Making a Book

Sorry, didn’t mean to get y’all excited. I’m not writing one — I’m making one. A hobby of mine is to bind books — usually just quick hand sewn ones, made of scrap paper with a nice (soft) cover. I use them for temporary journals or lists.

This project has been brewing for more than 2 years, it was supposed to be finished in May of 2010, but I was a bit distracted back then so it fell low on the to do list. (You know, after things like get out of bed.)

It’s a bit of a surprise  for a few weeks, so I’m going to be quiet about the details, but it started two years ago with the acquisition of a PDF document that was a scan of another document, 19 years old. The original document was typed (courier) with photocopied pages as appendices.

So my first task was to convert this pdf into a more readable format. Courier became times roman, Chapters acquired had pretty-looking titles, and the first letter of each chapter’s first word became an image. Sort of like medieval illumination. Most importantly, I added 20 color images relating to the topic in to the center of the new book.

Having done the prettifying, I move on to formatting. This is the stage where I decide how big I wanted the final book to be, how tall and wide, that is. Then I calculated signatures and made adjustments.

Printing was exciting, as it is not easy to create signatures when you have actual text on the page. (A signature is 4-8 pages, folded in the center to make 8-16 book pages.) I would be sewing each signature, and then sewing them together, for strength in the binding. J. was a huge help in creating the signatures and getting them printed.

A few days ago I was ready to start creating the book. I cut the covers and spine and a spacer bar), and all of the papers (spine,  endpapers, hinge, and two colors for the cover). I made glue. I got linen tape.

The sewing went pretty well. Its a bit complicated, but once you do three signatures it starts to come together. Then I glued the spine edge and waited a day for that to dry. Next step was to put on the spine paper and then the hinge piece. More drying time passed.

Making the book case was tricky. Lots of measuring and cutting, and this is where my major imperfection came in. It turns out that I should have cut my spine *after* I glued the signatures together. My book was about 1/8″ smaller than the spine piece. I decided to soldier on and see what happens.

The case looked beautiful, and I fuddled a bit with the proportions and glue and although the spine *is* too big, it doesn’t look obvious. The endpapers are a gorgeous Florentine pattern, the exterior colors are a light blue on the spine and navy blue on the covers. (I’ll post pics once its no longer a surprise.)

Here’s the dilemma: do I REDO it (much faster this time, because I’ve been through all the steps and worked out the problems) and attempt a more perfect product? Or do I rest on my laurels and let this gift go?

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