Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean by Captain Cook

We happened to have three sets of three-volume-set Cook's Voyage in the bindery from different clients, so I thought it might be of an interest to you to see different editions of this well known publication. I'm posting two of them here.

This particular one is a 1785, second edition of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, by Capt. James Cook (vols. I & II.),  and James King. (vol. III), printed by H. Hughsm for G. Nicol and T. Cadell (London). It was bound in full pasta espanora leather with stone marble endpapers. For these volumes, I was asked to insert all the missing maps, thus consequently, I had to redo the previous binder's re-backing job. (It's because the thickness of the books would expand due to the inserted maps.) As for the spine lay out, I had no choice but to "recreate" what the previous binder tried to do because I didn't know how the original spine of this particular edition of Cook's Voyage looked like. So, I dyed the leather to match the boards, and did facsimile labels based on the few original labels left by the previous binder. Also, to replace the cheap n' ugly machine made headbands that he/she used, I examined the folds of signatures to find out the original colors of sewn headbands, (which turned out to be red and green.) and sewed them. Other restoration involved replacing the internal cloth hinges and minor repairs on the edges and corners.

This is a 1784 edition of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, by Capt. Cook, Clerke and Gore, printed by W. & A. Strahan for G. Nicol, published by T. Cadell. (London) It was bound in a quarter leather with a beautiful french curl marble and a humble set of green sewn headbands. The client asked for a minimum restoration on these volumes, so the restoration involved here was re-hinging on front hinge for one, partial hinge repair on another, recreation of a missing skiver label, and repairs on the corners.


  1. Amazing as always!
    I apologize for asking on your blog post, but I don't know how else to contact you; I've been binding on my own for a few years and I'd like to start an apprenticeship at a local bindery. What is the best way to approach this? Should I call and say that I'd be interested in apprenticing, should I bring something I've made, or would it be be best to come in and talk to the owner in person? I've been teaching myself for quite some time and I'm really wanting to expand into something more than binding at my desk. I'd be happy even to just watch!

    1. Hello Daniil,

      You can use this comment section to ask me any bookbinding-related questions, which I think is actually good because others who might have the same questions could see my response. But if you prefer to be more private, you can always e-mail me as well: bookbinderschronicle@gmail.com (It was, in fact, linked to my blog profile, by the way. ;-)

      Your question is actually a tricky one to answer, since visions, philosophies, disciplines and the actual skills and practices of bookbinders out there in the world differ, thus the kind of people they would consider as possible apprentices also differs. First of all, yes, you want to contact them preferably via phone rather than via e-mail because it could just be discarded easily. (based on our experiences. ;-p)

      For two extreme instances, if the operation of the bindery you are interested in contacting is relatively large, and more towards a commercial, less hands-on type, I don't think you need to worry about how to approach them. They might just think you as a free labor force and they'd be happy to take you in. Just express your passion for this craft to them. On the contrary, if the bindery is smaller, more traditional and operated by one master by him/herself (and/or with maybe one or two apprentices), whether the bindery is open for public or is private, there are few things I would consider when approaching him/her. The more traditional craftsmen and women can be very secretive of their trades, thus they are very picky when it comes to choosing apprentices. They normally don't need apprentices in a nutshell because 1) People are too impatient and can be too ambitious so that they would leave in a short time after they assumed they got enough knowledge and skills from the master, consequently giving the master a bad name due to the apprentices' mediocre works outside his/her bindery. 2) It could mean creating unnecessary competitors. In the old days, apprentices would have to spend at least 6 years of learning under a master, and when they get an approval of mastery from the master, there was a certain distance decided by the master that they had to keep their own bindery practice from the master's. But, it's a modern world we live in, so this doesn't apply, unless some sort of a contract is required to be signed. In these cases, I'd advise you to express more of humility and sincerity rather than "what you could do" and "how capable and passionate you are" about bookbinding. And also more importantly and needless to say, you must have a strong admiration towards the particular binder's works (well, that's why you want to learn from him/her to begin with, right?..) and express that respect to him/her. If I were you, I would bring your portfolio or what not to the meeting, but I wouldn't show it off UNLESS I were asked to do so.

      Also, if the master is elderly, and he/she in fact is searching for a particular kind/character of person to entrust/inherit his/her knowledge so that their legacy would live after they are gone, follow what I just said above, but you need a blessing from God to be chosen. ;-)

      Good luck!

  2. I dislike the machine made headbands too.
    The pasta espanora leather is unique,looks like the paper marbling effect.And the french curl marbled paper is really beautiful!

  3. Very very beautiful! In my experience, I m faced with a dilemma: doing the best restoration job I can or listening to what the client wants. I ve often volunteered to sew a book on my own time when the client just wanted it glued, so it would cost less, because the book was worth it. I feel bad doing a cheap job, but I realize not every client affords intricate and laborious solutions. That s why now I tend to be less critical of poor bindings I see from older binders, because I realize that even if they wanted and knew how to do better, the clients would have refused and stuck with the cheap versions. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi, I repair and rebind in real leather some personal Bibles for close friends from church who wear out their Bibles. I lost my affordable old fellow grandpa who sold me marbled paper for endpapers (less than $5 for 19"x 25"!). Now I am not sure what paper to use next. What might you recommend, considering that I loved marbled paper color, that I am cheap, yet hope to stay away from that black/white Bible endpaper? Thanks.

    1. Hi Brian,
      Well,basically, you can use whatever paper you like as endspaper. If you like marble paper, but don't want to spend too much for it, you can use a digitally printed marble. You can either scan marble paper yourself and print it, or digital marble graphics are commercially available. We Do have a CD with a collection of marble papers available for clients who don't want to spend lots of money for a real marble. Here's one of those products; Paper Textures; Royalty-free Art for Designers (Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 0-7643-2118-8)