Bookmaking Part 4: Bookbinding Marathon

[Part of a series on my bookmaking internship at the Kyujanggak conservation lab.]

I’ve already done a step-by-step post about how book covers are prepared with a patterned woodblock in a previous post, so I won’t go over that in much detail here.

Instead, this post will focus on the rest of the process: preparing the covers and binding the books. Most of this was done on my last day in the lab, with the help of both of my teachers.

These were the two woodblocks used for burnishing a pattern onto a few of the book covers:

Both were carved by an Intangible Cultural Treasure Holder for woodblock carving from Gangwon Province.

Here are some images from burnishing hanji both with and without the patterned woodblock; again, more detailed images and notes on the process can be found here.

indigo dyed 능화지2

burnish hanji

Once we finished burnishing all of the book cover paper, it was time to prep the covers for binding. We were doing four different bindings at once, so it got a little confusing, but I’ll try to present them in some kind of order here.

This is how most of the covers were prepped for all of the bindings: All four edges are trimmed and folded, starting with the spine edge. The covers should be exactly flush with the text block width-wise, but slightly taller to give a tiny fore edge.

Once all four edges are folded and trimmed, the corners are mitered:

After a little bit of paste is applied on all four edges, the covers are dried flat under weight.

prepping book cover

One important step when prepping fabric-lined covers: after trimming the edges, a tiny bit of paste should be applied to all four edges to prevent the fabric from fraying.

Concertina Binding

The oldest form of binding that I made was the folded sutra binding (절첩장), also known as an accordion binding or concertina binding. This form of binding was often used for Buddhist manuscripts and is believed to originate from the scroll. The binding is usually tall and narrow. To form the text block, long strips of hanji are folded like an accordion and pasted together at tabs.

The covers are folded and trimmed similar to the method discussed above, and then all four edges are pasted up and attached to the text block.

절첩 attaching cover to text block
Concertina binding: attaching the covers to the text block

Butterfly Binding

Unlike the concertina binding, the butterfly binding text block consists of folded single sheets pasted together at the folded edge. The covers for the butterfly binding (호배장) consist of two hanji panels and a separate spine piece made of a lined piece of fabric.

호배장 fitting spine piece
Butterfly binding: fitting the spine piece to the text block
호배장 attaching spine piece
Butterfly binding: pasting the spine piece to the text block (avoid applying paste onto the actual spine)
호배장 attaching spine piece2
Butterfly binding: attaching the covers to the text block

Wrapped-Back Binding

After the butterfly binding came the wrapped-back binding (포배장). The text block is prepared very much like the side-stitch or stab binding (선장), with an inner binding to secure the pages together. This time the folded edges form the fore edge of the book, rather than the spine. The cover is prepared like a Western case binding:

포배장 attaching cover to text block
Wrapped-back binding: attaching the cover to the text block

Side-Stitched Binding

Finally, the side-stitched or stab binding (선장), which is the most recent and most prevalent form of traditional East Asian binding. The process of preparing the inner binding is detailed here.

Once the inner binding and covers are prepared, five holes are punched into both the text block and covers, using an awl and hammer.

Once the holes are punched, the book is ready to sew. The book should be weighed down to the table with the spine hanging off the edge, like so:

Confession: Since all three of us were working on my books on the last day and we were running out of time, I did not end up actually sewing any of my side-stitch books! Three out of four of them were kindly sewn by 신미,  and the fourth one was left unsewn for me to finish later.

Historical book models

Finally after 10 day-long sessions, I had finished almost all of my book models, with plenty of lined hanji to spare. I’m hoping to continue to research and experiment with these historical bookmaking techniques!


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