The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding textbook

Fine Art Binding Instruction Sources


Based on a reader’s request, I am sharing favorite bookbinding sources to those who are beginning bookbinders interested in learning about the craft. Some of the instruction sources are books published years ago and some are from modern bookbinders.

The Complete Book of Bookbinding by Josep Cambras

This book was given to me by another bookbinding friend who found a number of them on sale at Half Price Books. Mr. Cambras is a well known Spanish bookbinder from Barcelona, Spain. In this book he explains classical bookbinding techniques and provides inspiring examples. The book starts with a good definition of the book structure, equipment, materials and tools that are helpful in construction stages of bookbinding. There are a lot of color pictures to show how the tools and processes work.

The Complete Book of Bookbinding textbook
The Complete Book of Bookbinding textbook
The Art of the Fold by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warhol

Hedi Kyle has been experimenting and creating playful book structures from beautiful paper for some time. She is a trained book conservator who has taught a generation of conservators and book artists. This book has useful diagrams and instructions that aid the book artist in creating creative artist books. Among my favorites are her one-sheet books constructed from a single sheet of paper. And photos show what the completed fold book structure looks like when done. You can find out more at http://www.artofthefold.com.

The Art of the Fold textbook
The Art of the Fold textbook
Bookbinding for Book Artists by Keith A. Smith and Fred A. Jordan

What happens when a book artist and bookbinder team up? You get a detailed, well written book that talks about how to bind traditional adhesive bound books. This book has a good section about inexpensive tool substitutes for the more expensive traditional tools used in leather bookbinding. It is printed in black and white with detailed illustrations of stitched book structures. They do a good job in explaining the type of adhesive to use and how to prepare leather for binding a leather book. It is a great book for beginning bookbinders.

Bookbinding for Book Artists textbook
Bookbinding for Book Artists textbook
Fine Bookbinding, a Technical Guide by Jen Lindsay

This is one of my favorite books on bookbinding. Jen Lindsay is an accomplished British bookbinder and teacher. This book is a valuable reference that steps the reader through the process of creating a fine leather binding. The instructional information is very detailed and precise in the sequence of binding operations. I do wish the photographs were in color to help with visual understanding. But, Ms. Lindsay puts a great deal of effort in writing clearly. The only head scratchers come when she uses a product brand or that may not be the norm in another country like the USA. This book is always beside me when I am working on a leather bound fine binding.

Fine Bookbinding, a technical guide textbook
Fine Bookbinding, a technical guide textbook
The Craft of Bookbinding by Manly Banister

This book is a great book for beginners. It has been in print since 1975 and is mainly geared to restoring hardcover books that are beginning to fall apart. The reason it is a-go-to reference for me is for the different sewing structures such as the lock stitch and whip stitch sometimes know as the overcast stitch. It is hard to find reference material with good diagrams on the whip stitch construction. It also has a section on building your own equipment such as an inexpensive alternative for the book press.

The Craft of Bookbinding textbook
The Craft of Bookbinding textbook
Creative Bookbinding by Pauline Johnson

Another great book for beginners. This book is printed in black and white but the illustrations and photographs are clear and concise. It is a great reference on working procedures, simple book constructions, and binding procedures. It has a great section on decorated papers and their creation. This was one of the first books that introduced me to the art of bookbinding.

Creative Bookbinding textbook
Creative Bookbinding textbook
Hidden Treasures, the History and Technique of Fore-edge Painting by Jeanne Bennett

This is another of my favorite books. Ms. Bennett is an accomplished fine art bookbinder and teacher in Texas. She has written a much needed book reference on fore-edge treatments. This book gives a wonderful history and amazing instruction on fore-edge painting, a beautiful technique that is not as widely noticed today. Her diagram illustrations are concise and detailed and she has gone the extra expense to print color photographs with many wonderful book examples. It is a very easy read with lots of professional tips.

Hidden Treasures textbook
Hidden Treasures textbook
Basic Bookbinding by A. W. Lewis

Another good reference for beginning bookbinders. This book has been around since the 1950s and covers the basic book structures – single-section books, multi-sectioned books, case-bound, hollow-back, library style, and perfect (single-sheet) bindings. It also goes through the equipment, materials, tools and basic operations needed for bookbinding. It is published in black and white with good diagrams and illustrations of the processes.

Basic Bookbinding textbook
Basic Bookbinding textbook
Headbands, How to Work Them by Jane Greenfield and Jenny Hille

This thin book is a great resource for sewing headbands which range from the simple to more complex. It is printed in black and white with charming drawings accompanied by step-by-step instructions. The authors showcase 14 headband styles, from the plain headband with a bead to the renaissance chevron headband, to choose from.

Headbands, How to Work Them textbook
Headbands, How to Work Them textbook


The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding by Arthur W. Johnson 

This is a comprehensive text on fine English style bookbinding with over 270 illustrations, some in color and some black and white. Mr. Johnson covers a wide range of equipment, methods, bookbinding styles, finishing, and protective boxes to house the final result. This text has a very good section on the preparation and use of leather in bookbinding  

The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding textbook
The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding textbook
The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding by J.A. Szirmai

This text contains definitive research on the different historical bookbinding styles of the Medieval period. The first part of the text  begins with the early Mediterranean influences such as the Coptic, Ethiopian, Islamic, and Byzantine codices. The second part of the book continues by exploring the western Medieval styles such as Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, and Limp bindings.  Printed in black and white with photographic examples of the bindings and clear diagrams of the book construction. A must have in the bookbinders library.

The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding textbook
The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding textbook

The above references are apart of my technical library that I rely on. Each book has taught me new techniques and many of these references are offered on Abebooks (https://www.abebooks.com/?cm_mmc=msn-_-US_Brand-_-naa-_-naa&msclkid=25ea295c18051357bf017661b5d2c6c2) Thriftbooks (https://thriftbooks.com/browse/?b.search=Bookbinding#b.s=mostPopular-desc&b.p=1&b.pp=30&b.oos&b.tile) or Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/books-used-books-textbooks/b/ref=nodl_?node=283155). Keep your eyes open for estate sales and discount book stores for bargains. Would love to see the books in your reference library.

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