Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cruise of the USS Dolphin, 1831

One of our returning clients dropped off this book last December and asked us to create a brand new leather binding with a custom design on its cover. Master had been holding this work for several months due to his preoccupation, but decided to entrust me with it back in June-July. When it comes to custom designs, most of our clients already have particular and clear designs they want, so all we have to do is to simply "materialize" it for them. But this work was different. The client had very vague ideas as to how he wanted it to look; however, he was certain that he wanted the design to be very simple and somewhat abstract. - Art Deco-like, yet to represent the subject of this book in some way. (like using a harpoon, whale, ship and ocean etc...as the basis of the design.) Humm... you see, it took me a while to get myself into his mind and precisely come up with the design that he had envisioned. I was so relieved that he liked the design I submitted very much. (whew!) As much as I admire old fashioned Rococo-Victorian designs in binding as a binder, I also adore Art Deco. So, it was actually fun to brain storm in sketches and visualize his wish. He won't be able to pick up this book until December, but because it turned out to be exactly the same as the design that I showed him in graphic, I think he'll like it. One thing I kinda regret is that I didn't use a smaller wheel for the curved lines, so the lines became a bit inconsistent. But hey, they are supposed to be waves, so shouldn't slight wobble be alright ?!? :-p
UPDATE 11/02/2013 : The client later requested for a custom slipcase with a matching marble inner liner, so I just added the picture above.
This is Journal of a Cruise of the United States Schooner Dolphin, by Hiram Paulding, published by G. & C. & H. Carvill. (New York, 1831.) The restoration / rebinding involved a complete resewing, recreation of a frontispiece map, a sewn upper headband and a new full leather binding with French curl marble endpapers and a gold tooling of the custom design.


  1. "so shouldn't slight wobble be alright ?!?"
    I believe it's one of those cases where a small "accident" actually compliments the result. The slight wobbling seems indeed more befitting to the concept of waves!

    When it comes to long and slightly curved lines I prefer to use a stylus tool. Of course it requires a great deal more time but I feel it allows much greater control and precision.
    It also offers a wonderful neck pain by the end!

    Love the design MHR! Inventive and with a certain art deco air about it.
    I find the aesthetics of art deco exquisite as well, in bookbinding and in general. I've devoted a small post on the subject a while back in my blog, I would be happy if you'd read it!

    I also like the choice of curving the waves upwards at the front cover, it really makes the design come alive as a sea.

    1. Hi Dimitris,
      Stylus tool!? Wow.. I've never used that for lines! I can see how labor intensive it would be. But yeah, I'll try and see how it'd work for me in the future.

      Although I have a bit of "design" related background, which is unrelated to bookbinding, because it's not my profession, it often isn't so easy for me to see through a client's mind and come up with THE design he/she is after. I was glad to hear that this was what he had envisioned.

      I'd like to read the post you wrote about Art Deco. I looked for it on your blog, but couldn't find it. Could you give me the link?

  2. It's near the bottom of the second main page (didn't post the link because it's an awkward 3liner).

    Yup, seeing through a client's mind is tricky indeed. If the person doesn't have a somewhat defined idea of what he/she would like to receive I prefer to say "I'll come up with a concept or two and we'll talk before I start". That way I usually avoid having to work through vague pointers.

    As for the stylus, if the line is straight or has just a hint of curvature I go for standard rollers as well and if it has a well defined curve I use a sequence of gouges. I find the stylus comes in handy regarding lines only when it's that middle situation where the line is just curvy enough so as to make the use of a roller uncomfortable! And of course I'm talking about an edged stylus rather than the classic pointy one.