[Binding tapes into split boards] 

The pages were folded and combined into sections (signatures) each composed of 4 pages of the orginal. The hinge was then filled as shown on the previous picture. The book was then hand sewn over four tapes. In the period binding that Gerry wanted to imitate, it was common to do one of three styles of sewing. The most common was over large thick cords and these would then be seen on the spine as “ribs”. This is a commonly seen “look” in this period. It is also a very tight and inflexible binding style which, because of the thickness of the pages here, would not be so ideal. In order to make a spine flat there were two other methods used during the time. The first was to cut the cords into the book and sew them basically below the level of the spine and that resulted in a flat spine but a very “stiff” opening book. Since our project would already, by its very nature be extremely stiff, this method would have made the book practically impossible to open. The final option was to sew the signature over strips of vellum. This was the method that I felt most comfortable with and today the vellum is replaced with a stronger cotton tape, purpose made. This provided the most flexible opening style and with the stiftness of the pages this was a necessary decision as well.


In order to keep the hinge opening working well, the tapes usually are mounted on the top of the boards prior to the leather going on. I substituted this by using a style of binding called the split board where two boards of varying thicknesses are pasted together except at the hinge side. The thin board goes on the top and has the leather adhered to it and the thicker goes on the bottom and the cover is maufactured off the book. Then, when the cover is completed with the application of the leather and decoration, the spine of the cover is adhered to the book on a hollow tube made for that purpose on the spine of the book after sewing. So once sewn, the spine is filled with very light Japanese tissue and paste followed by several layers of lining and left to dry for about a week. It is then sanded smooth and this hollow tube is then pasted on to the spine for later mating with the spine section of the cover.


In this project, the boards were covered in 1st quality archival vegetable tanned calf from the Pearce Tannery in England. Later you will see the exterior but for artistic reasons, it was decided in consultation with the artists, to do the cover in two colours of leather. The spine section is in a darker toned colour and the rest of the book is in a lighter tan. I chose this to accentuate the difference between the spine of the book which is all binding product and extended support hinges and also very wide left side margins that Gerry accounted for in his work on the paintings from the lighter tan leather that covers the actual artwork inside. This tends to prepare the reader to open the book and seperate the binding functional elements from the artwork on the pages of the book.

IMG 1156


The sewing tapes inserted into the split boards.

© Dr. Brian Roberts, “The Book Doctor”  2016