The Final Steps

After the laborious process of fastening the quires, it was time for the gluing of the leather. We set an old tin in a pan of water on the stove, creating a makeshift double boiler. Into the tin we put hot water and the dry rabbit hide glue until it seemed sufficiently thick. We had to base the sufficiency on personal preferences for consistency, or goopiness if one is half so tired as we were, for we were not able to find any literature on glue proportions.

Mixing the Glue.

We glued the leather on in portions, starting with the top, because we did not wish for things aligned to slip while setting another part. Before we started gluing, a rough shape of the leather was cut out with the removable blade of an old style safety razor (Topaz brand blade). Unfortunately, it is only a safety razor when the blade is mounted. Free wielding of the two sided blade resulted in a fine lattice upon my fingers. Applying glue with a brush, we fastened the leather to the boards, cutting as needed. We encountered some difficulties in the leather’s inconsistent pliability. The edges would become strange shapes and get up to al sorts of mischief whenever our backs were turned. The warm glue further affected the pliability of the leather, but we were able to use this to our advantage when shaping deviant bits of cow.

Allowing the glue on the spine and outer-board set.

For the folded over corners, we decided to cut in at a forty five degree angle and has been most common with most binding techniques (Szirmai 1999). This seems to have been left to the judgement of the binders of each manuscript, and we thought this method looked nice.

The Corners.

For the final setting, particularly of the corners, we weighted the top and bound the edges with twine to hold the leather in place while the glue was drying. Scrap sheets of paper were set in place to protect the pages from any misplaced glue. After spending a restful night in the kitchen, the glue decided to set nicely and allow us to be finished. Judging by our progression, we would do a better job on the next one. I assume the creators of the original were able to practice once or twice with book binding before, so they had certainly had an advantage. Nonetheless, I am pleased with what we have produced and even more so with how we improved our techniques as we progressed.

It opens!

On a cushion.

A distinguished spine.

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