It was all going so well…

As I’ve said before, in between working on customers’ books I repair or re-bind some of my own. At least 30 years ago I bought a copy of the Limited editions Club edition of Homer’s Iliad, beautifully printed in 1931 but bound in plain red cloth. About ten years ago I started to re-bind it.

Original cloth case removed, new boards attached, headbands sewn, hollow spine with false bands

And then it sat on a shelf until last month. In the meantime I had acquired various decorative finishing tools (chiefly on eBay) and when I was scanning the tools racks for something else I came across a Greek helmet tool, and the idea for a design for the unfinished Iliad began to form. I found an ‘arrow’ tool that could pass as a spear head if placed an one end of a line pallet.

And if arranged symmetrically could give the impression of a troop of warriors.

So now I had a design to work with

I had a small skin of light tan goat (£35 at a Society of Bookbinders conference three years ago) so used that for the covers.

Spine glued first, top and bottom panels unglued just as I normally do it.
Lay the book flat on the paring stone to prepare the corners for turning in: first slice off at 45 degrees, then scoop out the area at the corner:
Tuck a bone folder between the leather and the board and ‘scoop’ a semi-circle about half the size of a 1p coin with the point of your paring knife down to just paper thickness. This enables a neat pleated corner to be formed.

Now paste or glue the leather onto the boards.

And this is where it went wrong!!

I turned in the top and bottom as usual, working paste into the ‘pocket’ between the leather and the outside of the hollow and forming the headcaps. But when it dried neither surface of the top and bottom panels was smooth. The damping from the paste had moulded the outer part of the hollow to the surface shape of the lined back which must have been ‘lumpy’, probably from the tie-downs of the headbanding thread. So, careless preparation of the spine before making the hollow now produces an irreparable blemish.

Well, I might as well finish the book, having got so far.

The final design for the front cover was settled:

The loose piece of leather is the title label for the spine. I first thought that putting the same title on the spine in the position shown would work, but changed my mind later – larger lettering in the middle would be better. The tooling for the warriors was worked in blind through the paper pattern.
A single gilt line provides a frame for the party of warriors to emerge from.
Black is a suitably menacing colour. The title is in larger letters in the centre, at the same level as the title panel on the spine.
The wrinkles in the top and bottom panels are pretty visible. As I’ve said before – we live and learn!

Comments or questions welcome. And please look back through previous posts, and share those you like with others.

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