Ch. 15: Economy of effort and material

As soon as you know that you are making a hundred of anything, you look at it in a different way – that question you ask at any point is not simply ‘could I do this again (or indeed would I want to)?’ but rather ‘could I do this again a hundred times? would I want to?’

That is the question that informed each stage of producing my five initial proofs of The McAvinchey Codex. I had already opted for batch production of signatures (ten at a time) and of sewn books (five at a time) so the next question was how best to tackle the cover. I had already decided to use Jacqueline Poutasse’s method of using a broad strip of paper to make a hinge to join the spine and boards,


first set of covers


batch of spines

so the next question was what I should make the strip from, and then how should I proceed?

I have memories of old books on my father’s shelves that had lost their spines to reveal a strip of printed matter beneath and it suddenly struck me what that was about – the bookbinder had clearly been making the most of materials that came to hand. I had numerous buckshee copies of signatures that had been printed off as the ink began to fail, to say nothing of an entire book printed as a single 288 page booklet, so that was the first source of supply that struck me.

Guillotining each page into several strips decided the question of how to proceed next – if I was mass-producing strips, I might as well mass-produce the spines by sticking them to the strips, then adding the covers, either as I needed them or in batches also. It was while doing this, I think, that I hit upon an alternative source of supply – now that my printing operation was underway, I had begun to accumulate a quantity of stout wrapping that each ream of paper came in. This was heavier duty than the scrap printed pages and of a waxy quality on the inside, perhaps to stop it sticking to the paper. Despite some misgivings about whether that waxiness would affect its adhesion, I made a couple of trial efforts, and when they proved satisfactory, decided to make the remaining spines from recovered wrappings.


discarded paper wrapping


marked out for hinge-strips (with maximum economy – 24 per sheet by the look of it)


and made into spines


batch production

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