Sofie’s book – bookbinding in the digital world

Back in the mist of time, I did my apprenticeship in hand bookbinding. There are basically two directions; two different apprenticeships: literature binder, or ledger binder. I am a literature binder (also called publishing or library binding). But back then it was considered essential to have a broad understanding. So part of the apprenticeship was three ledgers. They are all leather spine-and-corners, all materials of archival quality. They should hold out well for a few hundred years.

Ledger binding
Ledger binding

Ledger binding differ considerably from literature binding, library binding and publishing binding. These are books that will be written in, so the mechanism of the spine is constructed in such a way that you can write all the way into the margin. It will lie flat when opened, and this is not only due to the sheer weight: the binding is constructed from the bottom to make this work.

As opposed to traditional literature binding, the block is sewed extremely hard into tightly woven linen bands. I can still remember how much my fingers hurt.

The marble on the edges are also done with traditional methods. Carrageen moss is boiled, drawn, sieved several times; its temperature and viscosity closely monitored over a few days. The colours are dripped onto the surface, and to control the flow ox gall is used. Yes, it stinks.

So why is this Sofies book? She is my second niece, the first daughter of my brother. I am her god-mother (or close enough), so i started this when she was a baby. Due to a lot of circumstances, I have not “finished” it, but she turned 16 today, and now it is her turn to add stories, poems, quotes, thoughts as she sees fit. The book actually contains several books in their own right. As the book itself is entirely hand made, so is the content. I am really looking forward to see what she will add, and how she will make the book hers.

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