I arrive bright and early to the bindery full of excitement and a touch too many expectations about the speed of the handmade book-making process, as I embark on the first of two days working with bookbinder Corinna Krause of Sollas Bookbinding.

The Bindery on North Uist – Alison Price, June 2023

She has a number of decisions and issues she wishes to clarify with me and wants to demonstrate some of the options available for the presentation of the book too.  Given the complexity of the book project she also explains that I will not see the complete book-making process, nor will I take home the efforts of our labour.  The presentation boxes will also be made after the books are complete to ensure a snug fit around the book.  At the end of the two days, I am much more appreciative of why this is the case.  I become aware very quickly that the handmade bookmaking process is much more complex than I had thought, and also requires considerable problem-solving skills and experimentation to ensure an authentic and professional end result.  We work through a number of issues as follows:

The paper and colour for the inside cover sheet – We decide quickly on a dark blue Hahnemuhle paper 100gsm.

Photographic images on the spine of the presentation boxes – We discussed using my images on the spine of the presentation boxes and Corinna made some samples to show me.

Experimentation with Photographic Images on the Spine of the Boxes – Alison Price, June 2023

I am happy with the decision that we will use my images as this will help give the box an identity and coherence with the book itself. However, we hit a problem as the William Turner photographic paper I had used was not stable enough to take glue in order to stick it to the cardboard spine.  The images did not withstand the making process.  We agreed that I should send some further images, formatted long grain and on a more durable photographic paper.  I also needed to ponder whether to use three different images or the same one on each box.

Blind embossed, metallic embossed or inlay for the title on the book cover Another complex issue which required a lot of experimentation.

Stamping the Title on the Book Cover – Alison Price, June 2023

We had discussed the issue before my travelling to North Uist and I had tentatively decided I would prefer blind embossing which means that the title is stamped onto the cover in a low-key way that would be consistent with the “quiet” presentation of my book. However, after a number of attempts to blind emboss the book title onto a trial cover, there were problems with the heat required (resulting in the stamp to stick and melt the fabric) and the evenness of the pressure of the stamp (resulting in an indistinct title).  She also showed me a third option to inlay the title.  After much experimentation and discussion, I agreed that we would use metallic embossing.  Corinna remained concerned about the unevenness of the stamp, because of the number of characters in the title of my book relative to the size of the stamp machine available.  She also warned that aligning the two stamps to make up the book title would be a challenge.

Length and number of lines of stitching for the Coptic binding

Coptic Bound Book by Sollas Books – Image by Corinna Krause

The next decision to be made was about the positioning and number of punch holes that we would use to stitch the book together. This was an aesthetic and practical decision given the size of the book.  We discussed the exact width of the pages, the length of the stitching and their proximity to the images.

Width of book pages including the allowance for the stitching – We decided on a 1 ½ cm stitch in addition to the 3cm border around the images to ensure that the stitching did not encroach on the integrity of the viewing experience.  We initially agreed on 5 stitches but later changed that decision to 7 stitches both from an aesthetic and practical point of view.  The 5-stitch model had very wide spaces between the stitches and after reference to a previous project Corinna had completed, we extended the number of stitches to 7.

After a long and taxing day, I felt I had been fully involved in the book-making process and had contributed to some key decisions about the practicality and presentation of the book.

Another long day tomorrow . . . 

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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