The Thread That Binds Binding

Final Cover Binding
The Thread That Binds: Interviews with Private Practice Binders bookbinding by Esther Kibby.

Pamela Leutz, a fine binder, wrote the book The Thread That Binds: Interviews with Private Practice Binders. It is a book that interviews well-known craftsmen who have made bookbinding a vocation. In 2010, the Lone Star Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers planned an exhibition around the individual design binding of this book. Oak Knoll Press printed a limited number of unbound book sets as well as their bound edition. Fifty-one bookbinders bought the unbound sets and crafted their own binding designs to express both binding knowledge and creativity.

The exhibition began at SMU’s Degolyer Library in Dallas, Tx. from June 3, 2011 – August 12, 2011. It moves to the Museum of Printing History in Houston Tx. to be on exhibit from September 29, 2011 – January 14, 2012.

I elected to keep the binding simple and explore techniques I have not tried before, such as an exposed spine hybrid with leather endcaps and an Islamic headband. I started by covering tyvek sheets with variegated metal leaf and sealing them with a spray lacquer. Tyvek sheets are very strong while being thin. The sheets were cut to use as guards folded over each signature. The guards display a beautiful variation on the spine of the text block.  The text block is sewn with linen thread on twisted flax cord. A link stitch is used at each end of the spine to create a stable spine.

On Cord Binding of The Thread That Binds Signatures
Displaying guards and on-cord binding of The Thread That Binds signatures.

The ends are consolidated with thin but strong mulberry paper. This prevents the book structure from being flimsy without adding bulk. This gives the leather endcaps a smooth appearance.

Consolidated Ends of Spine
The ends of the spine consolidated with mulberry tissue.

The top, bottom, and fore-edges of the binding are sanded smooth. The sanding of the edges provides a ground for a sprinkle technique of brown, gold, and turquoise acrylic paint. This is done before any endbands are constructed. In this next photo, you can see the guards sewn to the text signatures at the spine. The front and back guards are trimmed later to accommodate the endsheets.

Sprinkled Edges of Binding
Sprinkled edges of binding and variegated metal leaf guards

The Islamic headband is a beautiful hand-sewn band. Headbands are both decorative and functional. From the functional side, they protect and support the head and tail portions of the spine from the constant use of people pulling the book from the shelf. This endband is flatter than the more traditional European endbands. Neutral linen thread is sewn over the top of a flat core strip of leather. In this case, I used alum-tawed leather as my flat core. The linen thread is sewn through each signature. This creates a “warp” as a base to interweave the rust and peach silks on top of the leather core.

Islamic Headband Sewn Over Flat Leather Core
Islamic endband constructed over a flat leather core

The binding covers are covered with paper lined Chinese silk noil with rust colored leather edges. The turn-ins are mitered to prevent corners from becoming bulky. Thickened corners cause the book to gap open and are unsightly. The covers should appear slightly tapered at the fore-edges and ends. The spine is shaped to fit the curvature of the text block. This binding has a slight natural rounding at the spine.

Outside and Inside Covers with Mitered Turn-ins on Silk and Leather
Outside and inside covers with mitered turn-ins of silk and leather

The leather is applied first on the fore-edges, followed by silk covering. The leather edging is pared very thin to prevent a hard drop off when the silk covering is laid over it. The face of the covers is built up with chipboard that is cut in a quarter circle at the spine edges to accommodate the added leather endcaps.

Fore-edge and Spine Corner Build Up
Leather fore-edge corner treatment and spine corner depression for endcaps

Holes are punched, to allow for the double flax cords to be laced through to the inside of the covers along the spine. The cord ends are frayed to thin the bulk of the lacings and trimmed to fit into triangular cut-away grooves. This will prevent the cord fibers from creating thick bumps when covered with the marbled endsheets.

Cover Details Showing Punched Holes for Cord Lacings
Cover details showing punched holes for flax cord lacings

The endcaps are worked over the spine ends on both the head and tail. Secondary silk stitching, matching the endbands, are applied over the flax cords.

Leather Endcaps and Cord Decorative Stitching
Leather endcaps and cord decorative stitching.

The first set of endsheets displays watercolor drawings of the frayed flax cords on translucent mulberry paper. The title page of the book is seen through the paper.

First Set of Endsheets with Watercolor
First set of endsheets with watercolors.

The second set of endsheets marbled by Catherine Levine, are the basis for my color scheme for the binding.

Second Set of Endsheets Adhered to the Guards
Second set of endsheets adhered to the guards

Variegated metal leaf strips line the join between the leather fore-edge and silk noil fabric. The binding is finally finished.

Final Cover Binding
Final cover binding

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