It’s roughly been a month since I first got to London, things have been so busy!  Settling in took a while, but I’ve finally got most of the essentials sorted out, so all is good.  Here are a couple of photos of the book and paper studios–my camera ran out of battery, so I’ll try to get some photos of the other studios next time.

Book Studio:

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Paper Studio:

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Spent the entire day on print identification, fun but rather exhausting.ImageImage

Baxter prints are rather fascinating!

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Belated but still thrilling news–I got into Camberwell College’s MA in Conservation program (Book and Archival Materials Stream), so I will be moving to London, UK in the fall!

So this is a half-hearted attempt at updating what was meant to be a record of my experiments in bookbinding.  It’s been fairly busy in my final year as an undergraduate student, with finals, work, student clubs, and grad school applications (I had hoped to go to NBSS for bookbinding, but it was sadly too expensive and I declined in favour of an MA in Book History at the University of London).

Anyway–with the final week of classes over, I finally had time to do something for fun.  This consisted of my first attempt at coptic binding and coptic endbands (initially a bit fussy to figure out, in my opinion).  Here’s what my first attempt looked like:

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Still haven’t done the post on the second part of the Paper Treatments course, but I just haven’t had enough time.  Summer was absolutely wonderful, but now I’m back to school, doing two jobs, and other various things–I’m completely piled up in work, exhausted, and this is just week 1.  How will I ever survive this semester!

Anyway, I took Bookbinding III at CBBAG last month, and now finally am working on leather bindings!  Paring was a little difficult at first, but I think it’ll be an enjoyable process after getting more used to.  Watching the instructor paring was quite mesmerizing–he has so much control!  We made two books–the first one was on flattened cords with a hollow tube, and the second was tight back on raised cords.

Before working on the books, we had to do an “Intro to Paring” class, where we practiced paring on scraps and made little plaquettes.

An assortment of paring knives.  I started off using an English knife, but eventually got more used to the rounded French ones.

Watching in fascination as our instructor removes a sliver of the leather.

We also had a paring machine in the studio, but in general I tried to avoid it just so I could practice paring manually.  Nevertheless, a time-saving tool, definitely useful to have one!

One of my corners and the spines for the two books.  As you can see, I knocked off the edge of my corner (I somehow managed to do this to every single corner…) and sliced through a bit of my first spine.  I had to redo my corners several times, having ripped a few.  My heart stopped every time I ruined something and had to redo, but that couldn’t be helped.

Sewing the book with raised cords.  Most enjoyable sewing method ever?–I think so.

Demonstration of a conservation endband, on which we would then add the two threads of colour on top of.

The book with flattened cords, almost ready for the leather!

The second book, with the cords laced into the boards.

Demonstration of the proper proportions of a traditional leather binding.  Although our books were not big enough for five raised bands, we still wanted to make the top section slightly longer than the middle sections, and the bottom section longer than the top section.

Demonstration of scoring a decorative line into the leather with a bone folder.

I’m happy to say that since the class, I’ve bound a leather book completely without help at home–a relief to know I can do it all by myself!  I’d been reluctant to get the necessary tools to make books at home, since shipping and tax fees for ordering from Talas are excruciatingly expensive–almost costing as much as what you buy–but finally decided it was time to invest in some tools.  At least I managed to get two lovely skins of goat leather at half price from a friend who was unloading some skins and marbled papers that he had!

I went to a Paper Treatments workshop held by CBBAG a couple of weeks ago, which was very exciting. Here are a couple of pictures of some of the things we dealt with!

Measuring the pH of the paper to determine what treatments needed to be done.

We then washed the paper in three baths to remove tide lines and neutralize the pH of acidic papers.  The first was in just water to determine its state–it was interesting to see the different reactions of different papers in the bath; the faster the paper absorbed the water, the more broken down the size.  The second was done in a bath of water with alcohol to remove sizing, and the third in a bath of water with ammonia to raise the pH.

To avoid unwanted removal of images in delicate pieces, we float washed them and gave extra attention to areas that needed cleaning.

Sun bleaching images to return papers to their original colours–the results were pretty amazing!  We skipped the chemical bleaching, as none of us wanted to end up with dead white sheets of paper.

Setting our sheets to dry on the rack after sun-bleaching.

Here’s an update on the clamshell boxes that Lumiere Press was working on!  We finished them a week and a half ago, but I was so busy with my Paper Treatments workshop (which deserves, and will get, a post of its own) that I hadn’t had time to post here.  Anyways, as you can see from the photos below, they turned out beautifully.

Above are the five boxes we were making, along with a folio that will hold the colophon for the collection.  Three of the boxes were for the archival collection of Ronald Hurwitz’s Gryphons of Paris.  Two of the boxes would contain the original prints from the book, and a third would hold the book and ephemera.  It took us a while to figure out the third box, as we had to figure out the calculations for the two trays inside the box that would hold the ephemera and the book, as well as how to construct them.

For each tray, we decided to make two trays: the outer tray that would fit inside the box, and the inner tray that would be the recess in which the book/ephemera would fit.  We inserted a ribbon in the inner tray for the book so that it may be easily removed from the tray.

We then filled the trays with a layer of foam, and inserted a panel over the top to complete the trays.  The measurements of each tray had to be meticulously calculated, as each component of the tray had to fit perfectly against each other.

When we were done with the trays, we created a polymer plate for the labels and printed them–a simple-sounding enough job, but one that took almost an entire day due to the frustratingly uncooperative and fussy ink we had originally chosen.  For the title of the book done in blue, we ran the label through the press twice to achieve the richness of colour without having to increase the impression.  Luckily, the blue didn’t give us as much trouble as the original grey ink we had chosen (as you can see, we went with black instead).

The finished box!  We lined the boxes with a blue paper which closely matched with the book.  The folio would go on top of the two trays, perfectly flush with the top of the box.

Box with the book inside.

Setting the top tray aside to reveal the second layer with the ephemera.

This box-making project has been really enjoyable, and although it was challenging at times, we were rewarded with the sense of pride we felt in our finished product.  Now, onwards with the Black Star project!