I’m a big fan of books. I love books. My wife shakes her head at my bookshelves because I keep adding more shelves. When I was a kid, I loved my dad’s office with its built-ins and shelves filled with books. And now I have my own. I’m especially fond of hardbound books… the kind with high-quality binding and paper and hand-stitching. I’d have a hard time picking my favorites, but I have signed, hand-crafted special-editions signed by some of my favorite writers, and I have a hard time deciding whether I like the signature or the hand-crafted nature of those books more.
Another thing I’ve been fascinated with for a long time is the making of books. I don’t pretend to know all the terminology and techniques or even all the history, but I’m getting there. I like to watch people make books, and I like to see the materials that go into the crafting of a book. And that’s why I sat down and shook my head in amazement when I got a review copy of Bookforms: A Complete Guide to Designing and Crafting Hand-Bound Books from Quarto Publishing. This full-color, 176-page book is filled with detailed photos and matching written descriptions of the processes that go into the making dozens of styles of books.
Now, unless you’ve got some experience in bookmaking, I don’t honestly think you can just take this book and follow the steps and come away with a perfect book. You can tell after reading the steps that these are skills that must be developed and mastered… over time. Even the tools are something that probably will need to be collected over time as you discover what you lack for a project.
But for someone like me, who probably isn’t as interested in making an actual book as much as understanding the concepts… this book is amazing. The tools are explained… the parts of a book (its anatomy) are discussed… the types of adhesives used are covered well. Even the different types of knots that will be needed to secure the paper is covered.
The book is broken into five chapters:
- Tools, Materials, and Studio Basics
- Pamphlets and Accordion Books
- Multi-Signature Books
- Non-Adhesive Bindings
- Artist Books
Truthfully, the first time I sat down with the book… I just scanned the pictures. I love the photos. Full color, up-close with the details shown. It’s so amazing to look at. It’s only when I went back and began to read over the steps for making things that it really hit me hard that a hand-made book that brings you joy is so worth the price. It’s not just the words or images on the book’s pages that you’ll love… it’s the entire book itself. Bookforms will make you appreciate the time and energy that went into sewing and binding and covering the binder’s choice of paper. The book becomes it’s own treasure even if it were filled with blank pages.
After finishing Bookforms, one thing is clear—book-crafting is something I will always enjoy watching and learning about, but probably won’t ever do myself. The time needed to create these amazing books can be substantial, and I regret that my life (right now) is too busy to add another hobby. I’m thinking retirement, though… one day, I will most definitely try my hand at learning some of these techniques.
Note: I was provided with a review copy of Bookforms by Quarto Publishing.