As an archivist with a background in rare books and manuscripts, I’ve been interested in learning about bookbinding and book art for several years now. This led me on a search to find classes on bookbinding and last year I joined the Cincinnati Book Art Society (CBAS). They offer a series of beginner bookbinding classes and we meet once a month to learn a new style of book binding. This past week we learned about the Coptic Stitch Binding, both single and double needle techniques.
The Coptic binding was used by the Copts, early Christians in Egypt, as early as the 2nd century AD and it is a popular binding style that is still in practice today among book art enthusiasts. The main characteristic of a Coptic binding is a chain stitch linking the sections of paper together. There are several methods that can create this style of binding, either using a single needle, often curved, or double needle method. We actually used two pairs of needles (a total of 4) for our double needle technique. Both ways have their pros and cons, but the overall look of both books turned out about the same. I certainly liked using the curved needle in the single needle method, but I surprisingly found the double needle method a little easier, although a little more time consuming.
I’ve really come to enjoy learning about different bookbinding and book construction techniques and have fun working alongside others in an art studio. However, the Cincinnati Book Art Society (https://cincinnatibookarts.org/) is not the only place to learn about bookbinding, book art, or even paper and card making.
The Book Art Collaborative http://www.bookartscollaborative.com/ in Muncie is an immersive learning course and student-managed business at Ball State. They offer community classes in letterpress printing, book binding, and other collaborative book art practices. In the IU East locale, the Richmond Art Museum http://richmondartmuseum.org/ occasionally offers bookbinding classes.
There are lots of tutorials and videos online about how to make books and practice different bindings, but we also have a great book here at the IU East Library that can be checked out, called Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures, and Forms by Alisa Golden. If you are more interested in decorating your homemade books, scrapbooks, or albums, you can also check out Water Paper Paint: Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media by Heather Smith Jones.
My next class will be in February and I’ll be learning about Limp Vellum Binding. In the meantime, I’ll be continuing to practice making books on my own. If books arts is something you’re interested in, I suggest checking out these places for classes and if you like to learn independently, you can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help in finding books related to bookbinding and book art.
Beth South is Coordinator of User Services for the Campus Library and serves as the IU East Archivist. She is a member of the Indiana University Council of Archivists. Beth earned an MIS and an MLS from Indiana University in 2012, with a specialization in rare books and manuscripts.