My friend Karin of Celestine & the Hare tells me she was put off bookbinding by a tyranically exact instructor (‘teacher’ hardly seems the right word, since that is something he signally failed to do) who insisted on millimetre-perfect measurement from the outset. That is a great shame as well as a great piece of nonsense, since one of the things that struck me about the making of books was how ‘forgiving’ a technology it is.
By that I mean that it not only allows a fair margin for error, but it is expressly designed to compensate for it – each procedure covers up the last and the endpapers – well-named! – cover up everything. I am not saying that it is something that can be done in a slapdash manner, only that the way it is done strikes me as the practical evolution of a manual process, where the maker relied first and foremost on hand and eye, with a minimum of measurement, and such as there is being ad hoc – you make it work for this book, now; there is no need to replicate exactly time after time: that is for machines.
As I suggested yesterday, covering the bare cases is reminiscent of the school ritual that many of us (of a certain age) will remember, that of covering your books and jotters at the start of the school year – brown paper was the standard, though some ventured into wallpaper, and latterly more colourful papers began to appear, posters culled from teen magazines with pop stars or footballers. However, bookcloth (being thicker and more resilient) is less obedient than brown paper when it comes to taking a crease and holding a fold, so you need to mitre the corners, which calls for some (simple) marking out:
If you are marking up quantities of covers at a time – the best way to do it, in volume production – then you want to set them aside in a stack for later use; so it is important to be able to relocate the cover on the cloth exactly as you want it. A horizontal line on the drawing board with the centre marked is all you need to line up and mark the rest – the centre of the spine, the corresponding mark on the cloth, and for good measure, the corners of the cover on the cloth. This is a great help in repositioning the cover once the paste has been applied to the cloth.
After that, it is simple scissor work:
And very soon you have a stack of covers ready for the next stage:
As for the actual gluing, I was very grateful for this small but useful tip:
and so to work…