Bookbinding is an art that has two sides closely connected but very distinct at the same time. The one says that you can’t learn bookbinding if you don’t spend a good amount of time in a bindery under the watchful eye of a skilled professional. The other, which I’ve come to realise on my own, says that you have to study study study, search and experiment, because guidance is limited and it can’t teach you everything. So a great deal of knowledge on the art and its practice comes from personal inquiry, trial and error.
Internet is a blessing. I cannot stress enough the importance it played for me in bookbinding. And to think that bookbinding isn’t even large on the net! Yet,important and helpful as it may be this is afterall an art about books! And if you desire to have information on bookbinding that a power storage wont make inaccessible, you’ll be able to hold in your hands, take them with you wherever you go and keep you good company from a cozy shelf then books is what you should seek! Furthermore, most of the books concerning the art cant be found available for reading online.
There are numerous books for bookbinding,either describing techniques, displaying various examples of bindings and different styles,the history of the craft ,the personal life and works of specific binders etc. One should seek access to as many as possible or even obtain them slowly over time. On this occasion I will recommend just 3 of them that I’ve found helpful and inspiring,and I’ll return later on to suggest some more.
This book is considered by many the holy bible of bookbinding. Written by one of the most distinguished binders,who was also the instructor of the famous Sangorski and Sutcliffe, it contains invaluable information and details on many important aspects of the craft, from choosing the appropriate leather ,to binding techniques, conservation/preservation, instructions in decoration etc. The book intends to help and guide bookbinders,librarians and conservators alike. The content is quite advanced and is targeted at the experienced or at least well familiarised with the subject. Only small downside is the lack of many pictures since only few ones are included and they mostly depict tools and decorations rather than “how to” instructional sketches. All in all a must have for any binder.
If Cockerell’s book could be considered as the old testament of bookbinding this one would undoubtedly be the new. Very detailed, very thorough, very instructional, rich in pictures and covers a vast number of binding issues. From simple and basic like how to paste down the endpapers or make your corners right to more complicated and specialized matters like sizing paper or headbands. It also contains interesting historical information on the craft and an extended bibliography at the end. In comparison to Cockerell’s this one is more approachable by less experienced readers though it is still written with the advanced binder/book artist in mind. Buy it along with the book above and place them on your higher shelf at your workshop!
The craft of bookbinding by Manly Banister
Last but not least for today is this handy manual for bookbinding. Well illustrated throughout, its pages are filled with advices and suggestions for solving practical bookbinding matters. It also has many nifty “tricks” like instructions to make simple tools or devices that,in lack of the appropriate equipment, will get and keep you going! Although the goal of the book isn’t exactly about high end fine bookbinding in the strictly “academic” way that is not to say it isn’t extremely helpful in many ways. Out of the three this one is the most passable for the average reader and I recommend it if you are moderately equipped and in the dawn of your binding adventures!
Next time I’ll return with some more suggestions, mostly for those of you just starting to immerse in the wonderful world of bookbinding!