Sunday, June 18, 2017

Making Book

By Ellen Kuhfeld

Credit the Law of Unintended Consequences for this one. On May 21, Joanna discussed a room box she’d made, containing a small bookcase. I commented that since I occasionally bind small books, I’d made a small bookcase for them. She wrote back suggesting I send her a picture, and things snowballed from there.
Killer Hobbies is a blog about books that involve hobbies. My hobby involves books. I’ve written them, even had one published professionally. But the real fun is bookbinding. Many bookbinding, computer, and fannish terms are obscure even to book-lovers, so they have links.
I don’t know the why of my bookbinding - I was doing chapbooks way back in the Fifties when I was in high school, for no reason I can really remember. They were always filled with something I'd written or drawn. No blank books, no indeed! That's not the purpose of a book!
In college, I entered into the wonderful worlds of science-fiction and comics fandom. This was back in the Sixties, the days of printed fanzines. Some people used mimeo, but the ink was filthy and contagious; I went for the clean world of ditto. The only fluid involved was alcohol, equally useful as a cleaning fluid. I was a virtuoso with ditto - six colors, and they stayed in register! In grad school I did two issues of a comic book, Jack's High, where I tried mating ditto colors with offset printing. The register wasn't always good, but when it worked, it worked.
Somewhere in there,  Mary Monica (Monica Ferris these days) decided to write her persona story. I published them as chapbooks, and they were quite a hit in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). They earned her the Order of the Laurel, one of the Society's highest honors. Those chapbooks were just the right size to serve as signatures in a book. As a Christmas present, I bound them together -- her first hardcover. Her first professionally-published hardcover was later. I've recently OCR'd that first series of chapbooks, edited it, and it's now available on Amazon as The Chronicles of Deer Abbey.
At that point, I was off and running. I read a lot of fiction from the internet - some of it is fine indeed - and decided I wanted a particular story in permanent form. I downloaded, proofread, copy-edited, and laid it out with a publishing program. I bought a duplexing laser printer, printed it, and bound it. Since this was a learning experience, I bound two copies and sent the better copy off to the author, which I've done to this day with the books I bind - 18 of this sort so far, plus many others.
Some of the stories I dearly wanted in print were simply too short to make a book - or rather, to make a full-sized book. Therefore, miniature books. I bind small books the same way I bind large books; but I make the tools smaller. I started out with the best how-to book I've met in seventy years of reading and making: Hand Bookbinding, by Aldren A. Watson. I learned from the 1963 version, but there are later editions. Whatever you do, don't get the Kindle edition! The up-to-date ones are probably better for materials and sources, but you can get most of what you need from Amazon.

So: the bookcase. It’s Phillipine mahogany, while the book in front of it, with the coat of arms, is Baltic birch. That’s Mary Monica’s first hardcover. I bound all the others, too, and for fun decided to make both hardcover and paperback versions of Ryoko Saotome, the two books furthest to the right.
You can go  to the website of a small -book publisher who also makes miniatures (people who make and furnish dollhouses would love it!) and has some suggestions. Gabrielle Fox has some handsome books, and does restoration work. Peter and Donna Thomas make miniature books, but they tend to commit art to the detriment of the book. Miniature books may be a better place than most to commit art, but still - I don't approve of accordion bindings, and they go even further than that. De Walden Press  has some handsome little books displayed, though they're out of that business now. Their website is hard to navigate, so the link will drop you on their index page. Tony Firman makes miniature books, and the equipment for making miniature books; and he has manuals that tell you how to make your own equipment. The term "miniature" is loose: in the US, the books have to be less than 3" in each dimension. In England, they have to be less than 4". So the book with the bonsai on the cover is English miniature, not American. Under 1” it’s considered dollhouse size.
Serendipitously, bookbinding is useful for self-publishing, which I also do. I prepare the text as usual; but then instead of binding it, ship it off to a print-on-demand printer. I use Createspace on Amazon, but there are many others. For details, visit my web site, Don’t call me Little Washuu. It doesn’t say a thing about bookbinding, but The Lab has my e-mail address.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Book binding does sound like an enjoyable hobby, especially for a writer.

Ellen said...

It's enjoyable, and produces something lasting. My brother transcribed our grandfather's diaries from his adventures in Siberia during the first World War. I transcribed some other papers, and bound the collection in a five-copy edition. That was last Christmas' presents to my brother, my sister, my sister's two sons, and myself. Thus, family history goes down another generation.

If I put all the books I've bound side by side, they'd cover about four feet -- hardly commercial production, but it's nice to look at. Some, of course, are nicer to look at than others.