There’s more to bookbinding than bookbinding

When my bookbinding tools and materials first arrived, I couldn’t wait to get started; I can be pretty impatient at times, and I’ve wanted to do this for so long that the days between shipping and arrival seemed interminable. Since that first entry, I’ve been relatively silent about my progress, although my last post hinted at the fact that I haven’t done any actual binding yet. It’s certainly not laziness or procrastination, although I will admit that classes have started to get in the way—a number of different assignments, not to mention preparation for a midterm, have due dates right around the same time, and naturally I need to give my classes priority. That’s not to say, however, that I’ve been doing nothing. The truth is that there’s a lot more to bookbinding than bookbinding.

What I mean by this is that there’s more to putting together a book than the actual physical act of cutting, sewing, and gluing. I was initially going to follow a pattern from one of my books exactly for my first binding, but upon looking at the instructions and measurements, I noticed that there was going to be quite a bit of waste paper if I used those dimensions. I’m planning on getting my paper from Paper Source in Brookline (no, I still haven’t done that yet—although I did finally purchase a utility knife and PVA from Blick), so I looked at the various dimensions offered and tried to figure out what size paper would leave me with the least waste.

Analysis of the amount of waste paper after cutting of signatures from various sheet sizes.

Analysis of the amount of waste paper after cutting of signatures from various sheet sizes.

What became clear was that, for multiple reasons, purchasing the standard (American) paper size of 812 × 11 inch and adjusting the dimensions of the book was actually the best solution. If I purchased a larger paper size, I could lessen the amount of waste versus the smallest, but there would still be quite a bit of waste overall, when you consider that most of what a book is made up of is the text block. Moreover, it would be significantly more work to cut out so many signatures from each larger sheet. I therefore set out to determine the new dimensions for all materials. This actually proved to be more difficult than I expected, mainly because the information in the pattern I was following seemed to contradict itself at some points, and for the most part the text wasn’t explaining where the measurements came from. Luckily, the other book I selected provides both a shopping list of materials with dimensions and a relative one—i.e., one in which you can choose the size of your pages and from there determine the measurement of all other materials. This was exactly what I was looking for, and it allowed me to figure out everything I needed.

Modifications from the original pattern, based on the new text block.

Modifications from the original pattern, based on the new text block.

Instructions for measurement derivation.

Instructions for measurement derivation.

In the end, I’m glad I took the time to consider this rather than just jumping headlong into my first binding. Both economically and environmentally, it makes sense to limit waste, and I’ll be purchasing far more paper than I will any other material. Even more importantly, though, having to revise the measurements rather than just follow a pattern completely means that I now have a better understanding of why certain materials are sized the way they are and what really goes into putting a book together. Rather than just doing something, I’ll actually be understanding it—and that’s certainly worth the extra effort.

Comments

  • Hi Jackie!Good luck in your bookbinding and blogging adventures!
    A lot of math but it’s worth saving so much paper and being enviromentaly sensitive!
    ps-I also have a bookbinding blog,drop by and have a look whenever you like!
    (http://koutsipetsidis.wordpress.com/)

    koutsipetsidisMarch 17, 2011

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