Wherein books are judged by their cover

book

Yes, Kindles are wonderful, a computer full of PDFs are awesome, and [Tim Berners-Lee] will probably go down in history as more important than [Gutenberg]. That doesn’t mean there’s not something intangible about books that brings out the affections of so many bibliophiles. Even a book filled with blank pages can be a work of art unto itself, and most of the time these volumes are handmade.

 This video of a hardbound volume made by Smith Settle bookbinders covers the entire process from words on a page to a finished book. No, they’re not using movable type; the folios are created using lithography, but sorting, gluing, sewing and binding the folios is done in much the same way as it was done in the middle ages.

Next up is a wonderful film from 1968 by Iowa state university on creating the gold tooling on fine leather-bound volumes. You’ll be hard pressed to find a book with gold tooling nowadays, but it’s still a technique accessible to the industrious amateur bookbinder.

First, gold leaf is applied to the leather spine of a book. Then, custom-made tools are heated to a few hundred degrees  and pressed into the leaf. The heat bonds the gold with the leather, and with custom-designed tools designs are burnt into the leather. After that, the excess leaf is simply wiped off, and a fine tooled leather book is born.

What’s really cool about bookbinding is the fact that just about anyone can do it. Go to a craft store, pick up some hardboard and paper, and bind yourself a book. You could make a blank journal, or for the nerds out there (myself included), make a hard bound volume of the NASA wiring standards.

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