Bookbinding, Colonial style

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m something of a science fiction nut. I grew up watching The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager; Babylon 5; and more (often B-rate) science fiction movies than I can remember. I think Firefly is one of the most brilliant shows ever made, and I simply cannot get enough of Doctor Who. It’s only natural, then, that I’m a huge fan of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica; in fact, I may or may not have, at one point in time, based my haircut off of one Kara Thrace. This weekend, the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge, held a screening of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries (2003), and since re-watching the miniseries on the big screen, I’ve been considering the feasibility and mechanics of binding books Colonial style—that is, with two missing or cropped corners.

The catalogs for the PropWorx auctions have cropped corners, as do most books in the series.

The catalogs for the PropWorx auctions have cropped corners, as do most books in the series.

A Google search turned up this Instructables page on someone’s experiences binding such a book, and although it provides what seems to be a good technique for getting the page corners cut evenly, it was written by someone who has no experience in bookbinding, and step by step it’s not really an acceptable procedure. The first red flag was the choice of glue and the suggestion that a finger be used to spread it, but the decision to attach the boards to the text block first and wrap the leather around it afterwards is also problematic. Given that my main concern (in terms of differences from binding a normal book) is creating neat foldovers of the bookcloth, this tutorial isn’t much help.

In the standard process, the corners of the bookcloth are actually cut off before it’s wrapped around the board, I assume to help eliminate bulk and to keep the folds neat. I’m hoping that cutting the bookcloth at this angle will work well with the Colonial-style corners, as well, although I fully expect it to not be so easy. I drew some (rather sad-looking and admittedly sloppy) sketches, and although they weren’t terribly helpful for me in terms of working out the problem, they should make what I’m describing a little more clear.

Normal and colonial-style book sketches. Shown are boards glued down onto bookcloth. The next step is folding the bookcloth over the board at the edges. The text block is attached afterwards.

Normal and colonial-style book sketches. Shown are boards glued down onto bookcloth. The next step is folding the bookcloth over the board at the edges. The text block is attached afterwards.

In any case, I’ll have more insight after I’ve completed my first normal binding, not to mention when I have a Colonial-style text block and boards in my hands. I can then do some test folds with scrap bookcloth (or paper) before working with the real cloth and adhesive.

The other thing I’d need to figure out before attempting this is how much of the corner to crop off of the text block and boards. I found another homemade example that is quite lovely, but the ratio seems off. Similarly, in this example from Flickr, something seems awry, and I wonder whether the problem might have as much to do with the proportion of height to width of the book as it does with the size of the cropped corners. Luckily, the right measurements should be fairly easy to figure out by trial and error with some scrap paper, a pencil, and a pair of scissors. I’ll also try to dig up some good images of books from the show (shots from Adama’s quarters should be especially helpful) to make sure that it’s not my memory that’s the problem.

Obviously, this project isn’t high priority, but it might be fun to try after I’ve completed my first two planned bindings.

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