Bookbinding Tools and Equipment

Sam Ellenport of Harcourt Bindery passes along a tip about some used equipment for sale by Mekatronics.  You can check out what they have to offer by scrolling down to the “antiques” section at:

If anyone else has items for sale or wants, feel free to add comments to this post.  We’ll try to draw attention to anything New England GBW members would like to add.

Intermediate- Advanced Bookbinding Classes

There are a few upcoming study opportunities in the New England region especially for those of you with some experience.  We draw your attention to the following courses with two fantastic binders and teachers, Peter Geraty and Dominic Riley.

The Garage Annex School in Easthampton, MA will host Peter Geraty for “Vellum Binding Over Boards” in September.

Dominic Riley will be at North Bennet Street School in October to teach “The Classic Leather Binding” as well as a two-day workshop on hand tooling WITHOUT gold leaf.

Descriptions of all three workshops below, but please see the two school’s web sites for more information and registration. and

From GAS:

Vellum Binding Over Boards with Peter Geraty
September 18–19, Saturday–Sunday

If Vellum Binding Over Boards is an intriguing yet intimidating prospect, come get over the fear of working with this beautiful hygroscopic material by attending Peter Geraty’s two-day workshop. You can read the workshop description below.

Please join us this September in the Garage Annex School‘s spacious classroom here in Easthampton, MA.  

Vellum has a mystique and a mind of its own. The mystique we admire, the mind we must work with!

Warped boards and broken hinges are evidence of vellum’s unruly nature—and these flaws are common in both historic and new bindings.

The hygroscopic quality of this wonderful material allows it to expand and shrink as the environment changes, so unskilled use of vellum can lead to disappointment. On the other hand, the strength of vellum makes it an ideal material for bookbinding, and its successful use important to add to your skill set.

During this workshop you will learn how to create a vellum binding over boards which will accentuate the beauty of vellum and compensate for its tendency to wander.

The style known as floating board (in which the vellum is glued to a thin upper board) allows the vellum to expand and contract with less warping of the boards. There is no way to stop vellum’s movement but we devise effective ways to work with it.

You will construct a Dutch style (laced-on case with a French groove) vellum binding. Over the course of two days you will sew the textblock, hand sew endbands, make the vellum cover and case it in. Throughout, we will discuss the nature of vellum, how it is made, and look at examples of vellum bindings.

There is an expectation of intermediate skills in bookbinding to take this workshop. If you would like to discuss your qualifications or have any questions about the class itself please feel free to contact Peter at

You may enjoy visiting Peter’s web site:

From NBSS:

The Classic Leather Binding with Dominic Riley
Mon-Fri, Oct 18-22, 2010, 8:30am-4:30pm

Experience the pleasure of working with beautiful calfskin and learn the fundamentals of decorative blind tooled covers. This intensive master class will introduce students to the Cambridge Panel, a classic (and luxurious) English leather binding popular throughout the eighteenth century, and which is very useful for creating handsome ‘period’ bindings. The sections will be sewn on raised cords, using the sewing frame, traditional ‘made’ endpapers will be sewn on, after which the book will be trimmed, rounded and backed. The edges will be sprinkled and polished, two-color headbands sewn on, and the cords frayed out and laced into boards. The book will be covered in a smooth calfskin, and particular attention will be given to careful and accurate paring using the English knife and spoke shave, ensuring a neat fit over the binding. The leather will be pasted out and applied to the book, taking care shaping it over the raised bands, forming the headcaps, and making neat, simple corners. The binding will be decorated in the Cambridge Panel style, which first involves sprinkling with leather dye using an ingenious template to create the classic paneled effect. Then, using a few tools and working to a traditional formula, the covers will be enhanced by some very handsome blind tooling. The endpapers are then put down, and the binding is polished and waxed. Traditional craft bookbinding experience recommended. Experience with leather and knife sharpening also recommended. The tuition includes a fee for leather and other materials, but students are expected to provide their own hand tools.

Introduction to Hand Tooling with Dominic Riley
Sat & Sun, Oct 23-24, 2010, 8:30am-4:30pm

A thorough introduction to the art of hand tooling—in blind, with carbon and with real gold foil. A feast of tips, tricks and techniques. Hand finishing on books requires patience, skill and much practice, and handling gold leaf can present endless frustrations to even the most accomplished bookbinder. This class will show students how to execute neat, pleasing finishing without using gold leaf, thus concentrating on the fundamental skills necessary to achieve good lettering and decoration of spines and boards. The class will concentrate on five techniques: blind tooling on leather; tooling with carbon paper to achieve a solid black result; freestyle carbon tooling on leather or cloth boards using the one line wheel; tooling titles with real gold foil, using a template to ensure accuracy; and tooling gold lines using a fool-proof guide. All these techniques have been developed or learnt by Dominic over the years in various binderies, where, for reasons of expediency, finishing with gold leaf was not practiced. The alternatives, as you will see, are very impressive! The tuition includes a fee for materials, but students are expected to provide their own hand tools.


The annual conference of the Guild of Book Workers, with the grand title of “The Seminar on Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding” probably sounds a little daunting to those not familiar with the event.  The conference is held each year at different places around the country, and is in fact a highly social as well as highly educational.  The conference is a wonderful opportunity for the annual cross-pollination in our wide-ranging field of “book workers.”

In addition to the formal presentations there are tours, social events, a banquet with an entertaining auction– and one of the best reasons to attend might be the vendor room which will be packed with temptations.

The conference topics offer something for everyone, with presentations on traditional bookbinding, book arts and book conservation.  There are frequently presentations that cross disciplines, and the variety is part of the very structure of the Guild of Book Workers.

This year the conference is in Tucson, AZ.  October 14-16, 2010.   There is an extraordinary group of presenters (see below), and we know the local host committee has worked hard to put on a great event.  There is still time to register, and you can do so online for the first time this year.  See the Standards page on the GBW site at

Standards Presentations 2010

Michael Burke – Byzantine Binding
Michael Burke started his working life as a chemist researching the transformation of coal into oil. He later worked in occupational health with asbestos. Michael studied bookbinding with Dominic Riley and paper conservation with Karen Zukor. He was involved in establishing the bindery at the San Francisco Center for the Book, and edited Gold Leaf, the journal of the Hand Bookbinders of California.

Michael lives in the Lake District, England, where he teaches bookbinding at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal and at Society of Bookbinders (SoB) events across the UK. He is a past chair of the North West and North Wales region of SoB. He has taught for diverse book arts groups across the USA, including Los Angeles, Seattle and Salt Lake City and in 2007 he taught at Paper and Book Intensive in Michigan. Last year he travelled to São Paulo to teach for the Brazilian group ABER. In recent years Michael has been researching the structures of ancient and medieval bindings. Michael will demonstrate the making of a medieval Byzantine binding. This leather binding is unique in that is bound from the boards to the center, resulting in a natural rounding of the spine, at which point the two halves are joined.

Nancy Ruth Leavitt – In Search of Content, the Joys and Challenges of Creating the Book Form
Nancy Leavitt is a calligrapher specializing in unique hand-lettered and painted manuscript books. Leavitt’s interest in the hand-lettered book developed as a result of her studies in the U.S. and Great Britain. Her work resides in many prestigious collections and she has received several grants from the Maine Arts Commission for research into her craft, including quill cutting. She lives, works, and sings in Stillwater, Maine.

Like an engineering project, a book is a complex three dimensional design made up of many parts. Content is the central idea of the design and narrative is how it unfolds, how the story is revealed and concealed. Our goal as bookmakers is to intentionally integrate all aspects of the design to strengthen the structure, form, and content of our works. Through demonstration and example, Nancy discusses her rigorous yet playful method of researching, compiling data, developing, and realizing materials for her manuscript books.

Martha Little – Book Forensics: Interpreting Evidence of Structure
Martha Little has been a bookbinder and book conservator since 1976. She was Book Conservator at the Yale University Library and Head of Conservation at the University of Michigan Libraries, and is now in private practice in California. Her early training was with Jane Greenfield, who incorporated a study of historical structures and the making of models into the work day, and with Roger Powell in England, whose powers of meticulous observation will always be an unattainable standard. Martha took part last year in a condition survey of manuscript books at the National Library of Egypt in Cairo, where she learned that two people can look at the same detail and see two different things. 

Every book conservator accumulates knowledge of some of the small details that are clues to a book’s invisible or lost structure. A remnant of a leather strap may lie in a board; extra holes suggestive of an earlier sewing may be apparent in the folds; raised areas where the covering material has become worn reveal where cords are laced in underneath. Martha’s presentation will examine more ways of interpreting physical evidence when examining a book, in order to determine how it was made and what materials were used. She will bring old books to look at and discuss; recreate evidence though different means to see which interpretation seems more plausible; demonstrate some simple tests to identify materials, and show how the knowledge of the observer can both help with and get in the way of seeing what’s there.

Jeffrey S. Peachey – Late Eighteenth Century French Binding Structures
Jeffrey S. Peachey is the owner of a New York City-based studio for the conservation of books and the inventor of conservation tools and machines. He is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation and a previous chair of the Conservators In Private Practice. For more than 20 years, he has specialized in the conservation of books and paper artifacts for institutions and individuals. A consultant to major libraries and university collections in the New York City region and nationally, he has been the recipient of numerous grants to support his work. A well-known teacher, Peachey also provides conservation-focused guidance to students in art, bookbinding and conservation programs.

This presentation will focus on the structural aspects of a typical 18th century full calf French binding by comparing contemporary descriptions in bookbinding manuals, examining extant bindings and experimenting with reproduction tools and equipment. In some respects, this structure is the end of utilitarian leather binding–50 years later the cloth case begins to predominate. Some features of this binding style include cutting the boards with a pointe, ploughing the edges in-boards, four variations of transverse spine liners and sprinkled cover decoration. Primary texts include Diderot’s Encylopedie (1751-1780). Gauffecourt’s Traite de la Relieure des Livres (1763) and Dudin’s L’Art du Relieur-doreur de Livres (1772). Specific conservation concerns for these structures will also be discussed.


From our friends at North Bennet Street School:

Second Chance at Conservation workshop
A couple of spots have just opened up in Renate Mesmer’s workshop, “Tips and Tricks for Book and Paper Conservation.”  The class runs August 12-16, 2010.  Contact Jourdan Abel, workshop director, at or register online at

Bookbinding Intensive
In addition to the full-time program, NBSS offers bookbinding short courses ranging from 1 day to a 3 month intensive. Some students have found the 3 month course to be the perfect “next step” after all the weekend workshops many of us cobble together in an effort to learn about the craft. A few students have used the intensive as a major test of their interest before applying to the 2 year full-time program.  The course is taught by NBSS grad and workshop maven, Stacie Dolin, and is a The 3 month class runs every other year… and there are a couple of spots remaining in this fall’s class!

Three Month Bookbinding Intensive
Mon-Fri, Sep 13-Dec 10, 2010, 8:30am-2:30pm, with studio time until 4:30
Stacie Dolin, Instructor

This class is designed for those who want to intensely study bookbinding in a three-month time period. Participation in the three-month class can also be used by students who wish to enhance their skills to be better prepared to attend the full-time Bookbinding program. This class is suitable for the brand-new beginner, or the moderately experienced binder who wishes to practice and hone skills. Covered in this class are the foundational content of two of our workshops, Introduction to Non-Adhesive and Cloth Case Bookbinding. Specific structures include: Coptic, historic long-stitch, long-stitch with wrapper, crossed structure, flat back and rounded and backed cloth case, full, half, and quarter cloth case, a cloth case production project, onset, modified split, and simplified boards, basic enclosures, including four flap, slipcase, and clamshell, case binding variants, including endpaper attachment variations, headbands, album structures, foil stamping and more, as time allows. Field trips and other topics will be part of the curriculum depending on student interest. Please note: this is not a fine binding/leather binding class. The tuition includes a materials fee for paper and other basic supplies; for the most part, students are expected to provide their own materials and hand tools. If you don’t already own bookbinding tools, expect to spend approximately $200 on tools for this course, in addition to tuition. A deposit of $1800 is required to hold your spot. The balance is due one week before class begins.

Register online at

Preservation of Books at the Folger Shakespeare Library

The Preservation of Books at the
Folger Shakespeare Library
A Lecture by Renate Mesmer
North Bennet Street School
Boston, MA
August 12, 2010.  6:00pm

Renate Mesmer will speak about a variety of projects undertaken at the Folger Shakespeare Library including the conservation of 19th century scrap books, The Halliwell-Phillipps Albums, and other treatments.  Paper splitting and other techniques, tips and tricks used at the lab will be discussed.

This lecture, another installment in the North Bennet Street School/Guild of Book Workers lecture series, is free and open to the public.  Registration is not required, but if you plan to attend it would help us plan if we have a rough headcount.  RSVP to

The associated workshop, “Tips and Tricks for Book and Paper Conservators,” to be held at North Bennet Street School August 12-16, is currently fully enrolled.  If you would like to be added to the waiting list please contact the NBSS workshop director, Jourdan Abel at

About the Presenter:
Renate Mesmer is the Assistant Head of Conservation at the Folger Shakespeare Library and the former Director of the Book and Paper Conservation Program at the Centro del bel Libro in Ascona, Switzerland. She has a Masters in bookbinding from the Chamber of Crafts of Palatinate in Germany and gained experience in conservation during ten years of work as head of the conservation department at the  Speyer’s State Archives in Germany.

Standards Scholarships

GBW Seminar on Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding. Tucson, Arizona.  October 14-16, 2010.

The Seminar on Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding is the annual Guild of Book Workers conference. Held annually at a different location in the country, participants attend presentations by leading experts in the fields related to the book and paper arts. Tours of binderies, conservation facilities, rare book libraries and papermaking establishments are regularly arranged in conjunction with the event. Seminar presentations are videotaped and made available to members. The Guild’s Annual Meeting is held in conjunction with the seminar.

 Scholarships are available to attend the Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding Seminar to Guild of Book Workers members for whom attendance would create a financial hardship. There are scholarships for both student and regular members. Non-members may apply, but are required to become a member prior to attending the Seminar.

The scholarship consists of a waiver of registration fees to the seminar, banquet, and four nights lodging at the Seminar hotel (does not include phone calls, movie rentals, or any other room service). Recipients are responsible for making their own travel plans and hotel reservations. Recipients may be asked to help with newsletter coverage and/or assist with other tasks during the seminar. Applications must be received by August 14, 2009. Address questions to Andrew Huot, Scholarship Committee Chair.

You may download a scholarship application, register online for the conference, and find out more about the conference and other GBW activities at