Hi I’m Stewart, I work with Hannah, we are Highdown Bindery and this is our first blog….!
I am writing our first ever blog, and I’m quite excited!!!! You will probably have noticed that our blog page is quite basic at present, well we are working on that but I thought I would get our blog underway and we will make it look better as we go along.
I trained as a bookbinder with Hannah More (Now Hannah Raworth) 5 years ago now and Hannah and I formed Highdown Bindery in 2015. Although Hannah has been a bookbinder for over 30 years and was co-founder of Wyvern Bindery in Clerkenwell.
I love my job. Bookbinding provides an opportunity to work on different projects and tasks on a daily basis, one day you might be restoring a 15th Century Biblical work and the next you are making a contemporary portfolio box for a photography student. The work is very precise and is based on traditional techniques that often go back many hundreds, if not thousands of years.
I thought that I would start by telling you a bit about life as a bookbinder. We work in a home based workshop producing books and boxes for a huge range of clients from book dealers and collectors, to artists and designers. Some of our tools include Callipers, clip knives, pairing knives, Vernier’s, bookbinding shears, scalpels, hot foil blockers, letter presses, nipping presses and board choppers….. to name but a few. I might do a blog on some of these items in future.
A typical day for me would often start with a cloth re-back, this is when a book has split down the side of the spine either on the end paper inside or the outer cloth. This requires the book to be stripped down to its component parts. We remove the outer boards, trim them and lift the cloth on the outside of the board, and then we would do the same for the end papers on the inside. Next we would remove all the old debris from the back, or spine of the book, we do this using a special paste which softens the old glue (Often animal glue) and scrape it off. Once the back sections of the book are clean we attach new end papers and do what is called ‘gluing up’. This stabilises the book and avoids any further damage. We would now put new joints in the book which means using a bookbinder’s hammer to set an angle in the spine of the book in the laying press and enables us to put it into a new case. The book is then lined up, this involves adhering new mull and backing material to the spine of the book. Now we are ready to do the re-back, we often use old cloth saved from previous books to match or new cloth that works well. The boards are set in place and the book is put in a finishing press, we then glue the areas underneath the flaps of cloth which we lifted earlier and apply the cloth we have chosen. Once this is done we do what we call ‘putting the ends down’, this involves the same process as we carried out for the cloth but inside using the end papers. After repairs to soft corners and restoration of the cloth and general condition of the book the job is complete. Often this takes 2 days as parts of the work need to be left to dry and set before the next steps can take place.
So there you have it, a cloth re-back, check back soon for more interesting chats about all aspects of bookbinding. We are hoping to offer some basic courses in bookbinding and box making so keep an eye out for details here….
Take care team, back soon.