Monday, March 2, 2009
Some Vellum Love......
I taught a Limp Vellum Bookbinding workshop this past week. This binding structure is really quite beautiful, and this is one of my favorite workshops to teach. The course runs for 3 days, and we create this fantastic book!
Limp vellum binding were prevalent in the 14th century. The covers of the books were formed from one piece of vellum - usually a goat or calf skin - with the textblock of the book sewn on alum-tawed thongs. The process of alum-tawing the thongs creates a leather that does not stretch as much, and it wears much better than tanned leather.
These bindings were wonderful for re-binding things as well - it is not uncommon to find limp vellum bindings where the cove vellum is a sheet of old calligraphed manuscript. The textblock is sewn using a herringbone stitch, which gives it some movement, but not too much. There is minimal adhesive used. The thongs are then split and laced through a vellum cover, which has mitered, tabbed corners, and a yapp edge to protect the foreedge of the textblock. Many historic limp vellum bindings featured a yapp edge on 3 sides.
The vellum itself is hygroscopic, causing it to "move" with humidity levels. For this reason, the limp vellum structure is ideal - the textblock can easily be separated from the cover and rebound, though the vellum is easily the strongest, most durable material for covering.
Once the textblock is set within the vellum cover, the book is held shut with more alum-tawed thongs and a bone clasp. A vellum staple can be added to the doubled-over thong to keep it in place. The thong and loop closures are also attached using no adhesive.
Because the vellum is a skin, there are many variations in the weight through one cover - the skin is stiffer and less flexible along the spine, and it tends to be thicker, as well. Folding the vellum can be a bit of a wrestling match. The skin we used for this workshop was a beautiful veiny calfskin - you can see the veins of the animal it came from.
When completed, this binding is quite satisfying to hold. The vellum is very smooth, and has a subtle lustre to it. The flexible book molds to your hands. They open quite easily and are structurally quite sound.
I've been spinning up my first installment from Southern Cross Fiber Club - this is some Polwarth in the colorway "Boys of Summer". It's a joy to spin - quite plump! And I'm excited to see it plied and done. The colors are sooooo saturated.