Homemade Books are Magical, and Bookish Terminology

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I love books for both their content and their aesthetic form. If I wanted to just read all the time I would merely own my ebook and chuck the rest, but that’s just not the thing. I have hundreds upon hundreds of books because a house doesn’t seem homey without them. I like the way the stacks look on the shelves, I like how they make up the main part of my decor, I like how they smell and make lots of thoughts run through my head and how the covers make patterns from a distance.

I LOVE BOOKS.

So last fall I had an epiphany. I make a bunch of stuff – crafts and the like – but never had I made my own book. Because, I mean, come on, it’s a book. Yet books are my favorite form of art and my most treasured possessions. Maybe I hadn’t ever thought about making one myself because they are so revered in my mind. But when I started to realize all the possibilities, I just about lost it.

Obviously, thoughts aren’t pre-collected in the books I am binding, they are blank, but that’s okay. They can be filled with art or words or anything really, and the best part is that everything that goes into making one is essentially scraps (cardboard, white paper, leftover fabric pieces).

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Look at this beauty. Okay, so maybe only a devoted book lover would actually go to the trouble of binding her own notebook. Sure you could buy one at Barnes & Noble that would probably look more slick, but I like choosing exactly what goes on the cover and knowing my own hands hewed it. This specific book (which says “Oh Sweet Love” not “Oh Sneet Love” as my brother initially thought) is going to be used as a guest sign-in/words-of-wisdom book for my wedding.

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Teaching myself how to bind books was really fun because I learned all sorts of bookish terminology. For instance, the cluster of pages pictured in the image above is called a signature.

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The page edge opposite the binding is called the face. Because I don’t do a final trim of the face, the edge is rough. This is called a deckle.

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Sewing the books together in signatures rather than all at once is called oversewing, and is practiced to allow more flexibility to the spine.

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Of course there are lots of terms that I won’t mention here because I don’t want to bore you. But I do want to say that I love seeing the way the cover looks before it becomes a cover, and how the spine is glued to the fabric first.

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Essentially this process of learning how to bind books has caused me to deeply examine not only the form of the book, but of the mechanics behind the book as well. It makes me greatly – and I mean greatly – appreciate those dedicated souls in the olden days who hand bound everything. One book takes me half a day to make, and this is at a relatively brisk pace. It’s a lot of work, and yet we have millions of books in print today. This amazes me. Not to mention, binding books that are printed are waaaaay more complicated – you have to number the pages, within the signatures…Makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

If you’d like to try your hand at binding books, this tutorial, The Basic Binding of Books by Jamie Butler, is a great one to use. Happy booking!

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8 thoughts on “Homemade Books are Magical, and Bookish Terminology

  1. This is an awesome idea. I am a seasonal crafter (meaning, I do crafts when the seasons change and that crafty smell is in the air–this usually takes place just before Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). I don’t always have the time to give into my guilty crafting pleasures (or even the talent). However, your pictures really inspired me to take a crack at book-making. I go through an organizational journal every few months and it would be fantastic to make one for myself, rather than hunting down a store-bought one. I will definitely check out your link! Keep up the good ideas!

    1. it is very rewarding! just don’t be disappointed when your first one turns out a little uneven or warped or messy looking. This is my fifth or sixth book to make, probably, and they get better looking with each one. ‘practice makes perfect’ is true for this process. good luck!

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