Pale Book

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10.7 x 15.5 x 1.7 cm

Tight-backed book sewn on five exterior cords, with hand-sewn twisted-thread headbands on a round leather core. Zig-zag endpapers with tissue flyleaves. Tabbed corners. Book rounded but not backed, attached to flexible split boards. Covered in pale but stained goatskin.

This, along with a traditional half-bound book is a remnant of an abortive experiment in endpaper structures, which I abandoned after a year on the shelves (other projects got in the way.) The overall intent of this book was to make something "pale", somewhere in the aesthetic neighbourhood of the medieval alum-tawed leather-covered books.

It did not come out pale, thanks to the leather markings described below. I can't explain why, but I love this book, even in its deeply flawed state. Since it is flawed, however, I can't very well give it away. I'll just have to keep it.

Only a couple of aspects of this are of any note:


While visiting the treasury at Durham Cathedral, I noticed a headbanding style I had never seen before. The medieval bindings on display there were sewn in two colors, but not in the stripes that we now assopciate with headbanding. Instead, the two colors of thread were twisted together and sewn as one thread. Although the headband is too narrow to show this well, I used the same technique with two pale shades of silk thread (all of the bindings in Durham that used this effect were done in light tans and natural shades). I think that, with careful color choice and thicker thread, this headbanding style could be a pleasing, subtle effect in future bindings.


The leather used in covering this binding is from the "rejects" shelf at Hewit's. Not only is it much marked and strained, but it's also very weak, tearing at the least provocation. It would not be suitable for the joints of a harder-covered book, but it was sufficiently flexible and strong for a flexible-boarded volume. And once pasted down and smoothed out, it has a pleasing texture and feel in the hand. However, the markings on the back of the section I chose for this book seem to have soaked through during the pasting process, leading to black and sepia stains on the outside. These were accentuated during the blind tooling process, when I used a metal ruler instead of my usual wooden one. The alumimium marked the damp surface even further.

The staining and surface damage on the leather combine to give it an "old" feel. I intend to play this up by using the book as a coaster until I get some good tea and coffee stains on it. I'd planned to experiment with distressing a volume in anticipation of a later project, and this book has suggested itself as a subject.