I’ve been a great admirer of the bookbinding program at the North Bennet Street School for quite a while now. Unfortunately, reason forces me to accept the fact that I will most likely never be able to afford it. In light of this, I’m taken steps toward teaching myself some of the basics, for both personal and professional reasons. Let’s jump right into it, shall we? After all, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

The first order of business was picking out a few books. I chose Bookcraft and Creating Books and Boxes. They were both well-reviewed on Amazon, and the previews looked promising.

Bookbinding Books

How-to guides.

The search for tools was much more intimidating. However, both books offer tool lists and comments, which was a great place to start. Armed with a list of items I needed, I researched some online and local stores, creating an Excel chart to compare prices. This turned out to be hugely beneficial in helping me decide which stores to order from.

I ended up getting all of the tools and a few consumables (blank newsprint, Irish linen thread, and methyl cellulose) from Talas, based in New York. I am already extremely pleased with their service. For one thing, unlike many business I’ve ordered from, they didn’t ignore my request for delivery without a signature. Even better, they called me when they noticed I ordered Jade 403 (PVA)—apparently this stuff isn’t much use if it freezes, and they correctly surmised that the package might be sitting outside overnight in the middle of February. I decided to have them remove the PVA from my order, and all was well.

Bookbinding Tools

Tools of the trade.

For bookcloth and board, I turned to Hollander’s. This order was uneventful, but I’m pleased with the look of the materials.

Bookbinding Materials


I also picked up color samplers for the starched linen and Italian (cialux) bookcloth from Hollander’s. The linen colors in the sampler look pretty flat, although they pop a bit more in the full-sized sheets. The Italian bookcloth has a nice sheen in the sampler, so I definitely look forward to ordering some of that in the future—as well as some of Hollander’s other, pricier offerings. For my initial bindings, I just wanted to keep things as simple and cheap as possible.

Hollander's bookcloth samples

Starched linen and Italian bookcloth samplers.

In all of this there is, of course, a conspicuous lack of paper. I’m hoping to find paper for the text block and endpaper/pastedown somewhere locally; I felt reasonably comfortable buying everything else online, but for the paper I’d really like to be able to see what I’m getting. I also need to pick up PVA, a steel triangle, a good mechanical pencil, and a strong utility knife for cutting the board, all of which should be relatively easy to find. Once that’s taken care of, I can get started.

I can’t wait.


  • I can’t wait either – very excited to see the direction your book-binding enterprise will take. Expect me to be following your endeavors.

    Clare DoyleMarch 2, 2011
  • P.S. Looks very pretty.

    Clare DoyleMarch 2, 2011

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