What we do
There are many aspects to bookbinding — things you need to know and skills you need to acquire.
Explore the following to see what is involved.
Classes have no formal structure, although newcomers are shown how to construct books using simple, but traditional, materials and techniques. This demonstrates the main principles of bookbinding and the safe use of tools and equipment.
Following the introduction to the basics, members are then able to develop a substantial range of additional skills.
They do this by focussing on their own projects and are given individual advice, tuition and guidance concerning how to proceed . This builds competence and confidence with the member acquiring a repertoire of skills that can be adapted to further projects.
The reason the class has lasted 30 years is due to the expert and wide ranging skills and knowledge of the tutor, Nick Wells.
You can read his CV on a separate page, but as well as providing individual instruction he devises imaginative projects for the class members to do, should they wish, often with special materials which he sources.
From time to time, Nick devises ambitious projects for class members to carry out if they chose to do so – and members can suggest their own ideas. A common theme of such projects is to reproduce historical bindings.
We recently bound a book about Richard III using bookbinding methods of the period of his reign. As with other projects, Nick had to research this and organized the sourcing of the necessary materials.
We bound a modern reproduction of a Dutch bookbinding manual from 1658 – fortunately including translation into English – in vellum. Vellum is a beautiful material for covering books but it requires particular care in its application.
One project focused on methods for inserting illustrations into books, based on another old bookbindng manual. Members were encouraged to develop their own designs according to their own preferences.
A current project is to create a facsimile of Cuthbert's Gospel. This 7th century book, which is on display at the British Library, is probably the oldest binding in Europe that still survives.
Class members are normally expected to provide their own basic equipment, including, knives, steel rulers and bone folders. The individual basic bookbinding kit is very small, but members soon start to acquire additional items for themselves which, of course, they use for continuing their projects at home.
One of the surprises for the new bookbinder is the range of materials that might be used. Many of them are valuable in their own right, like leathers and hand-made or uniquely decorated papers. They may come from remote and exotic places. The book may be decorated with real gold.
But bookbinding does not have to be an expensive hobby. Even if using expensive materials, the quantities involved are usually quite small.
However many books in the finest collections are bound with quite humble materials and it is entirely the binder's choice as to how to 'best' do the work.
There are more specialist items of equipment that people who do bookbinding for a hobby may not be able to afford. These include presses of different kinds to hold books securely whilst they are worked on, electrical blockers that contain heaters in order to impress titles and images onto books and guillotines to cut book blocks.
The expense incurred is avoided by joining a bookbinding group that possess or can jointly purchase such equipment.