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With this binding came a number of challenges. Having overcome the gluing and folding of the beautifully printed sheets, how was I actually gong to bind them? I had never bound a concertina book before so this was going to be a first.

From the very beginning my thought was to create a false round spine which I would attach the boards to and the concertina would be attached inside it somehow. I wasn’t able to tell how the Paul Bonet version had been bound from the image I had seen but guessed this would have been done using a similar approach.

For each of the fine bindings I do I work on a sample board beforehand to test out ideas, colours, threads etc. For this binding, given I was unsure of the binding structure too I decided I make a mini version of the binding, the size of my usual sample boards. Photos of that will appear at the end of the run of these blog posts but that is what I used to test out the binding method of the full-size book.

I started off with a half-round wooden dowel, the dowel was 15mm across but I needed to build this up to 20mm across to allow for the thickness of all the folded pages, plus a bit extra. I stuck the flat edge of the wooden dowel to the edge of a pressing board with double sided tape (so I could remove it again!) and put the board into a laying press. I cut a piece of 300gsm watercolour paper to size, glued it up and then positioned it on the round of the wooden dowel. I held it in place by covering it in a layer of silicone release paper and holding this down using a series of bulldog clips (pictured above).

This was repeated five times, and then I glued a layer of Aerolinen on top (slightly shorter than the length of the spine) followed by a piece of Zerkall.

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Once dry I sanded the spine to get rid of any lumps and bumps. I had already laminated up the boards using two layers of 1mm Gemini board, with a layer of archival Kraft on the inside. Further laminations were to be glued on the outside of the boards once I had joined the spine piece to them.

I glued the Aerolinen to the boards with an equal space at the front and back to allow for the leather joints to be stuck in at a later stage. The boards were then lined on the outside with a layer of card to the same thickness as the Aerolinen.

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The end of the false spine was “capped” with a piece of Zerkall cut to the same shape.

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Once the book cover had reached this stage I was able to work on covering the spine with leather. I pared some blue Harmatan goatskin to about 0.4mm in thickness and thinned the leather more along where the board joints were going to be.

As I knew the covers were going to be entirely embroidered, I wanted to also embroider the title on the spine too. I made a pricking template of the book title and laid this down in reverse on the back of the spine leather centrally. I pricked through with a needle pricker and then joined the dots so I had lines to work from with the embroidery.

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I laid the title writing down over one section of the pochoir colours and worked my way along changing the thread colour at the point where the pochoir colour also changed.

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It resulted in a multicoloured title on the spine. The stitches were each done using a running stitch. Once the word was complete I ran around each of the individual stitches with a whipping stitch to make them cleaner and sharper.

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Once this embroidery was complete it was time to stick the leather to the spine. I thinned out the very ends of the leather that were going to be turned over the spine ends, applied a mix of paste and PVA and then stuck the leather down. I had scrap boards of the right thickness held in between the front and back boards to keep them perpendicular to one another during the covering process.

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The leather was then turned down onto the spine ends (I cut out some wedges of the leather first to rid some of the bulk) and inside the boards. Once dry I filled in the semi-circular void with a small piece of leather of the same thickness and sanded the whole lot flat. This was then capped with a thinly pared piece of the same blue leather.

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The inside of the spine received similar treatment. I wanted to incorporate a left-handed signature I had found of Blaise Cendrar’s so decided to embroider this on the piece of leather that was going to cover the inside of the spine – a little surprise to find when opening up the final binding! This was embroidered in metallic gold thread. This was pricked through the leather in the same way as the spine title.

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The edges of this strip of leather were pared very thin so that when the piece was stuck down the edges formed a thin layer of leather over the inside board joints.

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A piece of watercolour paper was butted up to the edge of the spine leather and a piece stuck to the front and back boards. The watercolour paper and the leather were the same thickness resulting in a uniform thickness across the joint that they met.

Some thinner layers of card were then stuck on top of this, overlapping the joint of the leather and the watercolour paper underneath by about 5mm.

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As layers started to get stuck together I thought it was important to make a diagram of what was going on within the laminations, in order to remember in case I wanted to repeat the process again!

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I had left the width of the boards over-long just to be on the safe side. Once the spine was covered in leather it was possible to put the folded concertina in place to find out where I needed to trim the boards to to get an even square.

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Finally, the boards were bevelled using a palm sander and then some sandpaper around a wooden block. The below image shows the difference in the thickness of the edges of the boards before and after the bevelling process. The thinner sanded edges on the left look more refined than the chunky ones on the right.

I wasn’t sure what material to use for covering the boards at first. Initially I thought I would like to use suede, however when I tried to embroider the words onto this it wasn’t very clear to see as the texture of the surface was too fluffy.

I had a lovely small vellum skin that I bought at the Society of Bookbinders Conference about 10 years ago that had been sat in my plan chest since then. It turned out to be the perfect size for this binding, plus it was very clear to see the embroidered writing and the prick-holes I made through the template were clearly visible on the surface. My only reservation was I had never used vellum before, I had no idea how it was going to react when glued but there is a first time for everything and that is what the sample board/book was for – to test unknowns like this out!

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Once I had identified the covering material, I took a photocopy of part of the pochoir and cut small lengths of the appropriate coloured threads I had found/bought to make sure I had a corresponding one for each colour. I cut a little off the end of each reel and stuck to the photocopy.

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The next blog post will explain how I got the below writing templates onto the vellum covering material and I will take you through the colourful embroidery process. The next post is titled “La Prose Part Three: Embroidery”.

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