The Miracle of Books That Teach Bookbinding

The Miracle of Books That Teach Bookbinding

aka Where It All Began (For Transient Books)

Bookbinders are curious folk. They are generous with their knowledge, and they are usually quick to share and exchange experiences, successes, and ravenous mishaps. The best illustration of this being the Book Arts List Serv (found at This online forum of bookbinders, book artists, book lurkers, conservationists and regular humans has been a world wide meeting point for over 20 years. I can't imagine where bookbinding would be (or wouldn't be) today without this resource.

It's no surprise, then, that a lot of bookbinders write books on how to make books. And even less surprisingly, the books bookbinders write about how to make books tend to be really good. There are many out there. Today I pay homage to the mainstays in our studio. The books that have made us the binders we are today.

For me and Magu, it all began with:

Volume 1, Non-Adhesive Binding. Books Without Paste or Glue by Keith A. Smith.

I began binding books because my aunt, Eve Slinker, handed this book to me one day in 1997. As a writer and a traveler (and a young person), I found the combination of paper grocery sacks, a typewriter and a stapler to be the most logical way to share my creations. My aunt's gift was a not so subtle way of saying, "Make something better!" (Followed by her trademark: an infectious cackle.) My path began here, and has expanded exponentially ever since. Because I was on the road for so many years, the non-adhesive bindings were an ideal place to start. I appreciate Keith's approach to teaching: clear illustrations and step by step instructions. By the end of a Smith binding experience, you know when to breathe, when to sew, when to fold, when to stretch your legs, and you know a lot of variations on these and many other parts to the process.

So, once my backpack could hold a second binding book, I expanded the Keith Smith experience. Bookbinding for Book Artists was where we learned how to sew and bind hard back books. The key being "Requiring no special tools and equipment". For nomadic humans, this approach was a god send. The first day I finished a tight back binding, I literally carried that pristine rounded spine up and down main street and showed it to everyone in town. By 2001 we more or less settled down in central Argentina, and some of my first sedentary acquisitions were, of course...more Keith Smith Books.

 Eventually, we did branch out, of course:

Books, Boxes & Wraps by Marilyn Webberly and JoAn Forsyth is how we learned to create Clam Shell Boxes and Hard Back Slip Cases. I also appreciate many of the alternative structures, closures and embellishments this book teaches. You can open it on any page and find new ideas to expand into.

The Art & Craft of Handmade Books by Shereen LaPlantz introduced me to playing with structures and movement. This book is FUN, and offers an endless combination of ideas to explore.

Handmade Books for a Healthy Planet by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord is a true masterpiece. With clarity, it celebrates (1.) historical bindings from around the globe, (2.) recycling and (3.) personal expression. All in one book. I day dream about it coming out in Spanish, as it is my bible when I teach bookbinding as a resource in the classroom here in Argentina.

Ok, when it comes to FUN, The Pocket Paper Engineer Books (3 volumes!) by Carol Barton are hard to beat. Carol came up with this great format, where each concept presented has practice cards you slip out of a pocket and work on right then and there. The illustrations invite you into more ideas, and she has great quotes throughout the books that just make you want to...make more books.

Thanks to the Book Arts List Serv, I continually add to our collection of books on bookbinding here in the studio. (These being my most recent acquisitions: Biblio Tech and Paper Cases and Wrappers by Karen Hanmer and Secret Compartments & Hidden Messages by Shereen LaPlantz.) Plus a couple more that are still on my night stand and didn't make it down for today's photo shoot. Not to mention the rest of the books on how to make books to be found here in the studio. There's a lot! This very moment, those volumes are looking at me with weepy dog eyes. Sorry guys, I couldn't do a full card catalog here. But I love you, and am so glad you've made Transient Books and what it is today.


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