Japanese Bookbinding

Earlier this month, by chance, I noticed an ad in The Buzz for a Japanese bookbinding course in Bonshaw this past weekend. I registered right away, as I’ve always been fascinated by bookbinding. After my experiments with perfect-bound books last year, I wanted to try my hand at more sophisticated bookbinding techniques, and Jennifer Brown’s course seemed like just the thing.

It was.

A happy group of about a dozen of us gathered in Bonshaw yesterday – Home of the Fisheman’s Breakfast! – and, over three hours, were walked through two bookbinding techniques. Jennifer is a kind and patient teacher, and her setup was well-outfitted with tools and materials, so all we needed to bring was our creativity and willingness to learn.

We started off making an accordion-fold book: two pieces of cardboard covered with Japanese paper and joined together with accordion-folded paper. This involved a lot of exact folding and persnickety gluing, but was relatively easy to pull off (and, to boot, I learned a lot of good, basic paper-folding skills).

Accordion Folded Book

Our second book used “kangxi” binding: we took a two pieces of heavy Japanese paper for the covers, sandwiched 12 sheets of paper inside, punched five holes through the edge with an awl, and then sewed the binding using heavy cord. The geometry of the sewing pattern makes perfect sense once you’ve done it once or twice (and is somewhat perplexing up until that point), and the main challenge of this technique, at least for me, who seldom touches needle and thread, was simply the physics of sewing.

Kangxi-bound Book

The hole in the cover over a stamp glued on top of a red piece of paper glued to the first page was an after-market-upgrade that I installed once the book was finished.

Kangxi-bound Book Cover

With the basics of these two techniques under my belt, I’m really excited to make an end-to-end book now, making the paper, printing on the letterpress, and then binding together. Stay tuned.