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.