they constituted more plates than blind tooled bindings. So with the binding I let the gold do what it normally does—draw attention away from blind tooling in a very stark way.
   I don’t really have any opportunity to address politics in my work. With the kind of work that I do, it just doesn’t come up. And with the political realm being as divisive as it is, I imagine it could put people off. I’ll do my best to make this paragraph as non-controversial as I can. I chose to do a binding on a book written by Bernie Sanders. He’s not a new politician, and none of the policies that he supports and is pushing for are new ideas. This book follows his campaign trail and puts forth the ideals he ran on: income equality, health care for all, higher education as a human right, racial justice, environmental justice, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, getting money out of politics, truth, love, compassion, and solidarity, among many others–and their implementation. All of these are pressing issues in society and need to be addressed in a moral manner, not limiting the rights of people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (the stated goal of the country I live in).
   I chose to do a utilitarian binding on this: no gold, nothing flashy, a simple arts-and-crafts design tooled in blind, with an off-cut piece of leather, done quickly but with elegance. The endpapers are plain, they don’t need to be fancy. “A Future to Believe In” was Bernie’s campaign message, and “The Struggle Continues” is the progressive answer to any election, any vote, or any compromise, win or lose–the struggle continues.

   There are a number of bookbinders, current and past, who I look up to, but none moreso than the Spanish bookbinder Emilio Brugalla. His work ranges from historical to contemporary, always tooled magnificently and the ability to work in any style fairly seamlessly reflects what I attempt to do in my work. He said, “El corazón del libro nunca deja de latir.” I’m not a spiritual person by any stretch of the imagination, but there is something living and beautiful within a book that the right binding can be resonate with that causes an intangible sense of wonder, and truly the heart of the book never stops beating.

Your bindings are excellently tooled, a fact I’ve seen mentioned within the bookbinding community. You also offer finishing services and teach courses on tooling and gold-finishing. Given your focus on the specific aspect of the craft, what would you consider the hardest part in mastering tooling and why? 

  The only claim I make is that I am a competent finisher. Because I am not a master, my speculation is that the hardest part in mastering finishing is achieving a level of mastery with all styles of finishing and sustain that for quite some time. This also includes 1. Having the range of tools and type needed for this, and, more difficult, 2. Having the work coming through your shop to sustain your finishing practice week by week. Since I spend a decent amount of time forwarding, that’s time away from the finishing stove, and teaching, while still finishing, is more instruction than actual finishing.  I hope one day to become a master, but it’ll take a lot more time.

  For those starting out, finishing is not an easily won skill. It is among the most difficult aspects of creating a fine binding. Instruction is one aspect of learning finishing, the other is understanding how each impression needs to feel to be successful — that second part I am either not skilled enough with words to describe, or it is a conversation that needs to happen between the leather and the tool in your hand, incapable of being expressed by words. You will make mistakes. You will “waste” gold, or, more correctly, it will take more gold than you feel comfortable using to develop your hand skills. You will likely ruin a binding or two so that you have to re-do it, even if you have been fastidiously practicing on plaquettes. These are all part of the learning process and should not be interpreted as failures, but as necessary steps to being able to tool a binding well.

Is there a specific philosophy behind the way you run your bookbinding classes? How do you approach tool-finishing as a teaching subject?

   I take a very systematic approach to teaching finishing. Make sure that you align yourself squarely to the edge of your bench. Make sure you tool your lines perpendicular to your bench’s edge, and rotate the book you are tooling on rather than pivoting your body. Heat the tool, cool it, polish it, tool. These are a few of the things that I repeat over and over during the course of my workshops. My intro classes start with straight lines. I’ll demonstrate the process, have the students try their hand at is, and then demonstrate again, have the students practice, and demonstrate again so that the students can see the process again and focus on a new aspect of the process or notice something that they were doing wrong. It’s rigorous and intense.

The workshops that I teach are often five-day workshops, though I’ll teach two-day workshops as well. We use high quality materials, as these give the best results with unpracticed hands, and it’s easier to know what the issues are when the materials are reliable. Within every class there is a range of previous finishing experience, and not everyone learns at the same rate, so I address this by giving each student as much one-on-one time as I can. This allows those with more experience to move forward and be challenged and those with no experience learn enough to go off on their own. As I mention above, finishing is among the most difficult aspects of fine bookbinding and, for me, the more people that are doing it, and doing it well, the better.
I’m in the process of making the first of what I hope will be a number of instructional videos on finishing, since access to that kind of information is somewhat limited. The first will be the core of what my five-day class is, blind tooling and gold tooling with synthetic glaire and gold leaf. If that goes well, I will move on to cover some of the other aspects of finishing that could benefit from instruction: titling, tooling with egg-glaire, tooled-edge onlays, to name a few.

  As artisans we have to deal with misconceptions about our craft on a regular basis. People for example are often used to seeing intricate decorations on bindings, most notably in films and series, which makes it difficult to explain the level of skill and experience required to produce such a result.
  What can you tell us on the subject of misinformation regarding bookbinding? How -if at all- has it affected you so far and what can a craftsman do to tackle it effectively?

  As bookbinders, one of our most important roles is to teach others about bookbinding, whether they be clients, prospective clients, someone you happen to bump into and start a conversation with. In the past, one way to address this was to print out a list of each and every step to let people know what the steps were and how many of them there are (I’m referring to the “The bookbinders case unfolded” broadside that lists all of the steps in bookbinding, dated between 1669 and 1695). I’ve had instances where the desired date of completion was ten days or so, and that answer is always, “It would be especially rare that you would find any hand bookbinder with that short of a promised turn around. Most binders you will find will have projects they are already working on, and a more realistic baseline for turnaround starts around six weeks to three months.” Now, that’s not true across the board, depending on work flow, the speed that a binder works at, or if it’s a job you can slip in between other jobs. It’s always best to over budget time and get a binding to someone earlier than you estimated than to miss a deadline.
  People will always have misconceptions about things they’re ignorant of, just like in every other facet of life. If they simply do not know that a fine binding will take a few months at the earliest, it is good to let them know how long a binding takes, keeping in mind the projects that need to be completed before starting a new one. There’s no positive result from being elitist, condescending, or dismissive, regardless of how much time goes into building up our hand skills. An authentic and genuine conversation, along with showing examples of work, goes a long way.

  Last but not least: can you share a small piece of bookbinding wisdom that you’ve unlocked through personal experience?
  The bit of wisdom I’ll share here is a branch off of something that I heard often as a student: do the kind of work that you want to do. If you take in a bible repair project, then people will know you do that as part of your work. This applies to everything: repair, restoration, conservation, editions, fine bindings, design bindings, and so on. What I have learned is this: If someone doesn’t know that you exist, they cannot commission a binding from you. It’s a simple enough thought, but for me it has been the thing that keeps work coming to my bench. As a previously very shy person, it was a small hurdle to overcome, but it’s part of the process of being a bookbinder. Put in the hours you need to produce salable work and then make sure the people who seek out that work know you and your work.

You can read more interviews with craftspeople here.


Techniton Politeia – Interview with Samuel Feinstein Part 1


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Welcome to another Technition Politeia post, this time with Samuel Feinstein.
You can read part 2 of the interview here.

Due to its size this interview it will be posted in two parts.

Samuel Feinstein is a private practice bookbinder specializing in fine bindings, gold finishing, rounded spine clamshell boxes, and new bindings in period style. He trained at the North Bennet Street School in Boston under Jeff Altepeter and Martha Kearsley, graduating in 2012. He lives and works in Chicago, and his work can be seen at:

According to our guest:
What most appeals to me is the work itself. It keeps my hands and mind focused and draws me in, day after day. It takes me through the history and imaginations of what I work on, and allows me to express myself through my hands. As a binder, my intention is to create bindings that are pleasing to the senses and the mind, and it is the challenge of it that inspired me. As an instructor, I do what I can to further the practice of hand-tooling, especially using gold leaf, which is applied to both historical and contemporary works.

Samuel’s portfolio boasts an impressive array of design and period bindings – diversity is key word. With a style balancing gracefully between modern and classic I doubt anyone will not find a binding from Samuel’s work that speaks to them.

I would like to deeply thank Samuel for taking the time and effort to give me this interview.
  Every artisan has an origin story, some more unique and unexpected than others. Yours is such a story – one I believe many people would also consider quite motivational. Would you kindly share with us a few words about it? Also, why was bookbinding your choice?

  It’s a long story so I’ll try to keep it short. At the time of this writing it has been nearly ten years since I was involved in an accident while riding my bike on the way to class. I was studying Classics (ancient Greek and Latin) and English literature. I was bruised here and there, my right wrist was broken from the impact of the van, and I suffered a brain injury from hitting the pavement. The head injury keeps me in constant pain to this day. “Chronic, intractable, post-traumatic headaches with migrainous features” is the diagnosis I was given. For a little while I attempted to keep up with the work in my classes and some passions on the side, but ultimately the kind of cognition that I was trying to retain ended up just causing more pain.
    I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to be productive, and not being able to do what I was used to led me to a very low point. I had enjoyed visual arts since I was a kid, had done creative writing in my later teens, and was always interested in books as a vessel for information. Books and art were an integral influence on the kind of mind I developed, so I was searching for what I could possibly do with my life and interests. I stumbled across the North Bennet Street School’s website, saw that they had a program in bookbinding, and everything just clicked. I could still work with books, but using my hands instead of my head. Nothing else I came across spoke to me, and bookbinding became the one thing that I could really focus on, often times literally.
  I began teaching myself, and unsurprisingly, the results were rough at best. The first time I applied to the North Bennet Street School I was not accepted, so the next year was spent, in my good hours, making successively improving bindings, and researching the history of bookbinding through the collection at the Newberry Library in Chicago. The following year I was accepted and by then I knew that fine bindings were something that I would focus on in my free time at school.
  One thing the accident gave me which I would not have otherwise gotten was less productive hours in my day, which taught me to focus my time on learning the specialized aspect of bookbinding that most interested me, and I spent as much time as I could in my days learning that, not allowing myself to get distracted. I still have the headaches every second of every day (though you wouldn’t know it if you met me, I’m a rather cheery person), and it’s unlikely they’ll ever go away, but you do the best you can with what you have.

  People, both from Greece (where I live) and abroad, ask me from time to time how to begin bookbinding, if there is a place where they can learn the craft. Being able to attend courses at an established institution offering structured programs and thoroughly equipped workshops, under the guidance of experienced craftsmen, is significant: it allows one to explore and develop his/her skills and build a strong foundation upon which to further progress.
  Although there isn’t a bookbinding academy here anymore, the one that existed has been closed for many years, teaching institutions devoted entirely or partially to bookbinding can be found in many countries around the world. The North Bennet Street School, where you attended a two-year program, is one such institution.
  What can you tell us about NBSS? What are your memories from training at a well known center for handcrafts and what would you consider the most important stepping stone it provided?

   A traditional trade apprenticeship is seven years. The North Bennet program is two years. Granted, the first year or so of an apprenticeship could consist of sweeping up after everyone else, but my point is that you do not have enough time to learn everything that interests you, and you also need to focus on what you believe to be the best path to employment after you graduate, bearing in mind that certain kinds of work will likely be unsalable because you haven’t had the time to achieve continuity of skill. However, unless you are able to secure an apprenticeship, it’s likely that programs like the North Bennet Street School as straightforward as it gets with foundational bookbinding education.
  As far as I know, the US does not have any bookbinding programs like the North Bennet Street School. There are book arts programs that cover many aspect of bookmaking; there are book arts centers, schools, and institutions where workshops bookbinding are offered, as well as private lessons with established binders, but none of these are multiple year programs, bench-oriented, and focused on craft the way North Bennet is. You start off learning paper grain and folding sections, and you end up having made a great number of structures, variations on those structures, many kinds of repair and conservation techniques and treatments, fine bindings, historical structures, and develop a broad range of traditional bookbinding skills which can be applied in whichever way you decide to utilize your hand skills. Graduates from the school have found work in conservation labs as technicians and conservators, in private practice doing repair and conservation work, fine bookbinding, edition work, make artist books, and some teach in addition to doing these. I attended the program from 2010 to 2012. Some of my most nostalgic memories are the moments where the room, noises, and people all drift away and I’m left there with the only things in existence: me, my tool, and the book that I’m tooling. It was a rather often occurrence.
  As a stepping stone, here in the US, the North Bennet Street School has a reputation for training highly skilled bookbinders, and I used that as much as I possibly could, networking within the bookbinding field, getting to know as many people as I could. I spent a fair amount of time in the school’s library poring through exhibition catalogs, articles, and so on so that when I was introduced to someone new, there was a fairly good chance that I had heard of them before. I would go to as many events as possible, doing as much as I could to become familiar with people who might eventually become clients. As well, North Bennet offers a small business class for students in the final year of their program. This was extremely beneficial for me, since I began my private practice after graduating, and it’s very important to have a good idea of the business side of things when you want to make bookbinding your career.

Short courses and seminars is another way to gain new skills or hone existing ones.You’ve attended many seminars offered by distinguished bookbinders and craftspeople. Can you note a few things from those seminars that made a significant contribution to your progress as an artisan? 

For me, most of the short courses or seminars that I have taken that directly correlate with the work that I do now were taken after having some experience doing them, which I either taught myself or learned during my time at NBSS. By the time I took a class with Monique Lallier, I was already familiar with all of the steps of doing a fine binding, so I was able to note how her process was different than others I had seen or done, and I was able to focus on the two things I most needed help with then: headcaps and corners, and wanted to learn edge-to-edge doublures. Even though I only took one class with her, I still think about the way she looks at a binding when she is examining it, and do my less experienced version of it when I am examining my own bindings.
  While at NBSS, we learned knife making and sharpening from Jeff Peachey, who comes by to teach each year. The discipline he teaches in keeping your tools in proper shape is something I implement and will always be grateful for. There’s nothing like a well maintained tool to do just exactly what you need it to, and learning the significance of this helps instill a discipline and practice that carries on into every aspect of bookbinding.

   On to your work – your bindings are frequently a harmonious blend between classic and modern elements. Binders often try such a combination but a balanced result is difficult to attain. Where do you draw inspiration for your designs and how do you proceed with creating them?

With my fine bindings, I draw from within the book. I see a book’s binding as a part of the book as a whole: the author, illustrator, illustrator, printer, paper-maker, time period, place of publication (for older books) and so on have already made an impact on the book, so my goal is to make a binding that is harmonious with the rest; something that emulates some of the ideas, feelings, imagery, etc. of what is in the book. Instead of making an artistic statement with my designs, I prefer to speak through craft. It’s not controversial to say that the history of bookbinding flows through my veins as I design. That history has made its impact on each and every book created, even if the book is a revolt against the history of the book. As such my designs tend to be more representational—I am less interested in making an artistic statement and more interested in creating something that will be aesthetically pleasing.

  With just a few exceptions, I always have the design completely finished before beginning any work. I take my time with each project in the design phase. I’ll read the book, take in the illustrations, jot down some thoughts, scribble out some design ideas, and so on while working on other books. My design phase tends to take a while, but after that is done, the binding work itself is mere execution. I’ll still evaluate the binding at each stage, making sure the physical object works as well as the idea in my head, but it’s rare for me to change course once after I begin. Then I’ll make a clamshell box for it, make sure I’ve got a write up of technical aspects as well as design, and ship it off to the client. I don’t think there is anything unique about my process.

Producing high quality bindings includes numerous stages and a lot of planning ahead. What part of the process would you consider most important and why?

It’s hard to pinpoint one as the most important, since each step for me is woven together. The obvious option is the design. As I said above, the design is complete before I start any work at all. This means I’ve already spent a while with the book, gave ideas time to gestate, and have a good idea of what direction to go with the book.

The budget does play a role in a binding’s design. Working within the construct (not limitations) of the budget for each project, the different ways of interpreting a book, or expressing an idea are explored to create a unique binding that does for you what you want it to and does for the client what they want it to. At this point, I make up boards and plan out everything: leather choice, endpapers, leather hinge or paper pastedown, edge decoration, sewing structure, headbands, secondary board attachment if needed, decorative techniques, what finishing tools will be needed, etc. Once the binding is started I’ll evaluate it at each stage of forwarding, and will carry the binding to completion.

(Note by the interviewer – Please observe the outline in the photo above. Every number indicates a detail that has to be tooled individually with a separate tool. The overall result requires many hundreds of actions that require extreme precision – and all for a very small area of the binding…)

End of Part 1, stay tuned for part 2.

You can read more interviews with craftspeople here.




Bindings for You – Orwell’s 1984


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Another Binding for You: Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984

(Note – the middle lines of the eye appear misaligned due to the spine’s curvature and the angle at which the picture was taken. See side photo for reference)

Dimitri's Bookbinding Corner - Orwell 1984 dThe idea for this binding came from a leftover piece of marbled paper laying on the bindery shelves. It felt just right for 1984 due to its color palette and rippled pattern but there was only enough for the 2 endpapers and a bit to spare. The off-cut was arranged in such a way that I could only afford several thin strips beyond the endpapers and that’s when the design popped to mind: vertical lines (hinting at prison bars) along with the Big Brother’s eye. Forming it with their ends, prompting it but simultaneously emanating from it. A -rather simple- visual take on how control, power and oppression are intertwined.

  This was also an attempt at producing a design binding using a rather classic decorative element, such as marbled paper, in a way that is experimental. Although marbled paper is always appreciated within the bookbinding community we rarely get to see it beyond the traditional confines of endpapers and quarter covers. My use of it is not exactly “daring”, it stems however from a desire to explore new ways of incorporating it in my work and see others try such an approach as well.
  The marbled diamond pattern was another earlier attempt towards the same creative diretion.

Last but not least, I used my “round title” style for the second time after 5 years to form the iris. Been waiting a looong time for the right binding!

  I have a fondness for irregular titles, they can be an important part of any design and add so much character. However there’s also another reason I’m very keen on tooling them this way: I simply suck at tooling straight, orderly titles! It’s not that I can’t do it, hopefully many of my bindings provide proof to the contrary, it’s that I find it quite stressing and difficult.
  Of course irregular titles aren’t the perfect answer either: even careful measuring, placing the tracing paper as if handling Nasa equipment and tooling whilst holding my breath won’t stop a pesky letter or two coming off with a slight tilt. So vexing!

This binding is available for 250 euros.
You can acquire it by: sending me an email at, leaving a comment here or – if you prefer- through my Etsy shop.

You can browse other available bindings by visiting Bindings for You subpage!

I used my Bookbinding Stylus set and Versatile Typeholder to make this binding.

Wishing you all a great August!

Inspiring Bindings


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Welcome to a series of posts devoted to bindings I consider inspiring, on the basis of technical excellence, originality of design and overall style.

Please keep in mind that the selection of binders represents only personal taste, it is in no way a criticism towards other bookbinders. Furthermore the order by which they are presented is random. Last but not least, the bindings included in the post aren’t necessarily my personal favorites from those binders but simply works I consider representative of their creators.

Hope that you’ll enjoy these wonderful bindings as much as I do and feel encouraged to learn more about the selected artisans.
Feel free to share your thoughts and favorites as well!

Mirbeau by Anne Giordan
Anne graduated from Ecole Superieure des Arts Decoratifs and is a member of APPAR (Association pour la promotion de l’Art de la Reliure) and ARA France.
  She has taken part in numerous exhibitions, both group and solo. Her bindery is located in Strasbourg.
  Her bindings are marvelous but -my, OH my- have you seen her atelier as well?

Paradise lost by Kate Holland
Kate is a multi-award winning bookbinder, specialising in contemporary fine bindings to commission or for exhibition.

La Creation by Luigi Castiglioni
A master binder with a very distinct personal style.

The Thread by Monique Lallier
Monique is an internationally recognised book binder and book artist. Her work can be found in many public and private collections.

The Silk Road by Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown has studied under Paul C Delrue and his work has been exhibited in various museums and other public venues. He has won many awards in the Annual National Bookbinding Competition (UK) and his work can be found in private collections in the UK and USA.

Alice in Wonderland by Michael Wilcox
Calling M. Wilcox a master binder would be an understatement.
Wilcox, however, does not regard himself as an artist but rather as a bookbinder and a craftsman” (found here)
  I couldn’t agree more – I always say that bookbinding is first and foremost a craft: a fine binding can be very simple and devoid of any decoration, yet its making may require exceptional skills.
  Our task is to preserve the context of the book. Making it pleasing to the eye and touch comes second, although Wilcox excels in both.

The Dreamtime by Jana Pullman
Jana Pullman is a renown binder who is also widely known as a bookbinding instructor. She teaches at the Minessota Center for Book Arts and at various other venues and often travels to give seminars.

La Mort De Venise by Paul Bonet
Little needs to be said about Paul Bonet, one of the most celebrated artisans this craft has ever known. Bonet’s designs defined bookbinding, mostly through the ingenious use of curves and lines to create optical illusions, the sense of a 3rd dimension on the cover.
The man was a wizard – seriously, look him up.

Omar Khayyam’s “Rubaiyat” by Sangorski and Sutcliffe
These two, founders of the famous Shepherds bindery, together created some of the most spectacular bindings ever made. Apart from extensive and immaculate gold tooling, many of their bindings featured a plethora of precious and semi-precious jewels.

Revenge by Midori Kuikata – Cockram
Midori opened Jade bookbinding studio in 1997. Her work is characterised by a distinct style centered around elegant designs.
  She has given workshops, lectures and exhibitions in the UK, USA, Europe and and Japan. She is a Fellow of Designers Bookbinders (UK), a member of the Society of Bookbindinders (UK) and Tokyo Bookbinding Club (Japan).

The Siege of Krishnapur by Derek Hood
Derek Hood has a reputation of as one of Britain’s leading design-based fine bookbinders. He has exhibited in numerous public venues and his books are held in public and private collections throughout the world.

The Revelation of John the divine by Samuel Feinstein
Samuel graduated from North Bennet Street School after a two year program and has been to date a member of the Guild of Bookworkers, the Society of Gilders and the Caxton Club.
  His work features traditional and modern bindings, both showcasing great skill and attention to detail. He often travels to give seminars.

Letter adorned bindings – Βιβλιοδεσίες με γράμματα


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The alphabet is one of humanity’s greatest inventions – the idea that a sequence of squiggles can convey a thought in a way easily and instantly apprehensible by everyone. Form those squiggles on the sand and they will last more than the brief sound of our voices. Carve them onto stone and they will outlast entire civilizations.

Detail from Island of the Fay – a binding by Juan A Fernandez Argenta

This marvel of ingenuity can be found, in one form or another, within most civilizations. A great variety of alphabets has been used from ancient times until today, their function and form a synopsis of the culture that created them. Immensely useful, infinitely versatile and long lasting, it is perhaps the ultimate tool of the human race. So, it’s no wonder that at some point its users so past its practical values and realized there is a beauty to be found here.
  I’m referring to Calligraphy, which views letters as an art medium. And then there are alphabets, the Arabic and Chinese to name two of the most widespread, the very nature of which gives emphasis on the visual aspect of the written word. In such cases writing is more similar to drawing and it has often been considered a form of meditation.

Geoffroy Tory et Gilles de Gourmont, Paris, 1529 – Bound by Paul Bonet in 1956

With all these in mind I consider the use of an alphabet decoratively, either as an element or the very basis of the decoration, a great choice – if applied skillfully. You really can’t go wrong with something that carries so much meaning and offers endless possibilities artisticaly.
  Alphabets incorporated in a design always captivated me and combining them with the art & craft of bookbinding can be ideal: letters are -usually- the heart of a book, its quintessence found inside it. Bringing them out on the cover in a way that recognizes and displays their beauty seems like an interesting full circle.

Here are a few examples of this combination.

The Four Gospels – bound by Deborah Evetts.
Utilizing only letters this binding achieves its narrative purpose to the fullest through their stark contrast in color and size.

Robust, austere and awe-inspiring, all in perfect accord with the book’s content.

Bound by Paul Bonet.

Little needs to be said about Paul Bonet, one of the most celebrated artisans this craft has known. Bonet’s designs defined bookbinding, mostly through the ingenious use of curves and lines to create optical illusions, the sense of a 3rd dimension on the cover.
  The bindings featured here may not be examples of his trademark style but a testament nevertheless to great skill and the ability to create striking designs using letters as the decoration’s main element.

The Somme – bound by Pamela Richmond
The letters, small, numerous and insignificant -as are the dead viewed through the war’s impersonal prism- parade across the cover. Few by few however they compose names, and names are anything but insignificant – they speak of a person, his world and his story…
  I believe Pamela Richmond has thus managed through her design to paint an excellent depiction of the brutality of WWI and at the same time honor the individuals who died by the thousands – and yet are far more than “a mere statistic”, as Stalin once said.
(A big thank you to the people who helped me identify the binder behind this wonderful binding! It has been one of my personal favorites since I got into this craft)

Shakespeare – bound by Juan A. Fernandez Argenta

To my great joy, Argenta’s designs focus largely on the decorative use of letters. Structurally inventive and endlessly creative, this bookbinder from Spain seems to me like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, only instead of children he lures letters: they dance playfully on his covers or arrange themselves in robust lines and structures, adopting colors and shapes in a way that looks effortless and natural – as if they were always so.
You can see more of his work here.

Lastly I would like to humbly (after the work of such skilled and renowned binders) add one of my bindings to this list: Cicero’s Orations.
  The great orator from Rome molded and transformed the latin language, which had profound effects on the Roman civilization and, in some ways, the entire human culture. What you see on the cover is not simply text but the human thought caught during a turning point in its history.
  The absence of pause between words, punctuation marks and the use of capitals resemble how latin were written or inscribed on a surface. The text’s irregular shape hints at an inscription carved on stone.
  You can read more about the binding’s creation here.

Bindings for You – Cloth bindings


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It’s been a while but Bindings for You are back, this time in cloth!
Three classic works of literature available for you to acquire.

Key features:
– Covered in bookbinding cloth

– Handmarbled paper
– Handmade cloth endbands
– Handtooled titles on leather labels
– Line tooling in foil on both covers and spine.

Title tooled on irregular pieces of leather, hinting at the frozen landscape included in the story but also at the fragmented nature of Frankenstein’s creation.

The books are Everyman’s Library editions of:
– Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (available)
– Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (available)
– Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (available)

Cost – 100 euros for each volume (excluding shipping)

If you’d like to own of them you can:
1) Order through email –
2) Visit my Etsy shop The Bookbinder’s Bench

Upcoming: leatherbound copy of Orwell’s 1984

You can browse other available bindings by visiting Bindings for You subpage!

Καλοκαιρινό σεμινάριο χειροποίητης βιβλιοδεσίας


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Κατόπιν συνεννοήσεων με ενδιαφερομένους τον Ιούλιο-Αύγουστο θα επαναληφθεί το σεμινάριο ραφτής βιβλιοδεσίας!
Αιτήσεις συμμετοχής έως 2 Ιουλίου.
Συνεχίστε να διαβάζετε παρακάτω για λεπτομέρειες:

Το σεμινάριο αυτό αποτελεί εισαγωγή στην τέχνη της βιβλιοδεσίας με την τεχνική του καλύμματος (case binding – ραφτή πανόδετη βιβλιοδεσία). Με την ολοκλήρωση των μαθημάτων θα έχετε στα χέρια σας ένα δεμένο βιβλίο και τις γνώσεις για να δένετε βιβλία με απλά υλικά και εργαλεία.

Κόστος σεμιναρίου: 200 ευρώ (παρέχονται όλα τα υλικά και εργαλεία).
Για όσους έρθουν με κάποιον γνωστό/φίλο τους το κόστος γίνεται 150 ευρώ για τον καθένα.

Έναρξη μαθημάτων: 2ο ΣΚ (9) Ιουλίου
Αριθμός μαθημάτων: 6-7
Διάρκεια μαθήματος: 3 ώρες
Μέρες και ώρες: Απογεύματα καθημερινών ή πρωί/απόγευμα Σαββάτου. Ακριβείς μέρες και ώρες θα οριστούν κατόπιν συνεννόησης με τους ενδιαφερομένους.

Εάν θέλετε να συμμετάσχετε αφήστε ένα σχόλιο εδώ
ή στείλετε μου ένα mail στο
ή καλέστε με στο 6936474123 (απογευματινές ώρες)

Συνοπτικά τα στάδια που θα δουμε:
1) Ξύλωμα του βιβλίου και ενίσχυση των τυπογραφικών
2) Πριόνισμα των τυπογραφικών για το ράψιμο
3) Ράψιμο του βιβλίου σε τεζάκι
4) Ψαροκόλλημα ράχης
5) Στρογγύλεμα ράχης
6) Πέρασμα εσωφύλλων
7) Κατασκευή κεφαλαριού από ύφασμα ή δέρμα
8) Ενίσχυση ράχης
9) Κατασκευή καλύμματος
10) Ντύσιμο καλύμματος με ύφασμα και διακοσμητικό χαρτί
11) Πέρασμα καλύμματος και ολοκλήρωση της βιβλιοδεσίας

Cloth Bindings


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  In the past 6 months, due to a combination of commissions and the seminars I’ve been giving, I have made more cloth bindings than I’ve made in 9 years of bookbinding.

 To be honest I wasn’t really fond of them until recently. I always felt cloth very restricting as a covering medium: it stains easily, is far less susceptible to decorative techniques compared to leather, less pleasant to work with and of course inferior in durability.
 However, working with it more often I’ve also come to appreciate its virtues: big variety of colors readily available, doesn’t require preparation, easy to work with, disposable (in case things get messy) and very cost effective.

Here are some examples of work from recent cloth bindings.

Nausicaa by Hayao Miyazaki
 The film version use to be on the TV here often, I remember watching it as a kid. Masterfully illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki (widely acclaimed director and animator) for over a decade, Nausicaa is an interesting story with rich and diverse lore.

  The person who commissioned it wanted a classic cloth binding in a color that would represent the earth’s polluted landscape in the story. I combined it with an amazing marbled paper from Jemma Lewis. It was supposed to be a much simpler quarter binding but I wanted to try out this style instead, which was more complicated than I had imagined, and then matching endpapers are a must, but then I also figured it needs some (which turned out to be a lot) gold tooling/framing to really show, and by the time I had finished the binding I realized it took 3 times more work than initially planned. Fellow colleagues, do you feel me?!?

The Holy bible
L.K. brought this bible which was owned by his uncle. It is of sentimental value to the family and -as is often the case with bibles- it was falling apart. The late owner had made a few efforts to keep the book in one piece, most notably sewing the spine (notice the sewing holes) and the front cover in a coil fashion.

  The original plan was for a new simple cloth binding, however I thought it would be interesting to preserve the original covers and spine which, through the repair efforts and the hand-drawn cross, tell the book’s story, that it was used and loved a lot. Plus the cliche stamp on the old covers looks lovely.

 What is interesting with this particular cloth binding is the recessed covers in which the original ones are inlayed as panels. It was the first time I tried this and I’m pleased with how it turned out. I made sure to remove the original cloth covers with a substantial layer of old bookboard still attached to them or else they could tear easily or be permeated by the glue and soil or loose shape.
 The exact opposite was required for the original spine cloth though: it had to lay completely flat on the new spine and follow its flex, keeping the coverboard layer would make it protrude (and thus prone to detachment) and less flexible.

Notice the french groove? Quite neat if I may say so!

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
What do you do when you simply can’t find a way to split a title/word in a grammatically correct way?
Answer: what word? what order?

  Problem with thin spines is that you have to either tool with very small type size or tool vertically. The first one leads to an impractical result – a book’s author or title need to be distinguishable on the shelf. The second can easily lead to misaligned letters, plus it’s not always possible, especially with long titles or author names.

  There was another thing as well: I could not split “Labyrinths” in any grammatically correct way because of the 4 consonants at the end (seriously, what’s wrong with you english language?!?). So I decided to have some fun by going around the problem and at the same time elevate the title into a small design element, hinting at the title’s meaning by altering the correct order of letters and adding a small gold trail line!

I’m really fond of using letters and a book’s title  as part of the decoration (here are some examples from my work). Will do a post featuring some great works by various binders on this decorative approach in the future.

Brass Band Nippers II


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Band nippers are used to adjust the leather tightly around the spine bands when covering the binding. An essential tool for every bookbinder.

Introducing Brass Band nippers II
The Brass Band Nippers offered by Dimitri’s Bookbinding corner have found home in binderies located in over a dozen different countries around the world and have received much praise for their design and functionality by professional binders and bookbinding enthusiasts alike.

Not stopping there and in my effort to provide the bookbinding community with useful and long lasting tools I have redesigned the brass band nippers and their manufacturing methods using feedback, personal experience and the aspects that made them popular to offer you an improved version.

Precision made

The tool remains entirely handmade. However, introducing precision machinery in various stages of the tool’s making has resulted in more even and smooth surfaces and  -most importantly- better function.

More robust
The tool now has an additional 20% of mass compared to its predecessor making it even more resistant to wear and continuous use. Made to last, it will accompany you for a life-time.

Bigger and wider jaws
The jaws have been enlarged and also feature a wider span to make sure that you can have good results with bands of various thicknesses.


Each Brass Band Nipper is made entirely by hand and finished to produce smooth jaw edges suitable for fine bookbinding work.

Solid Brass
As with the previous version the tool is made from solid brass, a timeless metal used in many bookbinding tools. Brass doesn’t rust and won’t stain your book spine.

Practical design
A simple and efficient spring at the top facilitates use by spring-back action.

PRICE – 120 euros

1) Sending me an email at
2) Or visit my -> Etsy shop. (note: etsy fee added to the cost)

NOTE – 50% discount for orders made by bookbinding guilds, academies or institutions. The discount applies for one tool ordered for use by the guild, academy (etc) itself. Please contact me directly if you are interested.

Techniton Politeia – Interview with Jana Pullman


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jana-pullman-venus-adonisAlthough Book Arts are a constantly growing world, receiving more and more interest – especially in recent years, they remain for the most part unknown to the general public. One of the blog’s goals since its beginning has been to bring people closer to the art and craft of bookbinding and other associated crafts. To make them understood and appreciated.
Some time ago I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Emma Taylor From Within a book. Since then I have been entertaining the idea of more interviews with bookbinders and people from the book arts world in general.
Following the philosophy described above, Dimitri’s Bookbinding Corner will present you with a series of such interviews, which will be less technical in nature and more of an invitation to step into the binderies and workspaces of various artisans and illustrate different kinds of craftsmanship.

Today we have a special guest who was kind enough to talk with me about her experiences and perspective on certain matters as a bookbinder: Jana Pullman.

Jana began working with books in 1983 while pursuing her BFA and MFA degrees in art. She is the owner of Western Slope Bindery at Minneapolis, specializing in custom bindings and repair of books. She focuses her artistic energies on fine binding and participates in book exhibitions. During many years of working in book arts she has been a printer, papermaker, bookbinder, illustrator, conservator and instructor.
She teaches at the famous Minessota Center for Book Arts and various other venues and travels often to give seminars.

Her inventiveness and  long experience in the craft are evident in her work which she showcases at her blog About the binding through numerous pictures and well detailed presentations of the creative process.

jana-pullman-open-horizon_2In her own words:
My primary artistic work in the Book Arts is in the area of design bindings. I create unique bindings for specific books using materials such as leather, wood, handmade paper and gold tooling. I work with the books to find a design that complements the style of the text and illustrations as well as the intent of the authors.

There is a high expectation of craftsmanship in design binding and this pushes me to improve my techniques and explore new approaches. I am always intrigued by the opportunity to use new materials as well as utilizing historical elements and techniques. Throughout the book’s long history individuals have found many answers on how to work with books and I enjoy exploring that history.

I believe that does it for an introduction – now on to our interview!

– Hello Jana and thank you very much for this bookbinding talk.
You teach bookbinding at the distinguished Minessota Center for Book Arts (MCBA). You are also very active in giving seminars and courses at various locations in the US. Last but not least you own a bookbinding blog the posts of which are full of step by step pictures, thorough descriptions of the process involved and lots of bench tips&tricks.
Sharing the craft is obviously a big part of your life as an artisan. What are the reasons behind such a stance?

jana-pullman-pasting-down-onlaysWhen I started to learn about bookbinding I had several wonderful instructors. Soon I thought I too should pass on these methods and understanding of the craft to others. After teaching my first class I found that I enjoyed interacting with my students and telling them about the techniques of bookbinding and my love of books. Over the many years that I have taught book arts classes I have also gotten good relationships with a lot of students.

janas-class-2– Teaching bookbinding, as with any handcraft, is challenging on many levels – can you give us an insight from the instructor’s perspective?

Preparing for classes is challenging but it also gives me reasons to explore new techniques and find ways to present different methods to a class. Over the many years I have taught, I have learned more and have strengthened my own ability to do the work.

jana-pullman-book-ready-for-gold-tooling– Your work is really diverse, from traditional (historical style) fine bindings tooled in gold to a variety of unique design bindings. What was the most challenging binding project you ever tackled and why would you describe it as such?

jana-pullman-gilt-and-gauffered-edge-3A few years ago I was asked to rebind a book of William Shakespeare’s plays in the style of a binding done during Shakespeare’s lifetime. I had to learn more about techniques and styles in the late 1500s. I enjoyed gold tooling prior to that, but this project made me find new ways to improve my work. When I wanted to try a new method of tooling I began by creating another book for myself to see if I had come up with the right technique. So I took a lot more time to practice and then finish the Shakespeare book than I need to do with most of my other bindings, but I was very happy with the work when it was done. This is described in one of my blog posts.

– You are proficient in the use of various techniques, either regarding the structural properties of a binding or its decoration. Which technique would you say is the most enjoyable to you? Can you describe it and mention what makes it special?

jana-pullman-paper-reliefFor a structural challenge I really like the Bradel bookbinding. This style of binding can be traced back to the 18th century in Germany. The origin of the binding is uncertain, but the name comes from a French binder working in Germany, Alexis Pierre Bradel. It gives the book a strong connection between the pages and the cover. For a design element, the spine can be wrapped in one material and the covers wrapped in another.
Another way to finish the cover is the method known as the “milimeter binding”. What distinguishes the technique is that cloth, leather of vellum trim is added at the head, tail, fore-edges and corners of the case for greater durability while making the book look more elegant. The rest can be covered in a decorative paper.
I have three posts about Bradel bookbinding.

jana-pullman-bradel-binding–  You have been in the craft for a long time. What stands out more for you during your journey as an artisan?

I can always learn more about books and improve my ability to make them. I also encourage anyone to look at the history of books because you can find ideas and techniques that can give you inspiration for your own projects. When I see a picture of an old book, I make a drawing of it and then make a few more drawings with variations to give me more ideas for new bindings.

jana-pullman-omar-khayyam– On a different note…
Despite those who are convinced the book as an object will become obsolete in the near future, it appears there is a slow but steady shift of mentality back to traditional crafts. In an age of run-of-the-mill products people are starting to appreciate once more the quality and uniqueness of a handcrafted item. Bookbinding is also part of this. What’s your view on the matter?

A handmade item has a unique appearance and you can see the artist’s work, which gives it more details and design elements that are not found in industrialized items. When I show my books to people they are always fascinated that it was handmade. I also think they wonder if it is something they could do as well.

jana-pullman-the-dreamtime– Last question:
Although this re-appreciation of bookbinding has helped in the strengthening of bookbinding communities and public awareness regarding our craft this seems to more evident in well-faring countries. Bookbinding is in decline in Greece (where I live) and from what I hear in many other countries of similar conditions as well. Here almost none is taking up the craft…
With these two different sides of the bookbinding world in mind what would your advice be to an aspiring binder today?

Because bookbinding has a rich heritage around the world you should always look to see what is being done both locally and internationally. The work of other artists can give you new ideas and challenges to move you forward with your work. You can learn a lot from other binders and then pass it on to more people which helps build a bookbinding community that you are part of.

Hope you enjoyed our talk with Jana Pullman! If you haven’t already do spend some time to visit her blog About the Binding and website Western Slope Bindery and get acquainted with her wonderful work!

You can read more interviews at Techniton Politeia.