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ABC of Leather Bookbinding

by Edward R. Lhokta

Oak Knoll Press, 2000

4 star readability rating A clear explanation of one way to bind books in leather.
4 star content rating An excellent introductory to intermediate text.

Most bookbinding books focus on binding in paper and cloth, and leave leather binding as an afterthought. This makes a lot of sense. Leather can hide some serious flaws in a book structure. Besides, if you don't live near a tannery, leather can be hideously expensive.

But, for better or for worse, I do bind in leather. I wanted this book because it focuses on leatherwork exclusively, rather than adding it on at the end.

Although it is about binding in leather, this book covers more than just working with the leather. It starts with the process of "tearing down" a book for rebinding, and carries all the way through the forwarding and finishing process.

The Good Stuff
It's good to see a book that does focus on leatherwork, written by someone who has specialised in the area for his entire professional life.
Could Do Better
One of the things I learned early on in bookbinding is that there is no "one, true way" to bind a book. Each step can be completed in a variety of ways, appropriate to a variety of binding challenges. Lhotka makes no mention of this, instead presenting his single path through the maze of binding choices as though it is the only path. Maybe it's just the nonconformist in me, but I find that approach difficult to work with.
Best Bit
Lhotka does an excellent job of describing every step in the binding process, and the line drawings he uses as illustration are better than many bookbinding photos I've seen.

All images and text © Abi Sutherland 2004