Eidolon House Bindery Tour

Welcome! We're happy you're here! 

IMG_0727.JPG

About a month ago Joseph and I were talking about how cluttered our bindery was feeling, and how it felt like everything was falling down around us, even after cleaning and reorganizing, and more reorganizing; we were just feeling like we needed a refresher of sorts, and so that is exactly what we did!  

We keep long work hours, and so it really makes sense to work out of our home, otherwise, we'd never be home, right?  When you spend the majority of your days and nights in one space, it's smart to make it useful and efficient, organized and clean, comfortable and beautiful.  I think we've put together a great bindery, library, sitting room; whatever you want to call it.  This is a place for us to create and continue to grow our small business!  

Bindery Talks: End Bands and all the Right Answers About Books.

image.jpg

If anyone has worked in the world of bookbinding and book collecting for longer than say, six months, they could probably tell you it's kind of a hard world to break into. So often, when speaking to book collectors and other book binders, the subject comes up of how unhelpful the people in this world can be. I've had three of those conversations in as many weeks with perfect strangers.  It's like there is an unspoken initiation one has to go through to be accepted in to the belly of of the beast known as rare books.  (I still don't know what this initiation is; if anyone does, please let me know!)

It also seems like every bookbinder you talk to has all of the right answers, and through the years I've stayed quiet because many of the authors of "all the right answers" aren't willing to discuss another possible method of binding or restoration.  If I'm being completely honest, In my experience I've often found those right answers to be both wrong and right, and here's why: There isn't one set rule or answer that can solve all the possible issues one old tattered book may have. And unless you're a fortunate enough conservator to have worked on many books from every single time period, binding style, and country of origin of The Book, you're not going to have all the answers either. Wouldn't it be better if we all brushed the chips off our shoulders and worked together to build a network of tried and true knowledge and experience?

As a case in point; about end bands: I've seen it written and discussed that one should never ever never resew end bands on a rare book, as it will cause more damage to the already stressed text block.  While the idea is something to consider, that notion is completely untrue. In fact the minimally invasive nature of the sewing can be far outweighed by the additional strength to the structure some styles of end bands can provide.  The sewn end band strengthens the structure of the text block by holding together the unsewn ends of the signatures that lie beyond the kettle stitches. Even more strength is provided when the core of the end band is laced into the boards.  An end band that is sturdier than one merely pasted on also provides support for the end caps; one of the weakest parts of the binding.  

Many binders are comfortable with stuck on end bands (even in the old days), and often times those stuck on end bands are hand embroidered and quite beautiful.  However, they cannot add strength, merely being pasted on.  In fact, in my examination of old bindings I have found that they often create a weak spot which is usually the first area to break down in a binding. In my opinion stuck on end bands should be used when the original valuable binding had them and the restoration calls for complete period accuracy, but they should not be a fall back in an effort to simplify or speed up the binding process.

Tips on how to minimize and ameliorate the damage to the paper caused by sewing end bands: First, sew through the already extant kettle stitch holes if at all possible.  This is the best way to proceed, because absolutely no further damage is caused. If the condition of the page is less than can be desired for sewing end bands, a medium weight guard on the folds of the signatures will provide not only support for the pages, but also sufficient support for sewing the end bands.  if you have a book that is so tattered that there isn't enough paper to support an end band, go the extra mile to build up the pages by guarding and filling in the lacunae.

As a book binder, conservator, and craftsman who is constantly refining my craft, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking I have all the right answers.  It seems strange, but book binding can be very competitive.  I've found it's better to keep an open mind, constantly gather knowledge from those who bound before us, and those who are working in the field now, and focus on the specific needs of the specific book in front of me.      

How I Became a Conservator: The Books Found Me.

image.jpg

 "How did you get into restoring old books?" This is probably one of the most common questions I receive when meeting people, and one of the hardest questions to answer. To be honest books have always found me; I didn't set out to be a conservator or bookbinder; I answered a call.

As a child I was the kid who stayed in my room reading rather than playing outside with the neighborhood kids. I took a book with me everywhere I went, even up through college, so I could read in any spare moment I had. I took my first bookbinding class 16 years ago while earning my undergraduate at BYU in Provo Utah, I learned how to restore books 12 years ago while working a part-time job at Utah State University Special Collections Library Conservation Lab:  I was earning my MFA in printmaking, a young husband and father, and I needed some cash. After graduating I taught  bookbinding as an art professor. Then I taught bookbinding workshops while running a printmaking studio. Then I restored books while working for an old friend in his garage-turned-studio. Finally, one day I stopped resisting and and answered the call; I realized I am a conservator and book binder. All those years of searching for a career, I'd already been building one. Four years ago, my wife and I started Eidolon House, a rare book restoration business; the search was finally over.

I do this work for my love of being an artist and making beautiful things, for my love of preserving history through books and old documents, for my life long relationship with books. But mostly I got into restoring books because they wouldn't let me do anything else.

Historical Book Binding: Details Matter.

Which decorative stamp is Medieval (400 - 1400) and which is Victorian (1840 - 1900)?  

As historical binders and conservators of very rare and old books it's important to understand every detail of a particular time period's binding style.  When we're designing decorative tooling for a cover of, say, a Medieval book, we're careful to use only Medieval decorative tooling.  Just because a decorative die is fancy and looks old fashioned doesn't mean it belongs to the correct time period for any given old book.  Just like different binding styles mark a time period in history, so does decorative tooling.

We often see binders advertise their tooling style as Medieval or 16th - 17th Century, when all the decorative tooling used on their covers is really 19th - early 20th Century.  As historical binders we sift through a lot of misinformation and have to ignore a lot. That doesn't mean the misinformation isn't annoying.    

As a word of caution to other book binders out there who copy decorative dies from old books found on the internet:  Be aware that the 1800s was a heyday of rebindings.  Books published in the 1600s and 1700s were often rebound in the 1800s, and their bindings and decorative tooling reflect 1800s binding styles.  A huge part of our current business is taking these previously rebound bindings back to the proper period of the book's publication.  So, If a book is published in the 1600s, you'll still need to carefully examine the binding to ensure it wasn't previously rebound in the 1800s before copying the tooling.  The same goes for binding styles. (We'll talk about French grooves another day, but please stop putting a French grooves on bindings being advertised as Medieval or early 1700s!)  

We know in reality the common person off the street shopping for an "old looking" book or journal isn't going to know the difference, but as craftspeople we should take pride in our craft and do the job right; the details matter. 

By the way, the decorative die on the left is from the 1400s, and the decorative die on the right is from the 1800s.