Class is Almost Over…


Making the headband

…and it’s been really, really amazing. I’ve learned so much in the last two weeks. Tomorrow’s the last day, and I’ll be putting the finishing touches on two bindings, one in half leather (that’s with the spine and corners covered) and one in full leather.

I can’t really begin to explain how unprepared I was for this class. My classmates were a professional binder, someone currently working on their MFA, someone half-way through the North Bennet Street School program in binding and a book artist. They all had a background in fine arts in general or bookbinding in specific. I came in not knowing that paper had a grain (it does, BTW) and an adhesive is “reversible” if it can be removed, not if it looks the same on both sides. I did come in with a knowledge of book structure, good hand skills (all those hours of knitting finally paid off in more than woolen garments!) and enthusiastic patience. And I think it’s paid off. I’ve got eight pages of single spaced notes in ten point font–hand binding is complex and time consuming–and a lot of plans for future work. I’ll post pictures of the finished books in a bit, and I’m planning on giving a copy of my hand bound Murray project book to Swem, so hopefully you’ll get a chance to check out one of my bindings in the not too distant future if you’re interested.

I won’t be able to get to work practicing the skills I’ve learned when I get home, though. I’ll be leaving again right away to do research with the wonderful Jack Martin in Louisiana. I’ll certainly be thinking about books, though, and planning what I’ll be working on in the future. This class was a wonderful opportunity to work with one of the field’s best artists. I’m very grateful to have had the chance.

Some of the best parts of the experience for me, though, were outside of class. The fine book world is very small, and Monique is married to Don Etherington (that’s the Library of Congress Kelmscott Chaucer Don Etherington, by the way), a deservedly well-known conservator.  Talking with them both about their experiences has been really interesting and valuable. This is the summer where I really need to decide what I’m going to be doing for the next couple years, if not for the rest of my life, and this class has helped convince me that I definitively want to make books a part of my professional life.


  1. cdreilly says:

    Book binding actually sounds pretty awesome. Did you also happen to make paper?

  2. I would be curious to learn about the early history of book-binding and the book itself. It’s a topic I haven’t ever considered much until now, and it has been quite illuminating to read about your studies this summer. With our modern society so wired into technology, it’s refreshing to see that such an art and a profession is still alive!

  3. Hi Rachael! It sounds like you have really had a fascinating integration into the fine book community! Outside of museums and libraries, are there other organizations promoting book conservation? Does the close-knit nature of the community present any issues in conservation? Keep up the good work!

  4. Nope; I bought it from Hollander’s.