Engineered Books: Pop-ups by Robert Sabuda

I absolutely love engineered books. This format of books has movable parts, including tabs, pop-ups, flaps, and anything else that can move. One of the masters of this format is Robert Sabuda. He has written and illustrated some of his own stories, as well as creating beautiful pop-up versions of classic literature. One that I have long enjoyed in my personal collection is The Chronicles of Narnia. Each page is dedicated to one of C.S. Lewis’s books in the series, and has a large pop-up representation of that book. Many of the page also have smaller flaps with additional pop-ups underneath. They are each wonderful, colorful, large, and fun. 


While browsing ABC books for my daughters at the library, I came across another Robert Sabuda book. It is ABC Disney, and a fun and colorful book for kids and adults. In addition to the paper engineering, Sabusa also did all of the painting of the images. Both the flaps and the characters have paint quality that is reminiscent of paste paper, a traditional bookbinding decorative paper technique, which made my love the book even more. Some of the characters are a little more obscure, but it is another wonderful example of Sabuda’s mastery of paper engineering, and his ability to disseminate it to the general public.





You can learn more about Robert Sabuda on his website, and purchase many of his books through Amazon. I hope you enjoyed these amazing works of art.

Binding: Full Goat Leather Sewn on Double Cords

I have been fairly slow in providing updates on the various projects that I have completed over the last year. This is try of all of the books that I completed in Binding III and IV during Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. I have finally found time to take pictures and descriptions of these various projects. It must be the waiting around for this baby.

One of the most intensive projects of the semester is a full goat leather binding sewn on double flexible cords. For the textblock of the book, I used a 1902 first edition copy of Bookbinding, and the Care of Books by Douglas Cockerell, which is one of the standard handbooks on bookbinding. The textblock and paper were in good condition, as was the binding. However, I found the binding rather boring and ugly, so I decided to give it a facelift.






The textblock was sewn on a sewing frame using two small linen cords to make a double-flexible sewing. These cords were then used to lace on the boards, creating a solid structure which would all be covered at once by leather. This differs from other books that I previously made in which the cover and textblocks are constructed separately and then brought together at the very end.

Another new process was sewing a three-color endband. I love sewing endbands, but these took some time getting the tension just right. It is something that takes lots of practice. After the endbands were sewn and the boards were attached and lined, it was time for leather paring. In order to reduce bulkiness and make the book more refined, leather thickness is shaved away along the edge and joint area using a knife and spoke shave. Thus, there is less thickness in the turn-ins and along the board edges.

Then comes covering. This book was especially stressful because it was the first time covering in full leather. It is important to get good adhesion, especially along the spine. The corners can also be tricky because they are cut at a 45 degree angle, folded around to meet, and carefully worked over the boards to make the joint seamless. At the head and tail, the leather is worked over to create a flattened cap area. The cords are emphasized using band nippers, and the book is tied up and left to dry. The final steps are trimming the turn-ins and adhering the pastedowns. It is a long process, but well worth the effort for the beautiful book at the end.


Current Projects

One of the only good things that has resulted from the delay in starting on my thesis project is having “lots” of spare time to complete other unfinished book projects. I thought I would do a little show-and-tell of my desk to explain some of the books that I am currently working on.


This is what my desk looks like on a clean day. I do usually have all of these different projects hanging out, although they will get shuffled around a lot.


Starting in the corner is The Mansion. This book is from last fall semester, so I had my final on it in December last year. I am making good progress. I only have one more book that needs cover paper attached, followed by linings on the inside of the covers, and casing in the textblock. Hopefully it will be done by the middle of September. Just below that is a full leather binding that I am working on. This is an independent project to keep up some of my skills. I finished the endbands earlier this week, and should have the boards attached in the next week or two. That will just leave the leather and a few little steps.

The paper below that in a miniature book that I printed during the spring. I have some issues and still need to complete some design work and printing. This specific book still have a long way before the edition is complete. Along the wall at the top is my Peru mini book about textiles. I am mostly done with this edition, and just need to do some trimming to attach covers and make spine pieces. Should be done before school starts.



The pile in the middle of the cutting mat is the Petra mini book. These are copies that still need to be sewn. I have about 40 copies sewn, just under the recycle sign. These still have lots of steps, but should be done by the end of September or earlier. The large pile in the center of white books and the two in the press are the generations book. These are rather old (since Spring 2012) drumleaf bindings. I only need to attach the spine pieces, attach the cover paper, and tip the pages, so I am planning on completing these by September as well. The small grey pile is a slip case mockup for the four mini books that I have made. This is more of a side project, but I would like to make the 20 or so slipcases by December.

And the pile of black and green books is my repair pile. These are mostly projects that I am working on for my dad. I am planning on making a new leather case for the top one. The spine has been cleaned, but I can’t decide if it needs to be resewn. The middle book is one of my Book of Mormon copies and just needs a simple repair on the front cover where the spine and board have slit. And the bottom book needs lots of help. It got wet and has some mold issues, so I need to clean the pages and make a new cloth case for it.

So those are some of the projects that I am currently working on. It is good to get some things finished, but hopefully I will have thesis news to report soon and be able to start on that project. Until next time, enjoy.

Binding: St. Cuthbert Gospel

The other structure that I completed as part of my historical structures class this semester was a model of the St. Cuthbert Gospel. This book is also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel or the St Cuthbert Gospel of St John. It is a 7th century pocket gospel book written in Latin with a highly decorated leather binding. It is the earliest known Western bookbinding to survive, and is also the earliest decorated Western book. The book is composed of 94 vellum folios, and measures only 5.4 by 3.6 inches. The text is the Gospel of John in Latin, with virtually undecorated pages.

The names for the book comes from Saint Cuthbert of Lindinsfarne, North East England. Cuthbert was made a saint for healing people during his service as a monk and bishop. The book was placed in his tomb in the years following his death in 687, and was probably a gift from an abbey to be placed in Cuthbert’s coffin.  When his coffin was opened several years later (probably about the time the book and other relics were placed with the body), his body had not started decomposing yet, which only furthered his fame as a saint. Cuthbert’s body was moved several times, and eventually the relics that accompanied the body were removed and placed on dispay, including the Gospel. The book was eventually given to Stonyhurst College, where it was held until the British Library purchased it in 2011-2012.

The British Library has described this book as “the earliest surviving intact European book and one of the world’s most significant books”.

The book has front and back cover leather decoration and three different sewn endbands. The pages are Crane paper and I used museum board for the covers.


Internship: My Second Two Weeks

If you thought a lot happened in the first two weeks, almost more happened in the second two. Monday was Memorial Day, so I stayed home and spent time with my family. Tuesday was super busy, but really productive. I learned how to check temperature and humidity readings at the Museum, which can be used to track changes and potential issues. I also punched holes in the hymnbook and sewed the textblock together using linen tapes. I also finished the hardcover books that had the new spine hollows by gluing the hollow and placing the book back in the case, and securing the endsheets using Japanese paper.

Thursday was rather cool because while attending a 40th anniversary for one of the employees, I saw Elder Ballard and Elder Nelson. It was the closest I had ever been to a General Authority. I also stayed late because Aaron flew in that night! It was so good to see him, although it was only for the weekend. I also took Friday off to spend time with him, and we went to my cousin’s wedding on Friday.

This is a document that needed to have some tape removed from it. I have already removed the tape using acetone, but there was still a stick residue and some transparency left. So, I soaked this document, along with some other documents in an acetone/toluene mixture, which easily removed the tape and all residue.
One of the next projects I finished was the reed organ hymnbook that I made all of the repairs on. This is the finished book, after I had soaked the original boards to remove the paper covers. I also constructed a flatback case that resembled the original construction. I then glued the paper covers on top of the cloth.
This is a picture of the inside cover. To be able to case in the textblock (or pages) into the hardcover case, I needed an extra piece. When I resewed the book, I attached a 2 inch cloth hinge to the front and back sections. When I cased in the book, I glued out these hinges, and then placed the original paper endsheets over the cloth hinge as a separate pastedown.
This is an example on the repairs I made within the book. The top of the pages had a fill to replace the missing paper. Along the edge are smaller repairs and fills.
The last major project that I worked on was repairing a 1887 Doctrine and Covenants. The book was from the St. George Temple, and would be returned to them after the repairs were made. This meant that a little more conservation work was required, which was great for me. The first steps I did were to remove the textblock from its case, undo the sewing, and wash the pages.
These images are after the pages have been washed, and are laid out to dry. The paper was initially resistant to water, so the first bath was done in alcohol. I did three subsequent baths in water, and then de-acidified the pages using calcium hydroxide and a pH level of 8-9. I then collated the book, or put the pages back in order. This is more difficult than it seems since there are multiple pages folded together, so each sheet will not have sequential numbers. There were also a number of pages that had been torn in half along the spine, so it caused more problems.
Eventually, I realized that each section had a signature. This is a small printed mark, in this case a letter, in the corner of the first page of each section. These are in order, so I quickly knew which page was first in each grouping, so the process went quickly. The next step was to repair the tears. These were mostly along the spine, and included putting the torn pages back together.

After all the repairs were made, I punched holes and started the sewing. This is a picture of a sewing frame. These are used when sewing a book together using linen tapes or cord. This book was sewn with cords because that was the original construction. I had never sewn using tapes before, so the set up took quite a while.

I also had some problems with the book fitting back in the case. This is due to all of the extra paper from the repairs. I also had some mistakes in the sewing, so I had to redue the whole thing with smaller thread.

The second one turned out much better. This is the almost finished textblock.

In this picture, I have consolidated the spine, and then rounded it so it will fit back in the case. Rounding is traditionally done to spines to remove swell. Swell is when the spine is significantly thicker than the front edge, or fore edge, of the book. Rounding helps make these two sides more even.

One thing I forgot to do was up the title pages back on. So, I used a longer piece of Japanese paper to wrap around the whole spine as the lining. This was after I consolidated and rounded everything, and the finished spine can be seen below.

The final steps were to put the textblock back in the case, or case it in. I glued in the spine, and then sealed the edges of the textblock with Japanese paper.

I absolutely loved my time at the Church History Library and was able to work on some really exciting projects. I learned a lot about what conservation concerns exist, how they can be tracked and managed, and training others as well. It was time well spent, and I would love to return on day. I hope you enjoy, and ask questions if anything does not make sense.

Internship: My First Two Weeks

Oh, what a crazy summer it has been so far. I never showed anything from my awesome internship, so I thought I would do that. It was a crazy four weeks, so I decided to split it into two so that no one got overwhelmed.

My first day was super crazy. I did the tour stuff, when to a meeting, then lunch. and off to work. The first project I did was repairing tears in a reed organ hymnbook. Chris had previously washed the paper to remove dirt and also de-acidified the paper. I repaired the pages using wheat paste and very thin Tengujo Japanese paper. The repair often is almost invisible and will not disrupt the text. On Wednesday I learned how to do fills using Sekishu and Tengujo papers and wheat paste. I don’t have any pictures from this specific book, but here are two examples of other documents I repaired.


This is a pamphlet called Suppression of Polygamy in Utah which I did a fill for.


This conference report had a large tear that I repaired. This is one of my not-as-well done repairs.
Thursday was super cool with one of my favorite projects from the whole internship. The textile conservator had her baby Thursday morning, and a major conservation project was supposed to be finished on Friday to be returned to the family. So, Katie and I spent most of the morning over at the Museum helping repair a vest. Now, this is not just any vest. It happens to be the vest that Hyrum Smith was wearing the Carthage Jail when he was martyred.
This vest is made of silk, which was torn and deteriorating in spots. The conservation team had built the custom black form to support the vest, and it also came with a stand.
 We stabilized the torn areas by placing black and white silk crepe de chine (like high class tulle) on top and under the vest along the large tear. We then used a running stitch with small stitches on top and larger stitches on bottom to hold the silk in place. This large tear was not fully repaired because it is historically significant. The vest had to be cut from Hyrum’s body after he was killed, and this is where they cut it.

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This small hole in the back is potentially one of the bullet holes from when Hyrum was shot.
Most of the other projects I worked on seems sad in comparison, but none the less, here they are. I had finished the repairs for the hymnbook and left the folded pages in the press over the weekend to flatten them.
The next main project that I worked on was repairing perfect bound books. For most of the books, I simply did another double fan perfect binding and then reattached the covers. I did have to make new flatback cases for two of the books. And sadly, I did not get pictures of these books. I also learned how to clean the glue off a spine of a book using methyl cellulose.
Week two consisted mostly of finished some of the projects I already had started, and starting a few more. I learned how to do a strip binding, which is for books that have tight textblocks still, but the spine has been torn. I used cloth to redo the spine, and then glued the original spine piece onto the cloth.
These are all strip bindings, except for the top book, which is a perfect binding that I built a new flatback case for.

 This is similar to the strip binding, but I lifted the original cloth on the cover and then glued the new cloth underneath, so it is less obtrusive.
After cleaning the spines of some books with the methyl, I consolidated the spines with paste, lined with Japanese paper, and reattached the endbands. The next step for these books was to create a hollow, which is a folded piece of paper that is glued to the spine of the book and the spine of the case, allowing the book to open correctly and prevent further stress.
This is a book with the hollow attached to the spine right before it is glued into the case.
The final project for the week was a leather 1837 Voice of Warning by Parley P. Pratt. This book had completely had the back cover become detached. The front cover had previously been repaired, so I did the same repair on the back. I used brown Matsuo Kozo paper with PVA mix on the outside and a creme Kozo with wheat paste on the inside. I felt that this was one of my cleanest and easiest repairs, and it made me rather happy.
Front cover
Back cover: my repair
Inside back cover
I hope you enjoyed the rather long explanation of what can happen in two weeks at a conservation lab. And just be grateful I left out all of the boring meetings. Love ya,

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