Friday, February 16, 2018

Snake & Papyrus

I've started recording books that I've worked on in a logbook since 2008~2009, and the logbook is becoming full; I needed a new one made. Well, I've been really preoccupied with work and haven't gotten any time to do my personal stuff in the bindery, but boy, it's become serious! It has only a couple of pages left now. So, I finally decided to free up some time yesterday for a quick & easy yet cute binding with scrap materials that were scattered around the bindery.

This is just a simple, nothing special, personal binding that might not be worth showing-off, but I thought it might give you some creative ideas for your project by using unconventional materials.

This is a quarter binding with a butt-jointed white snake and papyrus. They are super easy to work with, (idiot-proof!) yet the final product is cute and exotic. Just for the sake of the papyrus, I printed out some Egyptian hieroglyph graphics off internet and have used it as endsheets.

Snake is fun to work with because of their natural exotic markings; they come in different colors and textures as well. The things that you have to be careful of are the scales and the thickness and the width of the skin. Some snake skins have pretty good finish on the surface so that the scales don't easily fray, but they often don't. In that case, you have to make sure to tame the scales down by applying some adhesives after the book is bound, then wipe it off. Also, the thickness of the skins aren't uniform. The head/neck area is a lot thinner than the ones around the tail. It becomes obvious as the size of the snake gets bigger. For example, the neck area of Python is almost a paper thin, while the tail area is as thick as a card stock. So you have to determine which part of the snake is suitable for binding. Finally, as you know, most snakes are long and thin, thus there's a limit on the width. As the snake get's bigger, the skin gets also wider, but it gets thicker as well. Even if you find a beautifully marked skin, it might be too narrow for the size of your binding. Basically, you have to sort of give & take when working with snakes, or, for that matter, other exotic animal skins.

My master once bound a 9"x 13" full Python binding by butt-jointing the skins, but it's an another matter. haha.. The binding was a bit too much, if you wanna know the truth!

Other unconventional materials are fish skin, stingray, turtles and toad! Fish, toad and turtle skins can be used on the spine just like snake, but the stingray is too thick and stiff that it can't be used on the spine, though the unusual pearl marking is tempting to be used on the spine.  I took some pictures of some of those materials, so check them out. - by the way, the small, palm size brown skins on the picture are of Cane Toad from Australia. They are so small that it had to be butt-jointed to be used on a binding. But hey Aussies! I heard you guys have an epidemic of those toads that are making your dogs high on its poisons in your yard. (hahaha. Check this out.) Don't just kill and dump them. Send me the skins! I'll make the ugly little buggers beautiful!

Fish Skins:

Stingray & other exotic skins:
Garlin Neumann Leathers Co, Inc.  

Toad skins:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dresden Codex

Hellloooo everyone! Am baaaacckk!
And yes. I've been such a lazy slob in not paying attention to my blog all these months, and I suddenly realized it was already late October! - the realization came when I saw a bunch of kid-adults dressing as witches and Pres. Trump holding carved pumpkins. I wonder if Mr. Pres. is able to collect royalty paycheck every time someone buys his rubber masks or toilet paper rolls with his face printed on it, though I don't think he'd be interested in getting paid such a petty amount of money.

Anyway, before getting started on my next work, I decided to post one that I've finished last night. The client asked me to put a case on a manuscript that he printed and laminated by himself. It's Dresden Codex (Códice de Dresde), the oldest surviving Mayan manuscript that dates back to 13~14th century. Such a cool project. As his printed manuscript was already folded in an accordion style, we decided to do an accordion binding and a limp leather case with a bone clasp. I don't think I've shown a work with bone clasps here before, so here it is. Bone clasps are normally used for boxes, but it can be used for a normal binding as well. Because this is supposed to be an old ancient manuscript, I suggested to use bark paper to give a feel of an antiquity, along with an earthy green leather that he chose. It's 21cm x 11cm approx., true to the original size. 

I've had a personal project like this that I started several years back. It's the Voynich Manuscript. I downloaded it off the internet, and started putting it together digitally, intending to print it out so as to do a facsimile binding. Well, it's been put aside all these years. Like I said, I'm just being a lazy slob yet again on this as well. Hit me!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Boucher on Forest Trees, 1775

It's a bit late, but a happy new year to ye' all ! I hope you are still sticking with the resolution that you made a month ago! (I gave up mine on the 3rd day. Ohh, typical me.)

I haven't updated my blog for a while, but that doesn't mean I wasn't working, yo! I just got too preoccupied with work physically and mentally, so I neglected to do anything else other than what was in front of me. And what was in front of me last week was my seedy digital camera that was buried in my so called junk box. You know, one of those boxes or drawers in which you dump little stuff that you never use but can't somehow throw away, thinking that you might need them someday. Unmatched batteries, little toys that came with breakfast cereals, almost empty eye shadows and a What-the-F**k-was-I-thinking-when-I-bought-it!?! goth-black lipstick... For some reasons, I put my digital camera in there. humm,,, That's not good. I don't know how it got there, because once something goes to my junk box, it usually never sees daylight again. Kinda like a little black hole in my room.

Anyway, that reminded me of how badly I've been neglecting my blog. I hastily took a picture of a book that I was about to work on, with a bit of guilt. There were actually two books on my workbench at that time, - one is a first edition of Rude Stone Monuments in All Countries by James Fergusson, and the other is Boucher on Forest Trees, which I chose to post on my blog because of its leather marbling. I thought you guys might find an interest in some "forgotten art" aspect of this craft. This is a common traditional method of leather dyeing technique using acid - a mixture of potassium sulfate and ferrous sulfate which is applied onto running water on the surface of leather. This particular texture is called "tree marbling" because of its resemblance to tree branches. It's very common in antiquarian books, but I personally don't know many binders who do this marbling technique nowadays. I, for one, can't do it, so don't ask me how to do it properly! Well.. This is how old arts and crafts die, you know? There's no one who can teach us to inherit the knowledge to the next generation.

This work required a rebacking of the spine, which needed to match the marbling texture of the original front and back boards. Matching the acid-based leather marbling is always tricky, and this one was no exception. I hope the client approves the result.. Oh, and, in case you are wondering about the spelling of forest on the skiver label, I did a double R because the original was spelled like that. I don't know if it's an original binder's mistake, but hey, I must follow the client's instruction.
This is A Treatise on Forest Trees by William Boucher. (1775) By the way, there were whole bunch of plants and flowers pressed in the book. Someone was indeed studying the book seriously. ;-)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Christmas Carol,1844

People dressing up as bigfoot and cat woman have disappeared from the street, and a long, hard fought battle of the U.S. presidential election has finally come to an end. Whether or not the result was in your favor, now it's time to shift your focus into a positivity. What's done is done, and anger and frustration only create more anger, eh? Suppose, you drop $100 bill, and keep whining and frustrated about it for a long time. What does it create? You are making yourself miserable by thinking about it on top of the fact that you lost $100. It's a double whammy, yo! So, now, get serious about how big of a turkey you should roast for Thanksgiving (haha...) and what to get for Christmas for your loved ones. I always say this around this time of the year, but please don't bring Christmas rush jobs at the last minute! We might close Christmas orders as early as two weeks prior to Christmas depending on how backed-up we are. So gather up your ideas and get here quickly!

This is one of our very organized client's Christmas restoration jobs that was sent in a few weeks ago. This is a fourth edition of A Christmas Carol, 1844. Although it's a fourth edition, it's still a pricey book. So needless to say, all original material had to be preserved and the restoration must be done as invisible as possible. Restoring old cloth binding can be tricky as matching a new material to the original  takes some skills. Master thinks I'm better at it, so it came to my workbench.

Well, if you know anyone who resembles $$ Old Scrooge $$, remind him of this classic again. It's never too late!

Like Tiny Tim says, "God Bless Us, Every One!" ~ Hope for peace from M.H.R.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Works of William Penn

I was pretty determined to make more rapid progress on the two works of William Penn when I walked into the bindery on Thursday. No sooner had I gotten in than a bag of cookies on the counter got my full, I mean, FULL attention; Our current intern, Ms.S brought us homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Oh, heck. Cookies first, work second. Common sense, yo! As I was hogging down the cookies like I haven't eaten for a week, an image of the Quaker Oats dude kept coming to my mind; his peculiar smile interfering with my pleasure time of the sweet deliciousness, as if to tell me to shift my focus back to work. Duh! Stop it! Stop smiling! Who is this Quaker dude, anyway!

So I googled it.  ....

And, his identity turned out to be ... ahh... none other than William Penn, indeed...... coincidence? uhh... you tell me, crazy paranormal junkies!

So the books here are two different works by William Penn. One is a first edition Wisdom Justified published in 1673. And the other is A Treatise of Oaths, also a first edition published in 1713. Basically, the client asked me to bind them identically based on the original cover of A Treatise of Oaths. I could simply blind-tool the Cambridge just like the original, but it was rather too boring, to be honest. So I decided to add another layer of mottling to give an extra dimension; you can easily make normally a too rigid Cambridge prettier by doing multiple layers. ;-)

Wisdom Justified was missing the title page, so the client asked me to find it online, and print/insert it in the book. Boy, you can find anything online nowadays, eh? I digitally cleaned it up and printed it on a 17th century antique paper. - we keep a collection of antique papers of different eras for these sort of jobs. (Just like forgers would. sheeee!)
One interesting thing about this work is that Wisdom Justified has a hand written note by George Whitehead, one of the original Quaker leaders with whom Penn had debated on the foundation of Quakerism. The note suggests the book was a gift from Penn.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Land of Nakoda, 1942

I briefly mentioned onlay on my previous post, so I thought I might as well share a binding with butt-joints this time. Butt-joint, as you can imagine, is a method of which two or more pieces of cover materials are butt-jointed to form a multicolored/textured surface. It can be done in book cloth, fabric or leather as the binding shown on this post. This is such an excellent way to express your artistic creativity, as well as to recycle scrap that's too small to use for normal bindings. ;-) It's sort of like quilting, you see?

An important thing that you need to concern is the thickness of the materials. Each piece must be of the same thickness, or the surface won't be flat. And make sure to cut each piece precisely and butt-joint the edges seamlessly. - you don't want to see any gaps between the patterns!

This book is about Sioux Indians, and the client asked me to create a design that reflects their traditional hide paintings used for crafts such as parfleches. Well, their geometric patterns and graphics are perfect for a butt-joint binding, so I’ve decided to use the method along with onlays. - the red banners are onlayed and the zigzag background consists of butt-jointed kid and calf hides.

This is an autographed, first edition copy of Land of Nakoda, The Story of the Assiniboine Indians, by James L. Long and William Standing. (1942)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bertuchs' Bilderbuch für Kinder

One of the frustrating medical conditions I've developed is sudden trembling / painful cramps of my hands and fingers, which had gotten so bad a few years ago that I really had to take time off from work for a long long time. The thing is, you can't bind a book when your hands are screwed up. It's the worst thing that can happen to a bookbinder.

This particular condition has gotten better these days, so the last few months, I decided to work on books that required relatively heavy tooling. This is one of them; Bilderbuch für Kinder by F. J. Bertuchs. Though my hands' spasm bullshit had gotten quieter and less frequent, a slight trembling tends to start whenever my mind focuses on my fingers, and the more I focus, the bigger the trembling becomes.. It's a strange medical mystery, and I tell you what; IT'S F***ING ANNOYING!  (excuse me for my French..)

Anyway, one of our regular clients brought this three-volume set of Bertuchs' Bilderbuch für Kinder a few years ago, - just around the time I started getting really sick, and it has been put aside until now due to my absence. I feel absolutely horrible about this delay, but now it's done! He brought a picture of a set of volumes (pictured left) and asked for a brand new leather binding just like that. As you see on the picture, the volume numbers are tooled on onlay; a thinly skived leather is trimmed in shape and glued directly onto the surface, then the edge is tooled blind or in gold afterwards. It's a common practice, but I don't think I've shown an example of onlay on my blog before, so I decided to post this work here this time. You can have fun with onlay for your personal project for sure! But make sure to skive the leather well, and tool the edge afterwards. Or, the leather piece will peel off easily, and let me just be frank; it just simply doesn't look good. ;-)

 Bilderbuch für Kinder, translates as "picture book for children" in German, is filled with lots of coolest picture plates. I'll try to put some of them up on my blog when I get a chance. ;-)
The volumes have been picked up before I took photos of the picture plates.. So I can't put them on my blog. Sorry!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Civil Wars of Spain, 1652

I realized I haven't posted anything since the new year began, and as it so happened I've kept before pictures of this particular client's books, I just took after pictures of the latest work and decided to put it up. And though it's a month and half late, a happy new year to ya' all! 

The book is The Civil Wars of Spain by Prudencio de Sandoval, (1652). The client asked for a brand new leather binding as one of the original boards was missing. The leather is dyed to make it look appropriate for the era and I chose a red skiver as it was common around the time. I used the raw flyleaf as endpapers for this binding though I normally don't do that. In case some of you aren't familiar with flyleaf, it's the blank sheets at the beginning and the end of a book. Yeah, THAT blank pages got a name just like anything else in the world. haha.. Anyway, traditionally, a book is cased-in with flyleaf as endpapers, and then, if it's preferred, endpapers are laminated onto it afterwards. 

There was a sheet of unrelated, incomplete manuscripts sewn as a part of original flyleaf on each front and back of the book, and the client asked me to take them out as he was curious as to what they were. When you take out things like this from a book, you gotta make sure to indicate where they came from, in case they are separated from the book. Or you never know what the hell they are!

By the way, to update my health status, I'm doing a lot better! Thank you! I hope it keeps getting better!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Barque, a sail journal by Robert Simonson.

We have a rather strict "unwritten policy" (or should I say a common sense?) not to read clients' hand written personal notes and records. But when it comes to very old documents and manuscripts, we certainly get fascinated of checking them out! (duh,,, that's one of the most beautiful aspects of having a job that handles "history", eh?) This torn notebook came in several months ago, and I finally get to work on it. A straightforward job: a brand-new facsimile binding. A suitable job for a binder with not so much energy. The name of the author is Robert Simonson, whose hand-writing is magnificent. ( Boy, people used to write beautifully, you know?) Some pages are written in Hebrew and Greek, and a language that's unknown to me, along with some hand drawn illustrations of landscapes. A very mysterious book for sure. Though the writings are beautiful (or maybe because of it), I had hard time reading his cursive letters! So, I couldn't precisely figure out who he actually was. But looks like he was on board, not as a captain or crew, but as an investor of some kind?  - There are pages containing the records of money movements of hundreds and thousands!? You know of how much a thousand dollars is equivalent to that of today's!? Well, whoever Mr. Simonson was, he sure was a helluva rich dude with an impeccable writing.

Anyway, the client asked for a brand new facsimile half binding with a similar marble paper. The thing about this book is that there are two different notebooks combined together, meaning that they were bound together after these notebooks were filled. ( Bound by a stationary firm out of New York, Jansen & Bell, so I guess this notebook is from mid to late 19th century.) So the first half and last part are different in sizes. In a case like this, you have to "jog" to the top when sewing, yeah? It's OK to have a book that's not "flush" on the bottom, but not OK if the top edge is ragged.

The restoration of this book involved a complete resewing, custom leather dying, antiquing of endpaper to match the preserved half endpaper, sewn headbands and paper restoration.

Oh, by the way, regarding our "unwritten policy", if you put "My Hate List" on the last page of your childhood diary, we can't help but read it. So be aware. hahaha. (I don't know what he did, but she hated you, Mike.. )