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No, I haven’t been super productive in the last month and made another binding, this book was completed during 2017 and handed over to the client a year ago today. Now is it’s moment to shine though, with everything I have had going on over the past year I didn’t get around to writing about it or even adding it to my website, so here it now is!

This book was handed over to the client in April of 2017 just before I moved house. My family and I spent 3 months living in Bristol before we were able to complete our move to Somerset. There I was thinking I would have loads of time on my hands during this period to sort out my computer, including editing the photos of this binding, but time slipped away….

Birds are a subject I adore and I was really thrilled to get this commission. The book to rebind was a 1969 first edition publication of, “British Birds” (For the Readers Digest Association Ltd and The Automobile Association). This particular copy was special as it was signed by the illustrator, Raymond Ching, who completed all of the full-colour portraits through the text block. The book had been selected as the client had a passion for birds, twitching as a hobby.

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The original book was bound as a case binding, the cover of the book featured a large illustration of an owl from within the book. The client specified that he would like his three favourite birds to feature on the cover design; a Lapwing, a Curlew and a Skylark.

LAPWING (back cover):

“The lapwing, or peewit, derives both its names from the sounds it makes. In spring it performs a striking aerobatic display, climbing steadily with its wings making a throbbing or ‘lapping’ sound while it utters its wild song ‘p’weet-p’weet, peewit-peewit’. Then it plunges down, over its territory, rolling and twisting apparently out of control. Its call-notes are variations on the ‘peewit’ theme.”


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CURLEW (front cover, one standing and one flying):

“A loud, melancholy ‘cool-li’, the cry that give the curlew its name, is the clearest sign of the bird’s presence for most of the year; in spring it is often accompanied by a bubbling song which announces that the breeding season is beginning. The males trill the song as they fly in wide circles and glide down on extended wings to claim territories in the breeding area.”


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SKYLARK (spine):

“For Wordsworth, the skylark was an ethereal minstrel, a pilgrim of the sky; for Shelley it was a blithe spirit, showering the earth with a rain of melody; and lesser poets before and since have added their praises until it has become one of Britain’s best-loved birds. Its sustained warbling song, which can last for five minutes without a pause, is usually delivered when the bird is flying high in the air, often nearly out of sight. The skylark is the only British bird that habitually sings while ascending almost vertically, keeps singing while hovering and goes on singing while descending.”


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Once the design for the cover was laid out it was time to work on the endpapers. I remembered back to one of the Designer Bookbinders Masterclasses I had done with Rachel Ward-Sale (one of the DB Fellows) a few years before. She taught us how to print from objects onto leather and paper so I thought a would try and print from feathers to decorate my endpapers and doublures for the binding. 

Using Fiebings leather dyes I dabbed ink onto the feathers using cotton wool balls.

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I then laid these feathers onto paper and pressed them between boards and waste sheets. The first tests came out with mixed patchy results as below.

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I did some more tests and recorded them on little sample squares so I knew what the best combination was for printing the larger sheets. 

– Sample one was printed on dry paper using neat dye and pressed with a foam sheet.

– Sample two was printed on dry paper using neat dye and pressed without a foam sheet.

– Sample three was printed on damp paper using neat dye and pressed without a foam sheet.

– Sample four was printed on damp paper using diluted dye (mixed with ½ cellulose thinners) and pressed without foam.

Sample four gave the best results by far so this was the method I chose to adopt for printing the rest of the feathers.

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I chose to print the feathers largely in brown, but also in green and pink to compliment the colours of the lapwing on the cover.

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I used a variety of different shapes and sizes of feather to fill the space.

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Once the printing was complete and the paper was dry I embellished the feathers using coloured pencils to give them more depth and colour variation. 

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I used a variety of colours to add definition and highlights to the base colour that was produced through the printing process.

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I was really pleased with the end result.

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I was then able to make up the endpapers. I had already pulled the book apart and cleaned the spine fold of each section so then the book was ready to be sewn back together. This was done using the original sewing stations onto six tapes.

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The book was then glued up in-between the tapes and rounded and backed to form shoulders for the boards to sit it.

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The spine was firstly lined with a layer of aerolinen, and double-core endbands were sewn. 

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Some goatskin was then stuck to the spine, hair side down, and sanded flush. A two-on, two-off hollow made from archival Kraft finished off the spine coverings.

The book was printed on a dense machine-made paper which made the text block very heavy. It also meant it took a very long time to sand the edges of the text block to a smooth and flat finish!

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The front edge of the book was sanded into a curve using sandpaper wrapped around a cardboard tube. It must have taken me quite a few hours over a couple of days getting the last of the pages level with one another!

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The next installment of this blog post will focus on the sample board I made for this binding plus how I worked on the onlays.

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