folded books, a simple cut fold, great for books where one side is text and the other blank or a poster

Bookbinding and letterpress

At the start of December I taught an intensive full day workshop in bookbinding to students from Limerick School of Art and Design’s Printmaking Department. It was the second part of a pair of workshops hosted at Limerick Printmakers. The first session was letterpress printing taught by Brian Fitzgerald. Limerick Printmakers has put a lot of work into its letterpress area recently and is beginning to develop a collection of type. Brian worked with the students to produce material which we would transform into books in the second session.The students were from third and fourth year of college and of mixed experience when it came to bookbinding. Some clearly had previous experience and others were total beginners.

Folded books

We began the day with folded books. First we made variations on concertina folds and map folds, followed by modular folded books such as dragon books. The letterpress printed material was perfect for these as it was on light card which took the folds nicely and really held its shape. I introduced the process for covering using grey board and some old prints on light but strong paper.

map fold

Stitched books

After lunch we moved on to simple stitched books. The first step was to fold a signature, starting from an A1 sheet and bringing it down to A6 and smaller. The most important aspect of this is tearing slightly more than half way down your previous fold in order to prevent bulking in the following stages. We discussed the process for collating your printed matter: folding down the sheet, numbering the pages and unfolding again. We stitched the pamphlet together in a five hole stitch with a single knot. I also discussed the possibilities of using the same stitch to create larger sketchbooks. They cut the signature open using a knife to carve carefully down through the pages.

Finally we made a simple case binding. Students assembled five signatures. We bound them together using a method where each station is bound to the signature before. The resulting book has vertical lines of stitches on the outer spine and continuous lines of stitches inside the signatures. No tapes or mulls are needed. To form the cover students cut three segments of grey board – one for front, back and spine. They  glued these onto some decorative paper leaving room for hinging at the spine. Attaching them together is as simple as gluing the end papers to the covers.

Altogether the workshop was quite successful. It will be nice to see how or if the students incorporate any of this into their practice. Perhaps some interesting work will appear in the ABLE exhibition in February!


making covers for casebound books

covering casebound and similar books

a finished case binding sitting in the detritus of a full days intensive work!

A full day done!