Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guest Blogger Laura Martin, Alternative Album Structures

Laura Martin retired in 2006 after a long career in academia and has been exploring the "other side of books" ever since. She has exhibited with Art Books Cleveland and is one of the founders of Octavofest, a month-long celebration of book and paper arts that takes place every October across Northeast Ohio. She has recently been cutting paper obsessively, but, in spite of that, Ann Frellsen thinks she has "the sensibility of a conservator." This was her second PBI and she is already looking forward to the next one. Laura has agreed to tell us about one of her PBI classes this year, alternative album structures.

Album Alternatives, a class taught in the first PBI 2012 session by bookbinding legend Betsy Palmer Eldridge, was an introduction to a variety of methods for attaching stuff to pages. Each participant ended up with a “sampler album” that included two different cover types and a dozen different attachment structures, ranging from simple to demonic (at least for me!). In addition, Betsy taught some further binding styles, including the amazing Flexible Chain Back Binding!

In the sampler, we began with simple direct attachment with adhesive but quickly moved on to various historical methods, some now seldom used but still pertinent – in fact invaluable! – for handling certain kinds of objects that a person making artist books might want to incorporate into a work. Several of the most interesting structures are based on mid-19th century albums that held cartes de visites and albumen silver print photographs. These structures involve attachments with double and triple pages and slot-entry points for inserting the object. We were able to handle historical examples of these bindings and admire the decorative elements they exhibited as well as the structure itself.

Betsy’s hands near her teaching drawing and a Victorian photo album:


Any method of attaching additional paper material to book pages requires attention to the issue of compensating at the spine for the extra width of the inserted material. Another matter is the frequent need to accommodate an object that is larger than the page it is attached to. One particularly appealing series of structures were those that allow a spread holding an image to open across the fold without losing part of the image in the gutter. Betsy called this the “Polar Bear” structure – mostly because her model contained several images of polar bears cut from a calendar! This structure was especially interesting to me because of its potential use in accordion format artist books that involve cut text and image. Now I know how to make the image larger than the page.

The Polar Bear Structure:


The most engaging structure of all was the Flexible Chain Back Album, patented in 1865 by William W. Harding in Pennsylvania. It is a variant of the stiff leaf binding, and everyone at PBI received a copy of its history and the instructions for making it in their PBI Folder. Even though it has almost been lost, Betsy is anxious to see it reintroduced and I certainly hope other people will try making it. It is a great structure that allows pages to open flat and is very durable. In fact, in Betsy’s examples, the spine structure had survived the rest of the binding altogether

A demonstration of the Chain Back Binding:


By far the most wonderful aspect of this session was just the chance to be taught by a person with such a breadth of experience and knowledge. It seemed as if every couple of minutes I had to stop what I was doing and write down another one of the invaluable insights that Betsy was tossing off in her casual way. (I think I’ll claim that is what accounts for how late I was finishing up all the models!) Besides all the information about specific structures, we were treated to better ways of tying knots, better ways to remove adhesives, and better ways to smooth and soften paper by using the Japanese beading technique. As my journal notes say: “Beading is amazing! The shoemaker’s knot is amazing! Betsy is amazing!”

Having studied in Germany and France, and knowledgeable about binding traditions from around the world, Betsy Eldridge is a living encyclopedia of conservation techniques and book history. It was a special privilege for me, only a recent entrant into the world of the “book as object,” to meet and learn from her. And to add to my sense of good fortune, Hedi Kyle was a participant in my session as well. The opportunity to hear their discussions and debates over the history or advantages of one structure or another really underscored for me the great sense of being another small link in the great long chain that connects bookmakers, binders, and conservators throughout history. It is one of the great gifts of PBI to make such moments possible.

Julie Chen, Maria Fredericks and Betsy Eldridge at the Album Alternatives table at Show and Tell:


There are a couple more photos of the albums made in this class in my Flickr pool.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guest Blogger Ann Frellsen, Italian Paper Bindings

Ann Frellsen is the Collections Conservator for the Emory University Libraries in Atlanta, Georgia. She has attended several PBI’s and she never gets tired of them. Last year she was an instructor - teaching the book repair class that I took. Ann has kindly agreed to share with us, one of the classes she took this year, taught by Maria Fredericks.


Maria Fredericks, book conservator at the Morgan Library and Museum taught the PBI class on Italian Paper Bindings from 1500-1800. Maria has done extensive research in this area, and has looked at these bindings in collections in the US, UK, and Italy. In this class we looked at a range of covering methodologies, variations in endsheet structures and sewing patterns via the samples Maria brought, her slides, and the numerous binding models that she had made during her investigation of this genre.

During this time period books had to get from printers to the binders in larger and larger editions and out to the booksellers in shorter and shorter time frames. The need to produce books faster to meet the increased demand resulted in an evolution from elaborate binding structures to the simpler, faster sewing and bindings that were the focus of our class.

Stacks of books created by the participants in this class.
Photo by Fran Kovac.


The earliest historic examples of sewing we made were long-stitched through the thick paper (cartonnage) covers. Our models of the 17th C. styles were sewn all-along on alum-tawed thongs – a supported sewing. Models from the early 18th C. show a variety of abbreviated sewing patterns. No supports were used. Skipping sewing stations or jumping from one signature to the next without using kettle stitches seemed sacrilegious, but many examples of these bindings survive today, so they must be fairly strong. The sewing patterns were fun to learn and really did speed up production. In the class most of us completed at least five different books, and some completed many more.

Our cases were made of very heavy papers; we used the wonderful Iowa Case Paper from the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book and an exquisite piece of Moulin du Verger, a case paper developed to replicate the historic Italian case papers. We also created stiffer laminated covers by layering on slightly thinner Khadi paper. Sometimes the endpapers were pasted to the covers—attaching the textblock to the case – other times we laced on the cases with the alum-tawed thongs we had sewn onto – a reference to the limp vellum binding style that had been popular but was more expensive for the 16th C. bookbinder to make.

Paper case, laced on. Photo by Fran Kovac.

For the laced-on cases we also created small tackets of either vellum or thin strips of the case paper twisted into cords and threaded through the covers. These simple tackets added strength to the case and its attachment to the textblock.

All the while we learned the different binding and sewing structures we also made paste papers using cooked flour colored with watercolors and stamped onto thin text weight Barcham Green papers with beautifully carved blocks. These paste papers became simple wrappers around the thick paper covers (also secured with tackets), adding color and lovely historically reminiscent pattern to the later models we had created.

Ann's Paste Papers. Photo by Fran Kovac.

Maria was a great teacher. She provided extensive information discussing Italian paper bindings and meticulous drawings of the abbreviated sewing variations she had encountered in her research. She kept us historically accurate, discussed conservation concerns, and at the same time allowed us freedom to be creative with our models. It was another wonderful and memorable PBI class.


There are a few more pictures of the books made in this class in my Flickr pool.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Springback Binding with Larry Yerkes

The third class that I had at PBI last month, was the Springback binding with Larry Yerkes. The springback binding was develped as a binding for account books which were used daily, needed to open flat to facilitate the keeping of accounts, and might often be left lying open all day long. Most books don't see that much use. So these account bindings are hefty, over-built, and durable.

After the textblock is ready, a tube is made for the spine. We made the tube by layering paper to make a thick card, then wrapping that card around a wooden dowel until it was dry. When it was removed from the dowel, it was a very solid tube that we then forced onto the spine of our textblocks.

A blurry Larry making a tube.


The tube, now on the spine.


So that makes the "spring" part of this binding. This binding has split board covers, so once the tube was ready on the spine, we made the covers and put them in place. Then we proceeded with the half leather covering; here's my lovely endcap:


We used fabric on the cover, and then did some blind tooling on the leather.


This is my finished book:


Now if you aren't familiar with the springback binding, this talk of a tube and springs etc might just leave you wondering, "why?", "how is this better or different"? Ah! I have a little video to show you that will make everything clear - hopefully - although watching the action isn't as fun as performing the action yourself. Nonetheless, I have tried to show the magic in this little video. So, here I am opening and closing a springback book to show you how the tube creates a springy action when the book is opened and closed:



Thanks Larry, for a great class. I learned a million things.

There are few more photos from this class on Flickr.