from the lab: the springback lives!

the moment we've all been waiting for, the culmination of the last 8 or 10 weeks obsession with the springback binding. my interest began because there are zillions of springback account books in the church archives. i've been examining them and wanted to learn how to make them (also in hopes that i would learn how they might be repaired).

so the springback binding came into being around 1799. it's a binding style developed for account and ledger books. the book literally springs open and lies flat. as you can imagine, it's imperative that an account book stay open, and if it doesn't open flat, the accountant can't write all those important little numbers way into the gutter, wasting as little paper as possible.

the most prevalent styles (if not the only) are, as usual, German and English. i have now made models of both and am now just realizing that i've forgotten photos of the lousy excuse for a german springback binding i made a month ago. anyway, see below for some illustrations of the process, and check out the link in the "favorite book structure" section on this blog.

1. construct endsheets. these are cool new endsheets i've never made. they consist of made fly leaves (i.e decorative paper laminated--or glued--to one of the endsheet leaves) with a cloth fold (the red)........

and a strip of cotton along the back of the fold for extra strength.

2. After cutting, folding, pressing, and trimming sections, and sewing them on four linen tapes (those googly strips of cloth dangling from the book's spine), i squared up the book and glued up the back with gelatin. gelatin is animal glue. you heat it in a double boiler. it's delicious. joke. it's just a fact of bookbinding.

3. Once glue is set but not totally dry, chop the head, tail, and foredge of the book so it has clean edges. in fine binding and most other binding i've done, this trimming has been accomplished by ploughing (shaving off the uneven edge with this blade set in a contraption) or trimming beforehand. with this binding--which would have been produced en masse in a trade bindery--i wanted to keep things authentic and do what they would have done. so to the guillotine we went, and in three swift cuts, the deed was done. i love the guilltoine. this particular one is from palmyra, ps.

4. I forgot to take photos, but the next step would be to hammer some round into the book while the gelatin is still relatively flexible. The springback is unique in that it is only rounded and not backed. You'll notice later on that the folds have not been knocked over. an astute bookbinder's eye will also notice that i did not leave enough swell in the the sewing for a good round. Springbacks were typically overrounded. not mine.

5. So here pictured is the first part of the "spring" of the springback. it's that buff-colored piece of cardstock glued there. it acts as the lever for the spring.

6. i forgot. i did also paint the edges after chopping them and rounding the book. seeing as i was in trade binder mode, i did a half-baked job (which i'm not supposed to do) and didn't sand properly. more typically the edges were painted green.

7. the sewing tapes are glued to the cardstock "lever", the waste sheet that the "lever" was glued to is folded back over the cardstock and glued there, and a leather lining is glued to the spine of the book. the leather lining is a wonderful thing. it is one of the few compressible spine lining materials. but i'll spare you the mechanics of the spine. i'm obsessed with it, but i'm pretty sure those of you reading this aren't.

another view of lever and linings......and lack of round. you'll also notice that the edges aren't painted yet. they should have been, but i did them later, which was very difficult with this thick flap. but that's another story.

8. the tragedy. see those notches that are cut out? i wasn't supposed to cut them all the way off. oh well. i guess "the tragedy" should not be a step in the process. one shoudn't plan on tragedies in bookbinding. actually......maybe it's more realistic if you do.

9. the spring! i loved this part! i mean, when will you ever get to use a broom for bookbinding?! the spring in the springback is layers of paper glued together and then wrapped around a round dowel about the same as the spine and let to dry so it will keep the shape. historically, the spring was sometimes metal. in the german style, they build the spring onto the back. it's kind of like a cast. so the spring is under the ace bandage, waiting to emerge.

the spring born at last. the cotton lining is what i used to attach the spring to the book. this is the inside of the spring, just so you know.

10. ten steps later, the spring has been attached, followed by the boards. the boards consist of a thick board and a thinner cardstock. that big flap gets glued between them. for those of you who know, it's the same as a split board. the pencil lines mark where the leather will go. i also glued false raised bands on the spine to create that classic look. everyone loves those bumps on the back of a book. well, it's also what the trade binder would have done and did do.

here's a close up of the spring and the edge. the edge of the spring is supposed to form headcaps, but it was thick and uncooperative. you an also see the second, thinner cardstock board.

11. paste on the leather spine and corners. then i filled the cover in with cardstock the same thickness as the leather. the leather is only edge-pared for maximum strength. again, it's an account book. it's gotta survive super heavy use.

12. after letting the leather dry overnight, i covered the rest of the book with cloth, let it dry, and then glued down the decorative endsheets and let them dry. then it was time for tooling. a straight line gets tooled along all the edges where leather meets cloth. oh boy, did it feel good to have that finishing tool in hand again after five months!

the book in the finishing press, awaiting tooling along the false raised bands

.......uhhhhhhh..........ridiculously, i have realized, i have neglected to produce "finished" photos. so stay tuned for the final installment of Springback: A Story of Obsession

at least i'll say this has been a fantastic project. it's so rewarding to work on an historical binding structure but with actual examples close at hand to aid in making things accurate and authentic. it's also an enormous challenge to teach oneself a binding from written directions only. takes a lot of patience and reading and re-reading and frustration. nevertheless, i definitely plan on making more of these soon.


Anonymous said...

Can I tell you how you've changed the whole way I look at books? I handle them so gently and sigh when I see a tear or rip. I look at bindings. I wonder at the textures of the covers and wish I owned more beautiful Biddy books. I"m so glad you're doing something you love and that loves you back. Lucky duck.

Amanda, Curtis, Ellis, Hugh said...

Beautiful! And something to be valued. Ellis would say you put a lot of "Hailey Hearts" into that project.

So is the equivalent of this today not-so-beautiful little plastic "collating" things and three-ring binders?

christina q thomas said...

i'm so so so lucky, mar, you have NO IDEA!!!! (can you tell i'm in a "i-love-my-job" phase). you probably handle books more gently than i do. ironically, the more i repair and treat books, the less gentle i become. well, depending.

the equivalent today, mand, is computers. heh. no, spiral bound stuff. yeah. there is not equivalent. i mean, who thinks of putting a piece of metal along the back of a book to force the pages to spring up and out. sheesh.

arly said...

"An" historical? How East Coast of you. I'm so glad you love your work. That's wonderful. And also fruitful. How nice to see the results of your labor. Keep it up! And maybe I'll catch a glimpse of you this holiday?

christina q thomas said...

ar, you have shown your true editorial colors! i don't usually like the "an" before the h, but in "Historical" the "H" is practically silent, so the "an" must be there.
and yes, ar! you will see me over the holidays! please!!!!

anna said...

My favorite part of this post is where you say, "gelatin is animal glue. you heat it in a double boiler. it's delicious. joke."

This is a cool post, and you are a cool person, AND today is your birthday! Happy birthday!

Jeff said...

Christina, How lovely to follow the wandering links of the family blogosphere and find this post. I've lately been reading Inkheart and now Inkspell to the kids and while finding the books not overly impressive, I love that the protagonist's father is a bookbinder. What a craft! Stephanie and I were at the bookstore (for our date) and she wanted to by some Jules Verne books. But alas, they were paperback - I reminded her that these were books in their beach clothes - not properly dressed. When our home is finished please come to visit and perhaps we can persuade you to dress up some of our old books...