Exposed Spine Sewings

by Keith Smith

Keith Smith Books, 1995
Volume III of the Non-Adhesive Binding series

readability rating
2 star readability rating The prose style in this book, while more readable than Volume I of his Non-Adhesive Binding series, is still occasionally pretentious.
content rating
4 star content rating The bindings are well described and the photographs are helpful. Although I don't specialise in the sorts of bindings the book teaches, they are easy to pick up using it.

I've been aware of Smith's books for some time. References to them turn up on the Web and within the binding community. I hadn't gone out of my way to buy any, because they are all about non-adhesive bindings. These aren't the sorts of bindings I specialise in - they're more experimental than is usual for me. But I found a copy in Border's in Glasgow, one day when I was looking for something new and different.

It's a good book to flip through, with plenty of variations on each individual binding style. It inspired me to try a few "concept" bindings on the side of my more traditional work. At the time, with houseguests and other projects on the go, that was all the binding I could do, so the book served a purpose.

I credit Smith with the three "artistic" bindings I produced immediately after buying his book, thougn none of them is from it: the Supported Spiral Notebook, the Unsupported Spiral Notebook, and the the Interleaved Binding. Also, the Half-Hitch Millipede sewing stitch is inspired by the Caterpillar stitch featured in the book.

The Good Stuff
Smith has a strong theoretical basis for his binding techniques, and discusses the different constructional stages very intelligently. The implications, strengths and weaknesses of the different types of stitching and knotting are clearly diagrammed and discussed. This is useful, not just to understand Smith's structures, but also for developing one's own. I always like an instructor who explains why and what next, and this book delivers that.
Could Do Better
Smith has won numerous awards and grants from organisations like the National Endowment of the Arts. Sometimes, it appears to have gone to his head - he takes himsef very seriously, and comes across as a little pretentious in places. He also has a coterie of other binders whose work he features in the book, and they all sound very much taken with one another.
Best Bit
The diagrams, which compact an awful lot of information on stitches into each image.