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Discover Bookbinding

Last updated 17 January 2017 18:58 NZST

While I was living in London, I spent three years fighting against the traffic to drive into Back Hill, Clerkenwell and then down to the Elephant & Castle, to attend night classes in Bookbinding at the London College of Printing. For me bookbinding was (and still is) a welcome antidote to the time I spend in front of a computer monitor.

Not far from Clerkenwell is the St Bride Printing Library, the definitive source for information on the printing arts and trades through five centuries. Established 120 years ago, the Printing Library originally served Fleet Street printers and apprentices. (As an aside, the public houses of the area originally served the same clientele. The Printer's Devil is an excellent local pub that springs to mind, but if you know the area, you will probably have your own favourite.)

The Friends of St Bride are attempting to raise awareness of the Printing Library's unique role in an effort to ensure the Library's survival and future growth. Contact the Friends of St Bride for information on membership or go direct to the St Bride Printing Library website and join up as a member. You can also receive your own copy of an email newsletter on (mainly European) book-related events.

Note: The Reading Room closed in December 2014 as a result of extensive renovations to the neighbouring property and will remain closed until further notice.

You can also support a New Zealand based printing museum -- the Bedplate Press Printing Museum run by Bill Nairn. The museum has a collection of more than 90 working machines, including the 1852 Albion handpress on which the first edition of Wellington's The Evening Post was printed in 1865. The press has also recently recommissioned a Monotype Supercaster dating from 1950 -- only one of two in New Zealand that are still operational. You can contact Bill by email and arrange to visit the museum at Silverstream in Upper Hutt, or visit the museum online.

This page provides an introduction to a number of online bookbinding resources. Some of these I have compiled myself, and some are links to other websites. I also receive notification from time to time of up-and-coming events in the bookbinding community.

The nice people at Biblio magazine gave me an award in March 1999 as part of their ongoing profiling of book-related resources on the Web. You can find them at Biblio Online.

In January 2000 Britannica.com invited me to become a member of the Britannica Internet Guide. If you've come to this page on the recommendation of Britannica.com, welcome.

In April 2001 LibrarySpot.com, the self-styled library and reference portal of the Web, added a link to my site under The Librarian's Shelf. You can find this and connections to a plethora of other Spot sites at LibrarySpot.com.

Here are some information sheets that I've found useful as guides to binding or restoring books:

For book repairs, you might like to check out the book repair manual at Peter Verheyen's Book Arts Web. In it are described three relatively non-invasive techniques for repairing (circulating) texts in libraries, specifically hinge tightening and tipping-in of loose pages. You might also like to visit the web version of the Simple Book Repair Manual created by members of Preservation Services, Dartmouth College Library, Hanover, New Hampshire. This useful service is just one part of Dartmouth College's longstanding commitment to provision of online resources. Richard Norman's online collection of bookbinding articles and tutorials at Edenworkshops may also be of interest, especially if you are looking for tips on binding with sheepskin.

If you are starting from scratch and need some help in putting together your first book, have a look at Bookbinding, a tutorial by Douglas W. Jones, with a special emphasis on rescuing worn paperbacks. For an easy read on the art of bookbinding, go to About Bookbinding where Marcus Harbert has added the entire contents of a work called The Art of Bookbinding written by Joseph Zaehnsdorf and published in London in 1897. Sam Ellenport at The Harcourt Bindery has also usefully documented some traditional bookbinding techniques on DVD, available directly from the bindery. You might also like to refer to my diagrams showing the inside and outside of a hand-bound book. For an explanation of the terms used to describe the parts of a book, check out the glossary of bookbinding terms.

Barry McKay from Battlebarrow in Cumbria, England has brought to my attention Angela Sutton's bookbinding and book repair website. Angela includes a number of book repair and restoration case studies on her site, as well as short audio-visual presentations on specific bookbinding techniques from her studio in Malvern, Worcestershire. These and other presentations are now available as a CD-ROM Bookbinding in Pictures, A beginner's guide to bookbinding with instructions downloadable in PDF format. The CD-ROM was published October 2010 and is listed on Amazon.com, although it is marked as Out of Print--Limited Availability. You can however purchase a copy from Angela's site using PayPal or direct from Barry McKay Rare Books. Contact Barry via email and tell him Chris Lipscombe sent you.

Thanks to my October 2014 issue of the New Zealand Association of Book Crafts newsletter I have discovered a new website offering bookbinding tutorials, useful links and resources. For more information go to iBookBinding. The ABC-NZ International Conference 'Inside Outside: A case for the book' held at the Auckland University of Technology campus 24-26 October was a wonderful opportunity to meet up with bookbinders, book artists, academics, curators and suppliers from New Zealand, Australia, United States and Great Britain. Standouts for me were the presentations by Julie Chen (US book artist) and Dominic Riley (UK book designer). Thanks to Erika Mordek for permission to make her handout on bindings in the National Library of Australia Rare Book Stack available for download. (It's a 3.4MB PDF file, so make sure you want to view before you click.)

Based in the small seaside town of Hornsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, Glenn Malkin is a successful and respected bookbinder and proprietor of Signature Bindings. Glenn's bindery is a large shed in the back garden of his house, from where he offers a broad range of quality bookbinding solutions to his clients from across the UK, Europe and beyond.

A significant part of Glenn's work is design binding; specifically, specialist, artistic bindings for competitions and private collections. Filmed between March and August 2014, "Men in Sheds - The Bookbinder" displays the art and craft of the design bookbinder, by following Glenn and his binding of Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote, which was the set book for the Designer Bookbinders 2014 Bookbinding Competition in the UK.

Thanks to Peter D. Verheyen for the link, and of course PhatGrob Films for doing such a great job of putting the video together.

For other films in the "Men in Sheds" series, see The Luthier, the story of the filmmaker's father who, following his retirement as an engineer, turned his attentions to his true passion... the violin.

Every month the number of bookbinding and related sites on the Web increases. Here are a few sites that might take your fancy, including a couple of suppliers:

A number of binderies and presses also have a Web presence:

  • Acme Books
  • Max Marbles, Bookbinder
  • Briar Press, run by Elizabeth Nevin and her son from Croton, New York and including a sophisticated and well-visited classified advertising section
  • Private Presses of the UK, an excellent compendium of British sites, featuring books in print and plans from seventeen UK presses
  • The Harcourt Bindery, providing repair and presentation binding services in the Boston area since 1900. Sam Ellenport has recently produced a couple of DVDs on bindery processes at the Harcourt Bindery. You can find more information, including details of purchase, here.
  • Silver Buckle Press, currently offering a limited edition of their own 'Specimen Book of Wood Type'
  • Weitz & Coleman, of Lexington Avenue, New York
  • Mission Creek Press, presenting custom books and invitations, as well as the artist's books of Roberta Lavadour
  • Praxis Bindery, profiling Peter Geraty's work on book restoration and conservation, and including the construction of boxes and protective enclosures
  • Smith-Shattuck Bookbinding in Princeton NJ, specialising in library and thesis binding since 1952, and recommended by Princeton and Rutgers graduate schools for dissertation binding
  • iDesign Books, with a selection of Jeffrey Haste's craft bindings from his time with Brad and Gabriel Rummonds in Alabama, and most recently from his own press
  • Handbookbinding.com, the website of Jeffrey Altepeter, bookbinder in Somerville, MA
  • Craft Bookbinding, Ed Stansell's online guide to the range of bookbinding services available from his workshop
  • The Otter Bindery, Marysa de Veer's bindery in Surrey, England, where she also runs weekend courses
  • Tara McLeod's Pear Tree Press, one of New Zealand's most distinguished and prolific hand-craft letterpress printers

For those of you looking for information on bookbinding courses, I am continuing to compile a list of online schools and resources.

  • If you ever find yourself in Colorado in the summer months, check out the intensive bookbinding courses at the American Academy of Bookbinding located in Telluride.

  • Summer workshop places are also available at Big River Bindery in Davenport, Iowa. The bindery is located in the Quad Cities, at the crossing of the Mississippi River and I-80. For more information about the workshops and registration, visit bigriverbindery.com.

  • If you make it to San Francisco, you will definitely find the San Francisco Center for the Book of interest (hello Nina). They offer a wide range of courses, including a Bookbinding Core Certificate program that introduces students to four different binding methods, provides a foundation for the practice of binding, and qualifies participants to work in their bindery. Check out the Center's webpage at www.sfcb.org and sign up for their newsletter.

  • For those of you in the north-east of the USA, the North Bennett Street School offers a series of summer workshops in Marbling, Cloth Case Bookbinding, Bookbinding for Teenagers, Non-Adhesive Bookbinding, as well as specialist sessions on Millimeter Bookbinding, and Book Repair and Conservation. The summer workshops are however only a small part of the school's offering -- the real treasure is the full-time hand bookbinding program, which is a two-year course. For more information, visit www.nbss.org, email Janet Collins, Workshop Coordinator or call Janet on 617-227-0155.

  • In New York, the Center for Book Arts in NYC (located at 28 W. 27th St. in Manhattan) is pleased to offer a wide variety of classes for beginners, advanced students, artists, and teachers alike. You can browse the full array of class offerings at centerforbookarts.org/learn. For more information, contact Sarah Bouchard, Marketing Manager or call Sarah on 212-481-0295.

  • The School for Formal Bookbinding is based in Plains, Pennsylvania and over September and October offers introductory courses in Leather Bookbinding, Full Leather Binding, Cloth Binding Conservation and Leather Binding Conservation. Housing is available for out-of-towners. For more information, visit donrashfinebookbinder.com or contact Don Rash 570-239-8643.

  • In Northern Idaho Jim Croft runs two-week medieval bookbinding classes in June and July, and also gives occasional classes in the making and fitting of wooden boards and brass clasps. A correspondent enthuses about the wonderful time she had making "a beautiful book -- hewing my own boards, spinning my own thread, making paper." For more information, contact Jim at Old Ways Bookarts.

  • Learn the basic and essential skills of bookbinding at a two-day weekend introductory course run by the Queensland Bookbinders' Guild in Australia. Book restoration courses are also available. For more information, see the website or contact the Secretary, P O Box 3009, Tarragindi 4121, QLD, Australia.

  • Development of craft bookbinding skills, design and bookbinding techniques and experimentation in book arts is the mission of the Canberra Craft Bookbinders' Guild in Australia. For more information on membership and services, see the website.

  • Dr. Donald Kerr, Special Collections Librarian at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand has drawn to my attention the Centre for the Book at Otago. Dr Kerr is co-director along with Dr Shef Rogers (English Dept). Check out http://www.otago.ac.nz/books and their blog at https://blogs.otago.ac.nz/cfb/.

There are a few New Zealand sites you can visit -- Joshua Kauta's Book Binding Page advertises a full range of bookbinding services available from Torere, on the East Coast of the North Island, and Jill Rose, formerly of the Government Printing Office, has the remains of the old GPO hand bindery installed at her rural workshop in the Mikimiki Valley outside Masterton. You can find more about Jill's bindery and her contact details on her Spellbound website.

No guide to New Zealand book binderies would be complete, however, without a link to Michael O'Brien's traditional bookbindery, based in Oamaru's historical precinct in the lower South Island. Michael and I had both attended evening bookbinding classes with David Sellars in London during the 1980s, although not at the same time. You can find out more information about Michael and his work at www.bookbinder.co.nz

Don't leave just yet, though. Have a look at The Bookbinder's Toolbox where you can find bookbinding tools and equipment to buy, sell or exchange, and The Bookbinder's Library for a list of useful books and a direct link to Amazon.com should you wish to buy.

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