THE BONE FOLDER:
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN AN AESTHETICALLY-INCLINED BIBLIOPHILE
By Ernst Collin
Originally published as Der
Pressbengel by the
Euphorion Verlag, Berlin 1922.
Translated in 2010 © Peter D. Verheyen
Dedication and thanks:
This translation is dedicated to my parents who through their encouragement
and support led me to this wonderful art and profession, and whose questioning
pushed me forward in the pursuit of excellence.
I am very grateful to Cara Schlesinger, Editor of the Guild
of Book Workers’ Journal for her tenacious editing, and other
suggestions that greatly improved my translation of this work. It was
greatly appreciated. Thank you also to Karen Hanmer, Hope Kuniholm, and
Don Rash for feedback, encouragement, and editorial suggestions. This
project would not have been completed without all of you.
Ernst Collin (1886 -1942) was a writer whose father, the well-known
Berlin-based bookbinder Georg Collin (1851–1918), occasionally provided
bookbinding lessons to the Prussian King and German Emperor Frederick
III. The elder Collin was also very involved in training women to become
full-fledged bookbinders. Because of this paternal connection with the
trade, Ernst maintained a strong affinity for bookbinding, demonstrated
by his publications about and for the bookbinding trade. Among them are
Vom guten Geschmack und von der Kunstbuchbinderei (1914), a treatise
about aesthetics and fine binding included in a monograph about the Spamersche
Buchbinderei, Leipzig; Deutsche Einbandkunst (1921), the catalog
to the Jakob-Krause-Bund’s exhibition; and the Bund’s newsletter,
Die Heftlade (1922-24). The Jakob-Krause-Bund, a precursor to
Meister der Einbandkunst (MDE, the German association of masters of the
art of binding) , included some of the most influential German binders
of the late 19th and early 20th century, among them Paul Adam, Otto Dorfner,
Paul Kersten, and Franz Weiße. Collin also authored Buchbinderei
für den Hausbedarf () and Paul Kersten (1925),
the latter a biography of one of the most seminal German fine bookbinders,
whose Der Exakte Bucheinband (1923) helped define German fine
(1922), Collin’s best-known work, was first republished in 1984
by the Mandragora Verlag and later translated into Italian as Dal
Religatore d’Arte (1996). Conceived as a dialogue between a
bibliophile and a master bookbinder on all aspects of the bookbinding
craft as well as specific techniques, the original German has a charming
if somewhat pedantically formal “school primer” tone, in keeping
with the time in which it was written. The question-and-answer format
has a long history in pedagogical texts, whether for catechisms (see Nicolaus
Cusanus’ Christliche Zuchtschul) or trades, as in Friedrich
Friese’s Ceremoniel der Buchbinder (1712), which introduces
the reader to all aspects of the bookbinding trade and its traditions.
First published in 1937, Oldrich Menhart’s Evening Conversations
of the Booklover Rubricius and the Printer Tympanus is the letterpress
equivalent to Collin’s Pressbengel, and there is considerable
overlap between the two, as might be expected. Evening Conversations
was later translated into German (1958) and then English (1980), the latter
by the Crabgrass Press in an edition of 100 copies bound by Fritz Eberhardt.
Throughout the work, Collin himself is very frank in addressing the
conflicts between quality and cost, as well as the positive and negative
impacts of “machines” throughout the work. In his introduction
to the 1984 reprint of Der Pressbengel, Gustav Moessner, author
of and contributor to several German bookbinding texts, states that he
sees Collin’s work in part as a reaction to the growing industrialization
of the bookbinding trade and the loss of the skills and techniques connected
with this industrialization. In many respects this trajectory continues
today, accelerated by the decrease in formal bookbinding apprenticeship
opportunities, the increasing simplification of structures, changing aesthetics,
and ultimately changes in the perceived value of books and the general
economic climate. Until recently, Germany’s strong guild system
required one to complete a formal apprenticeship and become a master binder
in order to open one’s own shop and train apprentices. Unfortunately,
this system has been in decline over the past decades, and many shops
are closing or no longer training apprentices – a completed apprenticeship
and “meister” are no longer required to open a business if
no apprentices are being trained. Concurrently, a network of centers and
alternative programs, such as “master-run” shops offering
instruction to amateurs, is not developing in a way that would provide
the high quality, rigid training critical to sustaining the craft over
the long term. The apprenticeship system declined even earlier in the
United Kingdom, another nation with a strong tradition of formal craft
training. In other countries the trade system was not as formalized to
begin with. The United States represents the most diverse environment
for the trade, with a blending of the dominant English, French, and German
traditions brought over by immigrants, but a formal career path, like
that in the European tradition, never developed. Instead, less formal
apprenticeships (on-the-job training) became the norm. This did not, however,
hinder the development of some very fine American binders.
Samuel Ellenport’s The
Future of Hand-Bookbinding (1993) provides an excellent if sobering
overview of the changes experienced by the hand bookbinding trade in the
United States, but leaves out the explosive growth among amateur binders
and book artists. The past thirty years have seen a resurgence of interest
in all aspects of the book arts, with centers offering workshops springing
up across the United States. Formal programs have been developed, including
the North Bennett Street School in Boston (a two-year trade model), the
American Academy of Bookbinding in Colorado (a series of workshops), and
the University of Alabama’s MFA in the book arts (an academic degree).
These programs are doing much to preserve many traditional skills, but
the contemporary book arts craft risks losing others that may be deemed
too anachronistic or, like gold tooling, simply unaffordable and therefore
not regularly practiced.
This is the first publication of Der Pressbengel in English,
and while I have attempted to remain faithful to the original text, it
should not be considered a scholarly translation , nor was it ever intended
to be a “technical manual.” Like the German original of 1922,
it is intended to be a general introduction to the bookbinding craft and
trade as it existed in Germany when the work appeared. The title change
from Der Pressbengel, an esoteric tool used to increase the leverage
when tightening a German backing press (Klotzpresse), to The Bone
Folder, an iconic tool that represents bookbinding as no other can,
was undertaken both because “Pressbengel” has no “clean”
English equivalent and to help make the text more accessible to today’s
binders and bibliophiles. In a very few other cases, references to brand
names have been made more general where this had no impact on the essence
of the text. The result, I hope, is in keeping with the spirit and essence
of the original German.
Monday: A Discussion about Bookbinding
BIBLIOPHILE (looking around the studio of the master bookbinder):
Master, what is this wonderful tool that you have here? It looks intriguingly
BOOKBINDER: That, my good sir, is a harmless but important
tool. We call it a bone folder. I use it to fold paper, make signatures,
rub down the linings on the spine, and work leather and any number of
other materials that I encounter every day. With it I can take a collection
of papers and craft them into a book. It is an extension of my hands and
serves as a continual reminder of the value of good craft work, even if
the aura of the trade is no longer what it once was.
BIBLIOPHILE: Quite right, Master. As a bibliophile
I know how to value a finely handbound book. I just can’t find pleasure
in reading an ugly, poorly-bound book that falls apart as one is reading
it. In contrast a well-bound, indestructible book helps bring me to the
time and place of the story and gives me the sensations I need when reading.
If I were to ask you, Master, could you tell me about your work? Please
don’t think idle curiosity is my motive or even that I want steal
ideas from you.
I think I will be a better client if I understand your craft and can judge
its complexity. My opinion is that a bibliophile who doesn’t understand
books is following a trivial pursuit. However, someone who isn’t
interested only in the content of the work but also understands how a
book is made—beginning with papermaking and through to titling the
finished binding—has embraced book collecting with his heart and
soul. So, won’t you introduce me to the secrets of your craft in
a few short discussions?
BOOKBINDER: I would be willing to do that, but you can’t expect
me to teach you everything, as that would require an apprenticeship of
three to four years, plus as many more years of work and experience in
order to become a competent master bookbinder. A master binder doesn’t
appear out of nowhere. Why don’t we do it this way: I’ll tell
you about some of the most important binding styles first, and tell you
only enough about the structure so you can visualize it. We’ll talk
about the specific details that interest you when you bring me your books
BIBLIOPHILE: That sounds fair. So, Master, why don’t
BOOKBINDER: All right, let’s start with the paper case binding,
whose covering is made of paper, either plain or decorated. We’ll
talk about it again later because it is the most beautiful of the simple
bindings, and you will certainly have me make many of them for you.
Next is the quarter-cloth binding, in which the spine and the corners
of the book’s cover are in colored book cloth. Book cloth is woven
from cotton, and we can get it in many attractive textures and colors.
The parts of the book not in cloth are covered with plain or decorated
paper. These are simple bindings, and I want to emphasize that this style
is not as much for the bibliophile as for heavily used items in public
And now we come to the first of the finer bindings, the quarter-leather
binding. What on the quarter cloth binding would be fabric is now covered
in leather. It is a finer binding because leather is the most noble of
covering materials. Also, the structure as a whole is much more involved.
BIBLIOPHILE: I understand completely. If leather is the most beautiful
and best material, than the binder is obligated to adjust all aspects
of the books to the demands of that noble material. Noblesse oblige!
BOOKBINDER: Exactly, and finally we have the best binding structure, the
full-leather binding. As the name suggests, the whole book is covered
in leather. These are the main binding styles. We also have the quarter-
and full-vellum bindings. You could cover books in silk or velvet as well,
but that is not something that you as a bibliophile would want.
As you can imagine, the binding of a book is broken down into a sequence
of many individual steps that build upon each other. When we are at the
conclusion, you will recognize that from the moment a binder takes a text
block in his hand until the title is stamped on the spine—how should
I say this—all these things occur in a logical sequence. Ultimately,
if you miss just one stitch while sewing, it will all come apart.
Particular attention must be paid when preparing to sew. I don’t
want to bore you with the details, but I will say that we must first disbind
books that have been sewn by machine. This includes breaking the book
down to the individual signatures, removing the old thread (or, heaven
forbid, those awful staples), and then scraping off the glue left on the
outsides of the folds. Next, we need to put the signatures in a press
in order to compact the text block. Before we do that, though, we may
need to refold the signatures and collate them to make sure everything
is there and where it should be. If there are plates, they will usually
need to be trimmed to size and tipped back in or hinged in with a thin
strip of paper or jaconette.
After the signatures have been in the press—like this one, which
gets opened and closed using this iron bar—for a good long time,
then we will make the endpapers. Endpapers are what we call the folios
that come before and after the last signatures of the text block, made
of a white- or cream-colored paper that is matched in color and texture
to the paper of the text block. There are many styles of endpapers, one
of which I will describe for you. We’ll start with a double folio
of paper as tall as the text block and slightly wider. Applying paste
in a very narrow bead to the back of the fold, we attach a five-centimeter-wide
strip of paper that will serve as a reinforcing strip. When the paste
is dry, we fold the strip around the back of the signature, just as pharmacists
once used to attach the labels to medicine bottles. We place the endpapers
on both sides of the text block so the strip of paper faces to the outside
and put the book in a finishing press in order to determine how to divide
the spine for sewing.
We sew over twine that we call cord. The old bookbinders used to place
these cords on the outside of the spine, so they were raised and visible
under the leather. Today we rarely sew on raised cords. The cords are
recessed so as not to be visible, and if in the case of a quarter- or
full-leather binding we want raised cords, we will make false ones later
out of strips of card.
BIBILOPHILE: Master, if I may comment, aren’t
these false raised bands deceptive and a betrayal of good craft? They
are certainly fake.
BOOKBINDER: We can debate the pros and cons of this argument for a long
time. That said, in the end people just aren’t willing to pay for
the level of the craft that I love. If you know this kind of simplification
need not be at the expense of sound structure, then I see no reason why
one should abstain from the attractive appearance of raised cords on principle
just because they aren’t real. However, if the client wants real
raised cords and is willing to pay, I am more than happy to oblige. But
let us move on.
First, I need to divide the spine into fields to determine where the
cords go. Usually we sew on five cords, and the fake raised cords are
placed directly on top of these. With smaller or simpler books we’ll
reduce the number of cords to three or four. In addition to the cords
we also have the kettle stitches that are set back slightly from the head
and tail of the spine—that is what we call the top and bottom of
the text block. The sewing thread connects the signatures at the kettle
stitch with a link stitch that looks like the links of a chain. Next,
we saw into the folds of the signatures so that we can recess the cords.
BIBLIOPHILE: What? Saw into the text block? You’re cutting into
paper with a saw? Isn’t that barbaric? Paper isn’t wood! You’re
not a carpenter! Master, my bibliophilic conscience can’t abide
BOOKBINDER: Well, it’s like this. I don’t have a problem just
lightly cutting in to the spine of the book, especially if one doesn’t
deepen the cut with a rasp as some do. One can also avoid sawing into
the spine if one untwists the cords and flattens them so that they don’t
show when the leather is on the spine. If you wish, I’d be happy
to sew your book on frayed-out cords if we aren’t sewing on real
raised cords, but it will cost more.
BIBLIOPHILE: I will gladly pay if it keeps the saw away from my books.
BOOKBINDER: We sew the book on a sewing frame, a tool that is almost as
old as bookbinding itself. Here, take a look at my sewing frame—the
board upon which the signatures are laid during sewing. At the front are
threaded wooden dowels that go through a cross bar, which is slit for
the hooks that will hold the cords taut during sewing. Below that, in
the board, are nails to which the cord is attached. Sewing is a very important
step. You start with the last signature (the back endpaper) and insert
the threaded needle through the fold at the kettle stitch, come out and
over the first cord, then back into the signature, then out and over the
next cord, until you get to the other kettle stitch. Then the next signature
is placed on top and we repeat the process, always remembering to connect
the signatures. After we are done, we cut the cords so they extend several
centimeters beyond the spine on both sides. Then we fray out the ends
of the cords, fan them out, and adhere them to the waste sheet. Next,
we tip the endpaper signature to the adjacent text signature with a thin
bead of paste. Finally, we glue up the spine and round it with a hammer.
BIBLIOPHILE: Do we have to round the book? I feel that a half-round spine
detracts from the overall appearance of the book. A square back just fits
better with the right angles of the boards. I want only square backs on
BOOKBINDER: Then you won’t enjoy your book in the long term. I know
from experience that with use a square-backed book will have a tendency
to develop a concave spine, causing the individual signatures to jut out.
That looks very ugly. Can we compromise? I will only slightly round your
book so the signatures don’t jut out, but it also won’t end
up with a half-round spine. I can promise you that a lightly rounded spine
will not look ugly.
BIBLIOPHILE: Agreed. I am glad we can combine the expertise of a professional
with the ideals of a bibliophile in a sort of marriage of convenience.
BOOKBINDER: Next, we back the book, one of the most important steps in
giving the text block structural integrity. I’ll need to explain
this step to you in more detail. First, we replace the book in the backing
press, but this time between two boards, with the rounded spine extending
beyond the edges by a few millimeters, a distance determined by the binding
style and the thickness of the cover boards. Then we tighten the press
very securely and begin to work the spine with a backing hammer, so that
the signatures begin to fold towards the boards. We call this the shoulder,
and the covering board will sit flush with the edge of it. Before hammering
on the spine, we use paste to soften the glue we applied earlier, so the
signatures will move more easily into their final shape. After backing,
we paste up the spine again and smooth everything out before allowing
the book to dry in the press overnight. The next day we take it out to
trim, add a colored or gilt edge, and cut the cover boards to size.
The text block is mostly finished now, and the next step will be to attach
the covers and then cover it in nice paper or leather. Those steps I’ll
explain to you when you bring me your books, because the next steps are
dependent on the desired binding style.
BIBLIOPHILE: Many, many thanks, Master. I want to continue to be your
attentive apprentice. Until tomorrow.
Tuesday: A Discussion about Decorated Papers and Leather
BIBLIOPHILE: Good morning, Master! I dreamed about your bone folder all
night. I saw it as a young apprentice sitting on a stack of books and
laughing at me because I imagined myself already a real bookbinder. I
had actually hoped to bring by some of my books today, but thought it
might be better if we first agreed on how you will decide which techniques
and materials you would use. How do you think we should proceed, Master?
BOOKBINDER: A recurring theme will be the decorated
papers that we use to cover paper case bindings, as a covering and endpaper
for quarter-cloth and quarter-leather bindings, and for endpapers in full-cloth
and full-leather bindings. There are many papers that I’m sure you’ll
consider, even fall in love with. I can’t tell you about all of
them because decorated papers are appearing very quickly, and there are
dozens of workshops that create them. There are even factories being established
to produce them, and artists of both genders are creating fantastically
colorful designs to wrap around books.
Our traditional decorated papers, primarily the marbled ones, have become
unfashionable. As you are a friend of contemporary bookbinding, you will
say rightfully so. However, I think you will still be interested if I
tell you how marbled papers are made. To marble, one needs a rectangular
tray made out of zinc. Into this we pour the size, a material that must
have a slimy consistency. The best size is made from carragheen, or Irish
moss as it is also called. Carragheen is a pale yellow or grayish algae
that comes from the coasts of Ireland. The marbling colors are sprinkled
onto the size with a kind of straw broom, and must contain a bit of ox
gall to help them spread on the size. One can also use a mixture of soap
There are many different kinds of marbling styles—to binders, marbling
isn’t a replication of marble but rather any number of fantastic
colors and patterns. I will limit myself to describing the combed patterns.
After sprinkling the colors onto the size, we first draw a stylus through
the colors with a wavelike motion. Then we pull a comb made of cardboard
or wood strips, into which needles are placed at regular intervals, through
the size with the colors floating on top. Some combs even have two rows
of needles, one of which slides and is moved back and forth as it is pulled
through the colors. These motions produce the combed pattern. Next, we
very carefully lay a sheet of paper on the size, and when it is lifted
off, the pattern is no longer on the size but rather on the sheet. We
marble book edges in a similar way, except that we clamp the book between
boards that are flush with the book edge and carefully place that on the
size. If we do so, the book edges and endpapers will have the same colors
The contemporary marbled papers aren’t as formal as the old patterns.
Instead, we put the emphasis on a tasteful and creative combination of
colors with more random patterns. In some cases, rather than placing the
paper on the size, we moisten the paper and spray several colors on it,
allowing them to flow into each other. We can also spray on the colors
and then crumple the paper to create unusual veined patterns.
BIBLIOPHILE: I’ve seen those papers and always felt they resembled
clouds in the sky. I can look at them for hours and imagine that the colors
and patterns move and change.
BOOKBINDER: There are also sprinkled papers, where different colors are
applied to paper that is hanging or at an angle. This way, the colors
run down and bleed into each other.
Today, papers that are based on batik techniques are also very fashionable.
I’m told that we learned this from the Javanese. When making batik
papers, the pattern is applied in wax either by hand or machine. The wax
masks off the areas that are not to receive color, thereby helping to
create the design. The paper is then crumpled up before the color is applied,
which causes the wax to crack and allows color to seep under the wax.
As a result of this process, the batik papers exhibit a fine veinyness
throughout that also causes the design to float into the background.
But everything old is new. One of our oldest decorated papers is the paste
paper, created by applying a mixture of paste and color, generally ground
pigments, onto the paper. Once the colors are on the paper, it is very
easy to create patterns and other effects. One can use one’s fingers
to create ribbons by wiping away the color, pieces of cork to create round
marks, or a piece of wood or similar to create circles and lines. New
decorative techniques include using carved rollers or linoleum blocks,
brushes, or other implements. There are no limits to what can be used.
There are even Expressionist papers. Those are really wild (laughing ironically);
perhaps because of that you will choose them to cover your paper case
BIBLIOPHILE (laughing): So, you’ve figured me
out. Why don’t you give me samples of all the papers we’ve
discussed so I can select books to go with them at home. I find that these
decorated papers express so much atmosphere and emotion that one can always
find a book to wrap in them. I’ll take my time with the samples
at home, because my passion for the book also includes the binding, and
one of my favorite pastimes is thinking of the ways my favorite books
can be bound. I won’t be stingy, either, and as my budget allows
I will give you books to bind in your beloved leather. First though, reveal
the mysteries of leather to me.
BOOKBINDER: The naming of the different leathers is
a mystery and, honestly, not always a pleasant one, because the leather
tanneries have created a great deal of confusion in the naming of their
skins. This is especially true if the name of the leather is used to indicate
its geographic origin, even if it no longer comes from there. Ironically,
many avoid using the name of the animal to identify the skin. What we
know as saffian and morocco, the most useful of the skins, are nothing
more than goatskins. Both come from Africa. Saffian takes its name from
the town of Saffi in Morocco, and the name of the morocco skin also indicates
its origin. Saffian is very finely grained leather, whereas morocco is
very coarsely grained. Another beautiful coarse-grained goatskin is cape-saffian.
However, these three skins aren’t tanned in Africa but rather shipped
as preserved raw skins to Europe for tanning. In the past, beautiful morocco
leather could only be created in England or France, but a number of years
ago we Germans also developed that ability. The French have even had us
make some of their morocco, and perhaps we bought it back as genuine French
leather. A more basic leather for binding is an East Indian saffian. What
is known as “bastard leather” is not recommended for binding,
and is the skin of cross-bred East-Indian goats and sheep, often with
an embossed grain. I also urge you to avoid sheepskin, especially the
thin, split skins. A binding in those is even less durable than one out
BIBLIOPHILE: You just spoke of confusion in the naming of leathers. I
have an example, too. Recently, a bookseller showed me a book bound in
chagrin leather. The poor man had no idea that chagrin referred to the
graining and had nothing to do with the species.
BOOKBINDER: Yes, those leather names are a real mess.
An écrasé leather isn’t just any crush-grained
and polished leather, but crush-grained morocco leather. Much better is
what they do in England and France—rather than pressing and polishing
whole skins by machine, they burnish the skins with a polished steel iron
on the finished book. Another very beautiful leather is pigskin, identifiable
by the fine holes from where the hair was. The creamy color develops a
patina over time that gives the binding an antique appearance, especially
when it has been blind tooled. I’ll tell you more about that later.
We also use a lot of white alum-tawed pigskin.
Calfskin is naturally smooth and is also often used on bindings even
if it is very delicate. Cowhide is very tough and therefore used mostly
for very large volumes that get heavy use. Then there are various rough
or suede-like skins made from calf, cow, or sheep. The very expensive
and coarse-grained sealskin has not proven itself to be durable. If one
wants, there are also the skins of lizards, frogs, monkeys, snakes, fish,
and other animals that can be used on bindings. And you have also heard
that human skins have been used on books.
BIBLIOPHILE: What does tanned human skin look like?
BOOKBINDER: It is similar to tanned pigskin, with a grayish tone. As far
as vellum is concerned, today we generally use the skins of sheep or calf
rather than pig. Just as sheep leather is weaker than calf leather, so
too are their vellums. Vellums are also much more expensive.
BIBLIOPHILE: What kind of skin does one use to get those beautiful yellowish,
mottled vellums that have that antique look?
BOOKBINDER: It could be sheep or calf vellum. As you know, vellum is made
from untanned skins that are dehaired and scraped clean while stretched
on a frame. During this part of the process, the natural colorings of
the skin remain. To get white vellum, the skin is further scraped with
pumice and then chalk powder is rubbed in. Leather and vellum are prized
not just for their durability, but also because on them the gold-tooled
décor really shines. We’ll need to talk about that another
BIBLIOPHILE: Let’s leave it there for today! Tomorrow I shall bring
you some books to bind.
Wednesday: A Discussion about the Paper Case Binding
BIBLIOPHILE (carrying books in both arms): Master,
here are some of my books. I’m especially attached to the one with
poems by one of our best. It is an unusual, tempestuous tome that at the
same time is filled with melancholy. Using the decorated paper samples
you gave me, I selected one that has wonderful colors playing in the background
while the main pattern is strangely exciting.
BOOKBINDER: But you read the book already!
BIBLIOPHILE: What? I’m not supposed to read it? What does my reading
the book have to do with binding it?
BOOKBINDER: Since the book was originally untrimmed, you had to cut the
folds in order to be able to read it. That makes it harder to bind the
book, because I can’t refold the signatures properly if they are
BIBLIOPHILE: Thank you for explaining that, and from now on I will remember
that a true bibliophile only reads his books after they are bound. Before
we talk about the binding, I just want to mention that the poet wrote
a dedication to me in the book and went to the edge of the page. If you
need to trim the book, please don’t cut into the dedication.
BOOKBINDER: We have a trick for that. As you can see, the dedication is
only on the right side of the page. The left margin still has plenty of
room. What I will do is trim a hair off the left margin and reattach the
leaf. As that page will now be slightly shorter on the right margin, it
will not be cut when we trim the signature. We do this often, even with
plates that are larger than the printed area. On the other hand, if the
dedication went across the whole page, our options would be more limited—perhaps
we would fold that page as if it were a plate. So, you’d like a
paper case binding for this one?
BIBLIOPHILE: Yes, but the binding needs to be sound. I have bought bindings
in paper-covered cases in the past that left me disappointed.
BOOKBINDER: Those were in all likelihood books that were bound by machine.
It won’t surprise you that as a Master in hand bookbinding, I don’t
have a high opinion of the machine-made bindings. That said, I also know
those machines make books available to the mass of readers. It’s
not sour grapes if I say that a machine-made book will never achieve the
quality of a good handbound one. Aside from the fact that the books are
folded and sewn by machines, the more significant difference is in how
the covers are created and attached to the text block. With a handbound
book the cover is crafted on the text block whereas in a machine-made
book they are made separately and only joined at the end.
Remember how on Monday when you first dropped in, I stopped working as
I was about to cut the boards to size? Well, in order to attach the boards
and provide reinforcement at the hinges, we use a technique known as the
Bradel binding (gebrochener Rücken). First, we take a strip of thin
card the height of the boards and a few centimeters wider on either side
of the spine to serve as tabs. To create the tabs, we measure the spine
and then transfer that measurement to the center of the strip. Next, we
make those two folds and check to see that the strip fits closely to the
spine. Then we lightly pare the two long edges of the tabs so they will
be less visible under the endsheet when the book is complete. When that
is done, we glue out the tabs, fit the piece tightly to the spine, and
rub it down onto the wastesheet on which we fanned the frayed-out cords
earlier. Then it goes in the press for a quick nip to make sure everything
is stuck down well. Only at this point do we attach the boards to the
book. We do so by gluing them to the tabs, but set back from the shoulder
so the book will open up easily. In this way we create a strong connection
between the text block and the cover, and finally we cover it with the
BIBLIOPHILE: I’m looking at this paper case binding and can’t
help but notice these narrow white vellum strips—see, I’m
paying attention. I really like them and imagine they add more interest
to some of the more monotone bindings.
BOOKBINDER: We call those “vellum headcaps.” The headcap helps
reinforce the otherwise paper-covered book at its most vulnerable spot.
We can also add invisible vellum tips on the corners.
BIBLIOPHILE: I will let you know when I want vellum headcaps on my books.
Vellum tips I want in any case, but I’ll tell you whether they should
be visible or invisible. So, now let’s talk about what we want to
do with the edges of the text block.
BOOKBINDER: They should of course match the dominant color of the decorated
BIBLIOPHILE: I’ll agree this time, but it is
my opinion that one should not try to match colors too slavishly. You
can also create contrasts to capture the mood of the text. I have a friend
with a paper case binding covered in a paper with reddish and yellowish
tones. The edges, endpapers, and label are black. It’s a tome by
Strindberg, and the binding was supposed to capture the melancholy nature
of the poet. He also has an old edition of Schiller that he had bound
in dark blue, with the edges and label in a shade of yellow. The endpaper
is grayish and matches the text. Now, I’m also of the opinion that
the edge and endpaper colors should be the same. That way they look like
a harmonious second wrapper around the book. But one should also be flexible,
and I would like to have simple endpapers that match the text paper because
these are simple bindings. Do you have any plain papers?
BOOKBINDER: Certainly. I always keep several varieties in stock. They
come in cream and whitish colors with a variety of textures, from smooth
to textured, to match the book regardless of whether the book uses machine-made
or handmade paper. These varieties meet almost all needs. If by chance
I can’t match a paper with them, I’ll tone the paper myself—coffee
works really well.
BIBLIOPHILE: Master, I see that you have many tricks up your sleeve and
I can entrust my books to you. Another thing, please don’t put the
label too far from the head. I think if the label is too low it divides
the spine into odd panels and detracts from the elegance of the spine.
On thicker books, a higher label can have a slimming effect. Oh, and please
don’t use too large a typeface; preferably match the face to the
type used for the text—Gothic with Gothic and Roman with Roman.
And finally, add my initials at the tail of the spine!
Thursday: A Discussion about the Quarter-leather Binding
BIBLIOPHILE: Master, today I’d like you to bind this copy of Bachmann.
As it’s a reference book, I don’t think the paper case binding
will be durable enough. But since cloth bindings don’t appeal to
me and the full-leather binding is too expensive, I was thinking of a
quarter-leather binding, the one you call the Halbfranzband. Who or what
is this “half of a franz” it refers to?
BOOKBINDER: The same reasoning that led you to look for an alternative
to full-leather is what led King Francis I of France to commission bindings
in which only the spine was covered in leather. Other people believe that
the name refers to the binding style originally being French.
BIBLIOPHILE: In this style, the connection between the cover and the text
block is more structural, isn’t it?
BOOKBINDER: Yes, you’re right in thinking that it is worked differently.
The cords that we had cut back to a few centimeters are frayed out, fanned
out, and pasted down on top of the board. Then a strip of wastepaper is
put down on top of that, and the whole book is put in the press between
tins and wooden boards. Next, the spine of the book receives two layers
of strong paper, and the book is placed back in the press overnight to
BIBLIOPHILE: May I ask a question? While that double layer of paper on
the spine may make the spine stronger, doesn’t it also make it more
rigid, so the book doesn’t open as well? I’ve often noticed
that handbound books don’t open well, something I can’t have
happen with my books.
BOOKBINDER: It is a very common superstition that when opened a book must
lie flat and stay open. If that is what you insist upon, I cannot guarantee
the durability of your book, because the sewing and other elements would
need to be so loose that the book wouldn’t stay together. The only
books that really open flat are very large ones with heavy paper, like
springback ledger books. You’re a bibliophile and love your books
as if they were your children, don’t you? You would want the best
for your children, why not for your books? Don’t you agree that
it is better to have a nice tight binding in your hands even if you might
have to hold it open a little? And just as you wouldn’t use force
against your children, you wouldn’t want to force your book open
by breaking the spine, would you?
BIBLIOPHILE: Master, your logic is impeccable and I will keep what you
said in mind. Let me ask you another question. A librarian acquaintance
of mine once said that the French do a much better job with their quarter-leather
bindings than the Germans.
BOOKBINDER: That is absurd. What is most likely behind
that statement is the difference between the French and German styles
in how the boards are attached. Remember how I described pasting the frayed-out
cords on the board to attach it? What the French do is lace the cords
through the boards to secure them. Here, let’s see what Paul Kerstens
wrote in his Exakte Bucheinband: “It is commonly believed
that a book in which the boards are attached in the French manner is more
durable than one in which the German method is used. This is false. The
boards are attached to the text block via the cords, and in all cases
the failure was at the hinge and after many years of use, not because
the boards were not laced on…” (Note: Kersten, Paul. Der
Exakte Bucheinband. Halle (Saale): W. Knapp, 1923. Pages 22-23.)
BIBLIOPHILE: Again, I can’t argue with knowledge and experience
of a true craftsman like you.
BOOKBINDER: Let’s move along, shall we. Next, we cut the spine piece
that goes between the text block and the leather from a piece of card.
Onto this we glue our false raised bands, should those be desired. Then
comes the very important yet messy task of paring the leather along the
turn-ins so they conform to the shape of the boards and don’t have
ugly lumps. After that comes the even harder task of covering the book
in the leather, a process I must describe in more detail, especially as
it relates to the raised cords. For those it is necessary to use what
we call band nippers to ensure that the leather sits tight to the raised
cords and is even. Then there is also the headcap, which is created by
the turn-in of the leather at the head and tail. A well formed headcap
is the mark of a true bookbinder. Finally, we put on the leather corners
that we pared along with the other leather.
BIBLIOPHILE: Please don’t put leather corners on any of my books.
I know they are traditional with this binding style, but I think they
destroy the aesthetic of the book because the elegant rectangular panel
of decorated paper becomes one with six awkward sides. Not having the
corners allows the decorated paper to be shown to its full effect.
BOOKBINDER: As you wish. However, to protect the corners I will then use
the invisible vellum corners we discussed earlier with the paper case
binding. What kind of paper do you want for the endpapers and sides?
BIBLIOPHILE: Because this a reference book, why don’t we use the
same sturdy handmade paper for the endpapers and the sides? I’m
sure you can choose something appropriate that is either darker or lighter
than the leather. How about a nice brown goatskin? Please use the same
color for the edges as well. Oh, before I forget—the margins of
this book are very tight, so please don’t trim too tightly, as that
will look unattractive. However, untrimmed it won’t look that attractive
either. Help me out of this dilemma.
BOOKBINDER: That’s easy. I’ll give your
book rough-cut edges, also known as tranche ébarbée.
BIBLIOPHILE: Yes, those. I’m surprised I didn’t remember them.
BOOKBINDER: When we rough cut the edges we don’t
do it all at once in a guillotine, but rather trim each signature individually
in the board shear – just enough to even up the edges. This creates
an even edge, but not a smooth one. Of course, one can’t put a colored
or gilt edge on if the signatures are trimmed this way. A French bookbinder
once said that the secret to rough cutting the edges of a book lies in
evening them without compromising the proportions. Rough cutting is extra
work, though, because before the signatures can be trimmed on the board
shear they must be slit open to determine where the best place is to trim
without cutting off too much.
BIBLIOPHILE: I think I will want this tranche ébarbée
for most of my valuable bindings.
BOOKBINDER: I would like to suggest that on books where there is more
margin along the top edge you have it colored or gilt. Even with simple
bindings that are only trimmed on all three sides, we often decorate the
top edge because doing so helps protect the text block from getting dirty
BIBLIOPHILE: What else do we need to discuss? Yes, I just wanted to say
that for this quarter-leather binding I don’t want any fancy tooling.
The gold on the title is enough.
BOOKBINDER: Perhaps some gold lines to either side of the raised cords?
BIBLIOPHILE: I’d rather not. I really like the raised cords as they
are and don’t think it’s necessary to emphasize them further.
When I have you bind some larger books this way I may have you add lines
at the head and tail of the spine.
BOOKBINDER: Would you like to have a gold line on the cover leather where
the paper overlaps it?
BIBLIOPHILE: That would need to be decided on a case-by-case basis. If
there is a nice contrast between the leather and the paper then I don’t
think it’s necessary. Otherwise, I’m not opposed to it.
BOOKBINDER: How should I do it with other books I bind for you in the
future? Do you always want to use the same papers for the covering or
BIBLIOPHILE: I thought about that a great deal at home, and I don’t
think I want all my books to look the same. I like to see variety in my
bindings as long as the differences aren’t too dramatic. For instance,
I like the combination of a nice monochrome endpaper with a colorful paper
on the sides. So, I think we’re in agreement on what I would like
for my quarter-leather bindings.
Here are a few more copies of Eckermanns Gespräche that
I would like to have bound in quarter-vellum (without visible vellum corners,
of course). For the sides, please use a nice green book cloth. I can imagine
they would look very nice together. By the way, I will ask you to bind
a different edition of the book in an identical binding at a later date.
Will I need to bring this set with me then?
BOOKBINDER: No, that won’t be necessary, as I make a template for
every better-quality binding I make, on which I note the size, materials,
colors, including samples of the materials. This makes it very easy to
duplicate a binding.
BIBLIOPHILE: That is very sensible. Good-bye and until tomorrow! (As the
bibliophile is on his way out, the Master begins to work, causing the
former to quickly turn around and ask): What in heaven’s name are
you doing there, Master? You’re working on the edge of a book with
a tool that looks like something a cabinetmaker would use! Doesn’t
that damage the book?
BOOKBINDER: On the contrary, it is supposed to help the edge. I have the
book clamped very tightly in the lying press and am working the edge with
this scraper to get it perfectly smooth so I can put on a beautiful gilt
edge. I’m actually removing almost nothing from the edge of the
BIBLIOPHILE: Is a gilt edge difficult to do?
BOOKBINDER: And how! The edge must be prepared extremely carefully, scraped,
and finally pastewashed so a mirror-like surface is achieved. This is
especially difficult with the concave surface of the fore edge. An art
in itself is the handling of the gold leaf. This gold is extremely thin,
and each leaf is kept in a booklet between two sheets of tissue. The gold
must be lifted carefully from the booklet and then placed on a chalked
leather cushion—the chalk degreases the leather so the gold can
be removed easily. It is cut with a gilding knife and tiled on the book’s
edge, which has already received egg glair with a special device. Then
the press is tilted to allow the excess glair to flow out from under the
gold. Watch out! I’m about to show you how it’s done. See,
the glair is dripping and the gold is staying in one piece. Now the book
needs to remain in the press for several hours, but not so long that the
glair is too dry. Next, we begin burnishing the edge. First, we lay on
a lightly waxed piece of white paper and begin moving across it carefully
with this agate burnisher. Then we remove the paper and continue with
the burnisher directly on the gilt edge to burnish it to an even shine.
BIBLIOPHILE: Is it essential that the edge is polished to a shine?
BOOKBINDER: Not necessarily. If we keep burnishing with the paper over
the gilt edge we will create a matte finish to our edge.
BIBLIOPHILE: I think I will prefer the matte edge on my books so I can
tell myself that even dull things can be of gold.
Friday: A Discussion about the Full-Leather Binding
BIBLIOPHILE: Master, I am happy! Look what I have here!
It’s a first edition of Heine’s Book of Songs. I
found it in a bookseller’s stall. Do you have any idea how much
I paid for it? Two marks and fifty! The seller had no idea what the book
was worth. I have to admit that finding the book is as much fun as getting
it for such a laughable price. I guess that’s how we bibliophiles
are. So, as a reward, I will treat myself to a full-leather binding (Franzband).
But everything needs to stay as it is, with absolutely no trimming, not
even rough cutting. I’d also like you to preserve the paper wrappers
by binding them in with the book, even the paper spine.
BOOKBINDER: Of course! Here binding in the wrappers is appropriate, especially
given the scarcity of the volume, but we also do so in those cases where
the wrappers have aesthetic value. However, I think it is excessive to
do this with all books, the way the French bibliophiles like to.
BIBLIOPHILE: You’re absolutely right! And because
it is such a valuable book, I want to have it sewn on real raised cords.
I’d also like to have sewn endbands like on all fine bindings, not
those garish stuck-on ones.
BOOKBINDER: You mean a handsewn endband? Only a small number of bookbinders
know the history of those. I imagine it started like this: the old binders
sewed the book and at the ends added cords like those they were sewing
around. When they wrapped the sewing thread around them to get to the
next signature, the handsewn endband got its start.
BIBLIOPHILE: I remember seeing that on more recent
bindings, too. In one exhibition I saw bindings like that by Cobden-Sanderson,
the well-known English book art reformer who came to bookbinding after
being a lawyer. He wrote a wonderful ode to the “Book Beautiful.”
How do we create endbands today?
BOOKBINDER: There are many styles, but I will briefly describe the most
common ones. We start with a strip of card or vellum that is as wide as
the boards are thick. Around this we wrap a piece of thin fabric, and
we glue this to the spine of the book. Next, we wrap around the strip
with different colors of silk thread. One color could be that of the leather
and the other that of the edge decoration. The sewing itself is more like
a wrapping, and requires a great deal of attention to detail to work the
two needles so the threads all lie next to each other tightly, without
getting twisted, and to ensure that the bead on the front is even.
BIBLIOPHILE: I think handsewn endbands are very attractive. Is this going
to be an expensive book?
BOOKBINDER: Well, you do know that the price of leather has risen a great
deal. There is also quite a lot of work involved with doing a full-leather
binding, especially with all the paring at the edges and along the joints,
where we need to be careful not to make it too thin. When we paste out
the leather it gets very soft and is easily damaged, so we need to work
carefully and not damage the grain as we put down the leather and complete
the turn-ins, making sure the board edges and headcaps are all even and
neat. What kinds of endpapers would you like for your volume of Heine?
They could be decorated or plain paper. Another option common with full-leather
bindings such as this would be using silk.
BIBLIOPHILE: No silk, please! For this binding please use a handmade paper
in the same yellowed color as the text. Why can’t the endpapers
of a full-leather binding be plain once in a while? Besides, handmade
paper is a noble material in its own right. Please also give the endpapers
more pages, like those I have seen with other leather volumes.
BOOKBINDER: You mean the English endpaper that is made of two folios stuck
inside each other? How should I decorate the binding?
BIBLIOPHILE: Can we talk about it tomorrow? For today I’d also like
to ask you to bind this copy of the Divine Comedy in full calf vellum.
One should always use vellum with an Italian book. Let’s leave the
vellum untooled, as it is so beautiful, and place a label on the spine
in a condensed Roman font.
BOOKBINDER: If I may make a suggestion, I’d like to give this vellum
binding a yapp edge on the fore edge, something that was common on many
of the older vellum bindings. This makes the edge wider when seen from
the front and helps protect the book’s fore edge. If you’d
like, I could also sew the book on vellum slips and lace them through
at the joint so they are visible.
BIBLIOPHILE: This is going to be a beautiful binding!
I can’t wait to get it back. When will that be?
BOOKBINDER: Perhaps in four weeks.
BIBLIOPHILE: What, it takes that long to bind a book?
BOOKBINDER: Certainly not, but a binding is not just
worked on. It also needs to rest. I mentioned at various times that the
book needs to go in a press after certain steps. This is because the boards
need to dry out under weight for periods of time, and then, when the book
is done, it needs to be kept under light weight to make sure the boards
don’t warp. If I have to make you wait, it is so the covers of your
books lie flat, which is as it should be.
BIBLIOPHILE: I don’t mean to rush you, I’m
just very eager to hold the finished books in my hands. Unwrapping a new
binding is like unveiling a new monument.
Saturday: A Discussion about Gold Tooling and Finishing
BIBLIOPHILE: Today I’d first like to ask whether I should have an
artist work on the design of my binding. However, dear Master, please
don’t think I’m asking this question because I don’t
trust you to do a good job. Although you are a master craftsman, shouldn’t
the binder be responsible for crafting the book and an artist for designing
the book’s décor?
BOOKBINDER: I’m not the least bit insulted and have worked with
artists on many occasions. But you will need to concede that because of
the skills required to execute our most challenging form of decoration,
gold tooling by hand, a binder’s designs are not necessarily inferior
even if he has not collaborated with an artist. Here, take a look at the
tools I use.
First, the brass roll, into which up to four lines can be engraved: fine
ones, heavier ones, or even a combination of those. There are also chains
of small circles, dots, and other ornaments that have been engraved onto
rolls. Then we have my set of gouges—thirty sections of a circle,
each with a larger radius, from two millimeters to twenty centimeters.
In this cabinet I have all my decorative handle tools. In the one next
to it are my pallets in increasing lengths, some even with dots, dashes,
or other decorations like on the rolls.
BIBLIOPHILE: I see how by using all these tools you can create an infinite
number of designs. Without taking away from the skill and sense of design
required, it’s almost like a game of chess in that there are nearly
limitless combinations that can be used to move the pieces. However, one
ought to be able to recognize the enormous amount of work required and
differentiate between it and tooling created by machines—the two
are often indistinguishable. So, please leave some almost imperceptible
imperfections, such as where two lines meet at angles, to accentuate the
“hand” in your finishing, something most bibliophiles like
BOOKBINDER: Well, even then it might not be possible to avoid using a
blocking press to form some larger, more complex designs, for example
a coat of arms or some specialized text elements.
BIBLIOPHILE: No, Master, under no circumstances. In a work whose distinguishing
character is determined by the work of the hands, there is no place for
machines. If binders are so quick to switch back and forth between handwork
and that of machines, they shouldn’t be surprised if their work
becomes devalued. The masters of old were able to put large seals or coats
of arms on their bindings, too, without resorting to a blocking press.
BOOKBINDER: I know that. The old masters had to exert physical efforts
that today appear superhuman.
BIBLIOPHILE: Well, since today’s tools are smaller than the ones
of old—without sacrificing aesthetics—I don’t see why
you can’t put a little more effort into doing it by hand if a larger
design or type is needed. When I was in England, I visited the shop of
Joseph Zaehnsdorf, the German binder who made his name there, and was
able to see how complete titles were tooled in gold using individual letters.
The finisher who did this work was amazingly skilled.
BOOKBINDER: Hand lettering, as the English call it, does not exist in
Germany. We don’t even have any shops that possess the sheer quantities
of handle letters in various sizes that are required. What I do is use
brass letters in the stamping press or a hand typeholder with which I
tool the title line by line on the spine. I use the same typeholder on
the cover of the book when I need larger fonts.
BIBLIOPHILE: See, Master, you can do it without machines. And, since you
told me about your pallets and gouges I know that you can also piece these
together if the design calls for it.
BOOKBINDER: Of course it can be done, and it is done often, but let me
tell you more about the technique of gold tooling by hand. As there are
several manuals about this aspect of bookbinding, you will understand
if I explain it in general terms and focus on the more important aspects.
However, there are many more very important small details that a finisher
must know. Let’s take a border design with straight lines and a
larger ornament that will require the appropriate rolls to complete. The
center ornamental design will be created from two or three simpler ornaments
that are arranged together. There are also designs that are built up from
an arrangement of several dots but repeated hundreds of times. Some very
complex designs requiring thousands of impressions were created using
only a small handful of tools.
BIBLIOPHILE: I imagine that, similar to the gilt edge,
the gold leaf is laid on the leather and then pushed into it using the
roll, pallet, or stamp.
BOOKBINDER: Well, it’s not that easy. First I need to arrive at
the final design using the tools and other ornaments. Then I use those
tools to stamp the design on a piece of paper. I then copy the design
onto a tissue paper that I will lay on the binding. Next, I impress the
design through the paper using the specified tools. When I’m done,
I remove the tracing paper with the design and carefully brush glair into
the impressions made by the tools. When that is dry, I apply a very light
amount of grease, such as Vaseline, with a ball of cotton to help hold
the gold in place, and then put down the gold, making sure it sits in
the impression so the design can be seen. Now I can do the actual finishing
with gold. The tools are heated up and impressed into the leather, setting
the gold down and binding it to the leather. This can require a good deal
of physical effort, but more important is maintaining the tool at the
proper temperature—too hot and it burns the leather; too cool and
the gold does not adhere. The humidity of the leather also plays a role,
as does the dwell time—the amount of time the tool is in the leather.
If I hold the hot tool over the glaired impression too long, the heat
can dry out the glaire and the gold won’t stick, either. A good
eye and very steady hand are critical, as one will need to work accurately,
yet fast. Of course, not every impression will be perfect—the gold
might tear or have gaps. That means we must be able to go into the same
impression multiple times, even with complex tools. This is especially
difficult with rolls, where the design has no beginning or end. Titling
on the spine is also very difficult. One can also achieve rather attractive
designs with blind tooling, meaning tooling without gold, especially on
volumes with lighter leather, such as natural pigskin. On these the tooling
appears dark brown. But achieving an even brown tone is not easy because
the leather needs to be evenly dampened, the tool temperature consistent,
and uniform pressure needs to be applied so the leather does not get burned.
BIBLIOPHILE: Is that all on the subject of tooling? I did not mean to
imply that tooling was easy, and I appreciate the amount of skill, experience,
and steely concentration that are required of the craftsman.
BOOKBINDER: And spending all day hunched over tools and next to a hot
finishing stove isn’t pleasant, either.
BIBLIOPHILE: What I really wanted to get at with my earlier question was
to learn more about some of the other decorative techniques, like leather
onlays and inlays.
BOOKBINDER: Hand tooling is the basis of those, too.
When the gold-tooled binding based on the techniques of the Arab world
arrived in fifteenth-century Italy, that’s when design in bookbinding
really began. Prior to that, it was the silver- and goldsmiths, the ivory
carvers and others, who decorated the bindings. Before gold there was
also blind stamping and lederschnitt (called cuir-cisele
in French; a technique where leather is cut into and modeled). It was
with gold tooling that book decoration became an integral part of the
book, and the Renaissance had a great influence. In addition to gold tooling,
Arab bindings also exhibited the first use of onlaid and inlaid leather,
the latter being more prevalent. Contemporary binders know and still use
both techniques, for which we have to pare the leather tissue-thin. Often
we will surround the onlays with gold tooling as well.
BIBLIOPHILE: Master, when I came to you today I asked whether I shouldn’t
rather have an artist design the décor of my full-leather binding.
This question has now been settled between us; think about the comparison
with the chess game. So you will understand that I will reserve the right
to work with an artist on books that need that certain something that
cannot be provided by your tools.
BOOKBINDER: We bookbinders are not opponents of creative
collaboration. But let me remind you that bookbinders have always created
their own tools, too. Think about the fanfare style that we owe to the
French master Nicolas Eve, who lived in the sixteenth century. In the
eighteenth century, French binders took inspiration from lace and gave
us the fers á la dentelle. Le Gascon, who lived in the
seventeenth century, gave us pointillé, a luxurious style
of finishing consisting of dotted lines and curves on bindings. Even today,
leading finishers are creating tools for tooling. We also know that we
owe much of our inspiration to famous bibliophiles. I’m certain
you know the name of the sixteenth-century French diplomat, Jean Grolier,
the most famous of all bibliophiles, who had Italian bookbinders create
a style to his own specifications. Even the books of Thomas Maioli, the
Hungarian king Matthew Corvinus, and the French kings of the sixteenth,
seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries and their wives and famous mistresses,
are easily recognizable to bibliophiles. I will even mention a great German
bibliophile—Germany was poor in bibliophiles for a very long time,
a situation that has fortunately changed—the Elector, August of
Saxony, who lived in the sixteenth century and for whom the most famous
German binder, Jakob Krause, created many fine bindings. The Jakob-Krause-Bund,
the most well-known federation of German design binders, was named after
him. I could go on and give you the names of further famous French, English,
and German binders.
BIBLIOPHILE: Master, I thank you, and as a proper bibliophile will study
the history of design binding. However, you have shamed me a bit, as I
will not be able to compete with your Groliers and Maiolis. But don’t
you think it is not just important for the great bibliophiles but also
for the book as art and for you as bookbinder that there are “lesser”
bibliophiles who find joy and appreciation in even the simplest binding?
BOOKBINDER: I agree completely. The bookbinder needs clients who value
his work and think about it. I have learned a great deal from you over
these past days.
BIBLIOPHILE: We have both learned from and encouraged one another. I have
taken everything you have told me over the course of this week and written
it down exactly and intend to publish it as a small booklet for the use
and enjoyment of bibliophiles and their bookbinders. And do you know what
I want to call our book, the one we created through our dialogue over
the last several days?
THE BONE FOLDER!
Colophon [from the print edition]:
Originally written by Ernst Collin as Der Pressbengel,
edition was translated from the original German by Peter D.
Verheyen as The Bone Folder and first published in the 2009
issue of Guild of Book Workers’ Journal. Design of this
edition by Penelope A.T. Singer in Bodoni, a typeface designed
by Morris Fuller Benton in 1907, based on the original 1798
design by Giambattista Bodoni. Twenty-five signed and
numbered copies have been digitally printed and are bound
into a pastepaper wrapper by Peter D. Verheyen.
Collin, Ernst. Buchbinderei für den Hausbedarf. Leipzig:
Hachmeister & Thal, .
Collin, Ernst (pub.). Die Heftlade: Zeitschrift für die Förderer
des Jakob-Krause-Bundes. Berlin: Euphorion-Verlag, 1922-1924. (Serial,
24 issues total)
Collin, Ernst. Paul Kersten. Berlin: Corvinus-Antiquariat E.
Collin, Ernst. Der Pressbengel.
Berlin: Euphorion Verlag, 1922.
Collin, Ernst. Der Pressbengel. Munich: Mandragora Verlag, 1984.
Collin, Ernst. Dal Religatore d’Arte. Mendrisio : J. Weiss,
Collin, Ernst. Vom guten Geschmack und von der Kunstbuchbinderei.
Essay included in Spamersche Buchbinderei, Leipzig: Werkstatt für
handgebundene Kunsteinbände, Ernst Collin, ed. [s. l.] : [s.
n.] (Printed: Leipzig: Spamer, 1914.)
Collin, Ernst (pub.). Deutsche Einbandkunst: Ausstellung d. Jakob
Krauße-Bundes ; Vereinigung deutscher Kunstbuchbinder im Weißen
Saal d. Schloßmuseums zu Berlin ; Sept.-Okt. 1921. Berlin-Steglitz:
Ernst Collin, 1921.
Nicolaus Cusanus: Christliche Zuchtschul. Jetzt zum andern Mahl auffs
new bersehen, vnd getruckt mit einem nützlichen Zusatz [...].Cölln
(Cologne): In Verlag Ioannis Kinchii Buchhändlers, 1656.
Ellenport, Sam. The Future of Hand Bookbinding. Boston: The
Harcourt Bindery, 1993. (E-version
available at here)
Frisius, Friedrich. Ceremoniel der Buchbinder. Leipzig : [s.n.],
1712. (This work was reprinted in a facsimile edition – Hannover:
Edition “libri rari” Th. Schäfer, 1985.)
Kersten, Paul. Der Exakte Bucheinband. Halle (Saale): W. Knapp,
Menhart, Oldrich. Evening Conversations of the Booklover Rubricius
and the Printer Tympanus. Prairie Village, Kan.: Crabgrass Press,