From end to end

by Suw on March 13, 2010

A few weeks ago I went to The Story and listened to Cory Doctorow read aloud his The Story So Far, about stories, books, publishing and bookbinding:

She’d clearly bound them herself. Someone had taught her to really sew, her gran, maybe. You could see it in the neat stitching that ran along the binding and the spine, holding together the nylon and the denim, taken from a pair of jeans, a backpack. The end-papers were yellowed page three girls, strategically cropped just below the nipples.

About three nights later, I dreamt that Cory had given me loose printed pages of The Story and that I had hand-bound them together to match the binding therein described. The idea of binding books has been taking up space in my brain ever since. I’ve continued to dream about it, think about it, Google it, watch videos about it and Twitter about it. The idea won’t let me go.

Yesterday, I went to Falkiners on Southampton Row, a bookbinding store and stationers wherein I could quite easily blow my credit cards. The staff at the bookbinding counter, downstairs in case you’re wondering, were both kind and helpful. I’m always a bit nervous going into the inner sanctum of shops about whose craft I know next to nothing, but the chap who spoke to me was warm, welcoming and gave me the basic necessities to get me started.

I also got a couple of books about bookbinding and watched a few videos. (The chap at Falkiners actually recommended searching through YouTube as apparently there’s a wealth of help there.) Last night I finally got a chance to make a 16 page pamphlet, with a sewn binding and a simple card cover.

It turns out that this bookbinding lark is incredibly simple and yet also horribly difficult. What you have to do to bind a book is quite straightforward, but making it not look shit is a real art. This slightly rubbish photo, courtesy of my iPhone, depicts my very first effort.


I have a very long way to go indeed, but even though the journey will be long, my destination is an exciting one: I hope that in the not too distant future I’ll be binding copies of my own stories. A full end-to-end process, from the imagination to a physical artefact that I can hold in my hands. Maybe it’s just that I work too much in the ethereal world of the interwebz, but the idea of creating something solid and permanent makes the process of writing that much more attractive. I don’t just want to say “I wrote this”, but also “I made this”.

Pascale Soleil March 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Way back in the day, I used to make “artist’s books.” I’ve been thinking recently about doing some bookcrafting again, for exactly the same reasons you cite.

I shall follow your progress with interest!

Emily March 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I went to a secondary school in the UK where the staff had some cool ideas about ensuring we were creative. Alongside not being allowed to use biros (we had to use fountain pens), we also had to make all of our writing books, one for each class or project, and then ensure that they were written in in an attractive style.

It may have seemed a bit OTT for some, but that book binding that we had to do and the page layout for each project have stayed with me through years of being in graphic design and marketing. I haven’t bound a book in about five years, now, but reading your discovery of it has left me with the urge to do so again!!!

I’m also looking forward to reading more about your book binding adventures! 🙂

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