What Love Means

Types of Bookbinding

Rounded Spine
A5 sketchbook Natural handmade mulberry paper flower inclusion yellow
Natural handmade mulberry paper flower inclusion yellow

The rounded spine is softer, and maybe more elegant that the square hard-casing. This is traditionally used on notebooks/journals. It sits nicely in the hand and it is a pleasure to let your finger wander on the groove of the book edge. Rounded spine style books appeared around the 15th century and are usually associated with hard cover, i.e covers that do not bend. As paper was made of vellum and at risk of swelling, the final codex shape took form by adding heavy wood covers and clasps to keep the sheets flat. Actually, the rounding of the spine is a tricky step to get right. It is achieved through the gentle hammering of the paper block into shape then gluing layers of paper and mull to secure the spine and facilitate the turning of the pages.

Coptic Stitching
Technique: Coptic stitching
Detail: Coptic stitching

This is the original stitching that bound papyrus leaves together, thus allowing the spine to be either exposed or covered. This binding dates from the second century before becoming very common by the 11th century. Its practicality made it very instrumental to the spread of Christianity.

Pocketbook Inspirational Laugh Spine
Inspirational Laugh Spine

Originally leaving the spine exposed, leather wrapping were to maintain the shape of the block.Using local materials instead of payrus, The Western tradition bound vellum and parchment, which became prized for their durability. Official documents are to these days written on parchment in England.  However, vellum and parchment are sensitive to humidity and have a tendency to curl.  As a result, heavy wooden covers and clasps solved the problem.  Bound illuminated vellum meant that books were very expensive. Hence to prevent theft, a chain would bind them to their shelf. Voila! Birth of the modern book in a nutshell.

Today, simplicity and durability are what makes this binding popular. Because the book lays completely flat when open, it is hence very popular with artists, would-be artists and whoever wanting to explore their creativity. Who would have thought so much history could be packed in those fun stitches?

Long stitch binding
Technique: Long stitch
Technique: Long stitch

The long stitch binds the signatures directly onto the spine via long stitching. It also is very decorative and has a much sought after rustic and traditional aura about it.


Decorative Paper Techniques

Paper marbling
Marbled paper
Marbled paper

Marbled paper: In Europe, the tradition of marbling paper is closely linked to the practice of book binding. Important documents relied on the pattern of marbled paper to vouch for their integrity. Indeed, the pattern being unique, not counterfeit could be produced and if a page was to go missing, a broken pattern would give away the fraud. Handy for book ledgers! This kept the technique highly secret until late nineteenth century. Because marbling always creates one of a kind, it is thus impossible to duplicate pattern, making each book also unique. What a marvelous idea!

Paper Materials

Mulberry Paper

Leather bound Notebook Coptic Wrap Mulberry Paper (Orange Front)
Leather Notebook Coptic Wrap Mulberry Paper (Orange Front)

It is made from the fiber of the Tapa Cloth tree, also known as MulberryPaper tree. This tree can reach 35m high and has spread geographically from its Asian origins. It is now cultivated worldwide. All the tree parts are replete with useful properties, from paper to furniture making. Additionally, it even has medicinal properties. Apparently, it replenishes red blood cells, has laxative properties and helps combat fever! Yet, beware! It is, however, aggressively invasive and its pollen is a potent allergen triggering asthma mayhem. Clearly a tree combining Yin and Yang at once! Mulberry paper is handmade and each sheet of paper is unique to sight and touch. I love the feel of this paper but respect to the tree! mulberry paper can be found as thin as tissue paper or very thick indeed. Finally, it is particularly suitable for floral inclusions.

Kyoseishi Paper

Materials: Kyoseishi PaperKyoseishi means “strengthened paper” in Japanese and is one of the most durable and popular decorative paper among all Washi. Washi paper is made from the bark and fiber of the Gampi tree but can be made from any fibrous plant available (bamboo, rice, wheat, etc…). It is tougher than pulp based paper. “Washi” refers to any handmade Japanese paper. The craft is registered  as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.

Kyoseishi paper is hand wrinkled therefore it has soft texture, which is almost like fabric. It is durable  and despite its appearance, very resistant to water damage.  Its strength comes from its coating with Konnyaku juice, extracted from the Konjac plant, also called the “Devil’s tongue”. However, rest assured the paper is harmless and despite its fierce component it has a soft texture, not unlike fabric. It is commonly used for crafts.