The Experiment: Background and Objectives

In the spring of 2002, after just a few months of binding, I tried an experiment. I had been binding a lot of blank books - they're easier to give away, and allowed me to focus on binding techniques without getting into the added complexities of restoration. I had noticed that the key issue in blank books is spine flexibility. After all, a book you write in has to open further, and stay open more easily, than a book you just read.

2005: This was before I was aware of spring back bindings, which solve this problem with elegance and wit.

At the same time, I was discussing binding with Chris Busta-Peck, another interested amateur from Everything2. He urged me to try binding with wheat paste rather than PVA. I decided to compare the two adhesives in a controlled experiment. As an afterthought, I also added another spine construction technique to the mix.

I made three books, which I identified by the colours of their bookmark ribbons.

red bookThe book with a red ribbon was the control, using the techniques I was best at. It was sewn on tapes, glued with PVA glue, had a hollow back built onto the spine, and was attached to split boards. Only the cover was experimental, with raised bands under the leather.

blue bookI originally intended to use the blue book to try wheat paste as the spine adhesive. Sadly, the spine did not stick to the book after 24 hours' drying time. So I abandoned that approach and used the book to try out the technique of casing in rather than binding onto split boards.

green bookThe green book (yeah, I know the cover is yellow, but the ribbon is green) was sewn on buried cords rather than external tapes. Its structure was otherwise the same as the control. I did try an interesting effect on the cover, using the flaws in the leather for a decorative effect.