Books Will Speak Plain by Julia Miller

Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings by Julia Miller.  The Legacy Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2010.

More information about the book itself, and the regular edition can be found here:

About the “design”:  Although my binding is not “plain” in its decoration, it is in its structure. Bound in a traditional manner based on English Restoration Era bindings, most of the structural elements can be ascertained by handling or are visible, such as the lacing-in of the raised cords on the boards, which in many cases today is concealed to create a flatter and cleaner effect. My intention was not only to accurately emulate the characteristics of this time in bookbinding history, but to “antique” its appearance so as to fit in harmoniously on a shelf with actual historical books, instead of standing out as a bright new binding does.

Technical Description:  The period I chose as inspiration for this binding is the Restoration Era, which began in 1660, a particular interest of mine. In keeping with traits,this binding is a tight-back leather binding sewn on five raised cords with a single-flexible sewing, laced into boards; the endsections were sewn through the fold, leaving the sewing thread visible upon opening the book (the paper was marbled by the binder); the edges sprinkled red; double-core silk headbands with a large core on bottom and a much thinner core on top in alternating red, blue, and white and so on; the boards were not “back-cornered”; the book was covered in black goatskin, and tied up around the bands; the headcaps are not crisp with a bird’s beak, but rather turned in and tapped slightly over; and the book was tooled with 23K gold leaf and egg-glaire.

Care was given to the details making this binding historically authentic in appearance as well: the edges sprinkled, then further “decorated” to simulate age; the headbands aged as well, with the head being dirtier than the tail, as dust settles more readily on the top edge when the book is on the shelf; the marbled paper was toned with watercolor to give the effect of leather burn and age; the titling is meant to be crooked; the gold tooling was done with a calculated inaccuracy to reflect a finisher of the time (note how the lines waver), and then it was then dulled with spirit stain and some of the gold rubbed off; the corners of the boards bent in, as with use over time; and the leather lightly scuffed.



Opening detail.


Three-quarters view #1.


Three-quarters view #2.


Edge decoration detail.


“Aged” marbled endpapers, marbled by the binder.


Both boards and spine again.


This photo I include to illustrate the difference between gold that has been antiqued and gold which isn’t.  The Baudelaire has two shades of gold, which complicates the comparison, but it’s the binding I had on hand at the time.

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