Review of Sewn and Pasted Cloth or Leather Bookbinding for Book Artists
by I. Marc Carlson
Copyright 2000

Guild of Bookworkers Newsletter. No, 130 June, 2000,  p.18.

  Keith A . Smith and Fred A . Jordan . Sewn and Pasted Cloth or Leather Bookbinding for Book Artists, Requiring No Special Tools or Equipment. Rochester, New York : Keith Smith Books (22 Cayuga Street , Rochester, NY 14620-2153. Telephone or Fax : 716 - 473 - 6776 . Email : ) , 1998 . 424 pp. B&w illustrations. $35 . ISBN 0-9637682-5-5. Reviewed by I. Marc Carlson, University of Tulsa

I confess I was curious about this particular book when it was handed to me to rev i ew. Although I am fa i r ly well re a d on the topic of bookbinding, I am an amateur bookbinder with only a re l at i ve ly few binding jobs under my belt. I had seen several of Mr. S m i t h ís other works in the past and, while none of them had been pre c i s e ly what I was looking f o r, I had been pleased with their simple stru c t u re, a n d easy to understand explanations and illustrat i o n s. S o, i t ís u n d e rs t a n d a ble if I had a certain level of expectation fro m this latest wo r k . E ven paging through the text for the firs t t i m e, I could see that I was not going to be disappointed.

Bookbinding for Book Artists, to use its alternate title, is in some ways a ve ry pragmatic book. It describes in its title its basic purp o s e, being a work on binding for the book a rtist as opposed to the fine binder. The work begins by d e s c ribing the parts of the book, and the simplified tools substituted for the traditional binding equipment. I n s t ru ctions for making a simple book press are included. It also c ove rs arch i val mat e rials as they pertain to making books, and describes several ways of making paste. F rom there it d e s c ribes va rious paper traits, s u ch as ď gr a i n Ē , and then h ow to work with this for marking, s c o ri n g, c u t t i n g, t e a ring the paper. Then taking the sheets and folding them d own to compile a signat u re, even to determining the o r d e ring and numbering of the folioís pages. After this, t h e re is a discussion of sewing pre p a r ations such as marking the stat i o n s , type of thre a d , k n o t s , kettle stitch , a n d retaining the tension in sew i n g. All of these discussions are clean and orderly, and move the reader neat ly from one subject to the next.

Strange though it may seem, the mat e rial is pre s e n t e d in such a way as to encourage people to try binding, eve n if they have a limited range of skills. Household tools are s u g g e s t e d , for those who donít have the more traditional binding equipment. Smith even includes instructions for making a simple book press out of household mat e ri a l s.

Bookbinding for Book A rtists contains a small selection of binding examples that seem to me to cover the widest a rr ay of basic techniques in a small amount of time. T h e s e a re the pamphlet sewn with boards, flat - b a ck cased-in c o d e x , and the tight-backed casing.

The section about pamphlets sewn with boards a d d resses the pre p a r ation and construction of small books, working with a few sheets of paper, using a few diffe re n t pamphlet sewing tech n i q u e s. A t t a ched to these are seve r a l options for hard cove rs , w h i ch seem to be ideal for smaller p ro j e c t s. The mat e rial about flat - b a ck , cased-in codexe s also examines several methods of sewing these larger wo r k s , and for setting the boards. The tight-back casing p a rt handles sewing cords, ro u n d i n g, b a ck i n g, and so on.

After this there is an examination of pasting-dow n , l e ather bindings, h o l l ow back s , and fin i s h i n g, i n c l u d i n g labels of va rious sources, hinge types, inlaid papers , a n d miscellaneous decorat i o n s. It concludes with a detailed re f e rence section that includes notes, a glossary, i n d e xe s , and even a conve rsion ch a rt for inches to centimeters.

Taken all in all, this is an excellent resource for beginning binders and book artists , or for those who have experience in a single area and are considering branching out. This material can also serve as a useful foundation for someone who is considering working with some of Keith Smith ís other texts: The Structure of the Visual Book 3rd Ed, 1994 . ($25) ; Text in the Book Fo rm at 2nd Ed, 1 9 9 5 . ( $ 1 7 . 5 0 ) ; H ow to Bind, N o n - A d h e s i ve Bindings I: Books without Paste or Glue 3rd Ed, 1994 ($30); H ow to Bind, N o n - A d h e s i ve Bindings II: 1 ,2 , & 3 Section Sewings 1st Ed, 1995 ($30) and H ow to Bind, N o n - A d h e s i ve Bindings III: Exposed Spine S e w i n g s,1st Ed, 1995 ($30).