Hand Bookbinding: Materials, Methods, and Techniques as they Relate to Preservation and Conservation

Elizabeth V. Boyles


This paper examines a range of materials, methods, and techniques used in contemporary Western hand bookbinding from a preservation and conservation perspective. While certain materials and techniques can produce a hand-bound book with a long expected life as a readable object, the range of available materials and extant binding styles, combined with the lack of any official standards for the craft, can result in objects that are less stable and less durable. A wide range of common binding materials and methods are discussed in terms of their contribution to the stability and usability of the finished object; the lack of agreement between expert hand bookbinders regarding best practices is also demonstrated. Standards that have been established for the purposes of library preservation and conservation, which are also relevant to hand bookbinding practices, are noted. This paper then discusses certain materials and methods used in bookbinding in East Asia, including some traditional methods that have begun to be incorporated into contemporary bookbinding and book arts. Finally, trends in hand bookbinding and book arts, as well as certain issues concerning the concept of the book-object and the debate between aesthetic value and usability, are explored.

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