Monday, January 30, 2012

Medieval limp bookbinding

My wedding was very DIY. We designed all the stationary and made the RSVPs ourselves. The RSVP paper was the type made to look like parchment, so I decided I wanted to use it for an illumination project (no point buying the good stuff as a beginner). I enjoy bestiaries and decided that would be a good project which would use all or most of the paper. (For those who don't know, a bestiary is a medieval catalogue of animals. They include ones we now know to be mythical and each entry typically has some sort of moral lesson.)
I'll go into the contents in a later post once I have some pages completed; for now I want to focus on the actual book itself. I decided to make one of my own and stumbled upon this [sadly dead] blog with lots of A&S tips on a variety subjects. The link will take you to her posts on bookbinding.
The style is called "limp binding" because the spine of the book isn't stiff. I've never done bookbinding before and this seemed like an easy place to start (plus we have some scrap leather lying around). I'm not going to go into how it's made or what materials you need because she does such a fantastic job of it.

The one thing she doesn't give is an idea of how far apart the holes need to be. I had found a written how-to which said half an inch from the edges was a good place for the end holes, so that's what I did. The next set in I did an inch away because that roughly seemed to be what she did for her book.

Horizontally, I ended up placing them way too far apart. I only have two signatures of four sheets each in my book and put them about half a centimeter apart. I could probably slip an entire third packet between them, so a quarter of a centimeter apart seems like a good place to start if you make your own.

The flap on mine looks completely different because I only trimmed off the part of my scrap that went beyond overlapping the front cover. It already had an appealing shape, so I decided to keep it.

It's no masterpiece, but it was a fun, worthwhile project. It was really quite easy and only took a single evening to make, so anyone doing an A&S 50 Challenge which could count this, I recommend it.


  1. Neat! I bet you'll have fun writing the pages, too. Any plans on what mythical animals you want to include?

  2. The only mythical animal I plan on including is the gryphon. Most Sarmatian art was composed of real animals. You'll see references to Roman objects called "draco standards" which they got from some Sarmatian tribes, but the Sarmatian versions really look more like canines. With what I currently know, I don't see a reason to think they had actual dragons in their repertoire. Sometimes you'll run into chimaeras (in the sense of creatures made by attaching other creature's parts, not as in the specific monster that immediately comes to mind) like horses or deer with beaks, but nothing specific. There's no reason to think they actually believed in those animal's existence like medieval bestiary authors did and I don't know any names for them other than "a chimaerical creature", so there' not really a reason to include them.