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How Can I Learn to Bind Books?

Look for an instructional book or online advice on the basics of binding a book.
Binding books can be incredibly helpful if you are planning to self-publish.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Learning to bind books can be a rewarding experience, whether it is intended to restore damaged volumes or to assemble new projects. Depending on the level of skill that you would like to achieve, there are a number of ways to learn how to bind books, in which you will work with a variety of materials and tools. Learning methods range from reading books about bookbinding to attending advanced programs where students learn how to bind books and care for old volumes.

Some basic terms about antique books that you will probably encounter while learning to bind books include codex and folio. A codex is a single volume of a larger work, while a folio is an oversized book made using large sheets of folded paper. You will also learn more about printing techniques such as imposition, a system used on the press to arrange pages for efficient binding. Imposition involves setting up multiple pages on one sheet of paper, called a signature.

If you want to learn how to bind books so that you can repair damaged but not valuable books or bind simple projects, consider using an instructional book. A book will outline basic bookbinding techniques and materials, and allow you to explore book arts to see if you are interested in learning more. A number of libraries and bookstores have resources which you can use to learn how to bind books, and staff are often happy to assist students of bookbinding.

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If you are interested in exploring book binding more thoroughly, look for local classes and workshops. Many art schools and some colleges have bookbinding departments, and offer short intensive courses in book binding. These classes will offer the opportunity to work in a studio, and have access to high quality tools. You will also probably be able to handle more exotic materials, like vellum, a highly durable thin animal skin often used in valuable texts.

For advanced book arts, you may want to consider going to a school such as the American Academy of Bookbinding to learn how to bind books. A limited number of schools around the world offer bookbinding classes to very small numbers of students, usually less than 10. In these schools, you can learn how to bind books using a variety of techniques, and also how to conserve and handle valuable old books. The valuable skills you learn at a professional school are also very marketable, as libraries and museums all over the world are always seeking bookbinders.

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Discuss this Article

ceilingcat
Post 3

I think it sounds really neat to be able to repair old books. I bet this is a useful skill for librarians who work in research libraries that hold old books.

I personally love books of all kinds, so I totally see the appeal in repairing older volumes. But unfortunately, there's one pesky problem that stops me from getting close to older books: my allergies. I have serious dust allergies! If it wasn't for that I think I might have become a librarian.

So I think I'm just going to have to admire people who take the time to repair old books from afar. Really, just thinking about it is making me feel like I have to sneeze.

Azuza
Post 2

@Monika - That sounds like a really interesting exhibition.

When I was younger I was (actually I still am) really into doing craft projects. I went through a bookbinding phase! My mom bought me this book on bookbinding that showed you how to make simple books. I was pretty young when she got this for me, so I just made a few simple volumes out of plain paper.

Eventually I lost interest in bookbinding and moved on to knitting, which is still my craft of choice. I did save the little books I made when I was younger though!

Monika
Post 1

I actually saw an exhibit at a museum about books and bookbinding. The exhibit showed the history of books from scrolls all the way to modern mass produced books. (I saw this exhibition a few years ago-I think now they would probably need to include e-books if they did an exhibition like this.)

Anyway, it was really interesting to see all the steps that it takes to bind a book. It is way more complicated than it looks! Plus, before the printing press someone actually had to hand copy and hand illustrate the pages. Making a book used to take a really, really long time.

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