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Bookbinding

Marc van Hasselt (NL)
Hannah Fraza (NL)

Much of our historical knowledge comes from written accounts. The art of bookbinding was, for much of our history, an important physical aspect of knowledge accumulation and dissemination. It can also encompass several other crafts such as illumination or calligraphy.
As the origins of bookbinding are unclear, described here is the Medieval practise as we understand it today. Books would be made in different shapes and sizes, depending on their intended use or cost.

Requirements: 
Wooden boards for the cover
Leather (possibly embossed)
A press of some sort, ideally a book press.
A sharp, wide blade to shave the edges.
Cords or leather thongs.
(Hide) Glue.
Thread, such as waxed linen.
Parchment or paper.
Ink and quills, paints and brushes for illuminating/writing the book.
Paper, pencil / charcoal.

1. Decide the size of your book. This is done by taking the paper or parchment and folding it once (called folio, usually 38 cm high or more); twice (quarto, c. 23 cm) or thrice (octavo, c. 13-18 cm). From this, you will cut the bifolio (double leaf, folded in half), which will in a quire or section, consisting of 2-6 of these bifolio.
2. Decide whether you want to write the book first, then bind it, or to bind it and then fill the book. Both practises were used in the Medieval period. Be aware of the repercussions regarding lay-out.
3. Cut the bifolio, place them together and, using linen thread, stitch through the folds, creating the quire. Do this for each quire until you feel you have enough pages for your book. Place the quires together and place the cords or thongs at right angles on the backs of them. Stitch the quires to the thongs using a kettle stitch, binding them together. Use a press while stitching (see links below). Shave the edges with a sharp, wide blade;
4. This block book could be sold as-is to be read or filled with writing, but was usually bound in a hard cover consisting of wooden boards covered in (embossed) leather. Drill and/or gouge holes in the wooden boards to accommodate the cords to which the quires are sewn. Glue these cords into the wooden boards. Cover the boards and spine with leather, glue it on and emboss as required. Optionally, glue a piece of parchment (preferably cut from an older book as per Medieval practises) to protect the first page.
5. The cover can further de decorated with metalwork or precious stones, closings being particularly popular (to keep the book closed when not in use, protecting the pages).

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Images

Medieval Book of Hours
Medieval Book in Progress
Glueing the leather cover on
Making Parchment
Binding a Book
Early printed book with spine removed
Medieval Dutch Binding
Medieval binding without the leather cover