It seems that electronics are the foundation of existing in our culture. They have become an accepted and expected part of everyday life. The headlines and seemingly the culture talk about paper, ink, and even handwriting as things of the past. Just the other day as I came back to work after my wife had our second son everyone was asking to see pictures on my phone, the norm being a smartphone loaded with images from your life. But I had to disappoint, I don’t have a smartphone and I didn’t waste my time with the camera built into my current cellphone.
I don’t have anything against technology and I actually would love to have a smartphone, if it wasn’t for the cost of purchasing it, activating it, and maintaining a data plan. I love what computers can do and all the vast resources I can access on the internet. I sometimes sit and wonder how things got done before there was the internet. How did you find out about company X’s catalog that contained the parts you needed for your project. I’m sure it had to do with talking to someone who knew someone, who knew someone, but it would have been so much harder and perhaps impossible to discover all the resources available.
While technology has vastly improved many areas of our lives, in my opinion it continues to fall short in others. I had one of the last Palm Pilots before smartphones took over the market and I will stick with my Field Notes Memo Book. Durable, quick, and easy to use, for me the memo book and a pen outperforms the electronic versions hands down. Granted my memo book won’t play music and fire angry birds, but those are things I can live without. Digital photo frames are another, I would rather have professionally printed photographs with the rich, deep colors that only a good quality lab can provide. Finally ebooks, I’m glad for what Google and others are doing to preserve aged volumes by digitizing them and even making them searchable online, but I would rather have the real thing in my hands to read. And while Kindle’s e-ink is amazing I have no desire to sit and stare at a screen to read a book.
I love having a real book in my hands and it goes beyond just not wanting to read on a screen. I like the feel of the book in my hands, the textures of the cloth, paper, or leather on the cover. I like the weight of the ink upon the printed page and the creak in the binding as the book is opened. I simply love books, especially well made books.
This is part of why I became fascinated with bookbinding a few years ago. I have yet to bind a book start to finish, but I have read and started to make some of the tools described in Aldren Watson’s Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction. So far I have constructed my piercing board, a flat folder, folding needle, and piercing awl. I have several more pieces to make or acquire before I am ready to bind up books from scratch or even restore the battered used books that sit on my shelf, but I was able to make use of some of the tools and the knowledge in Watson’s book on one of my latest projects.
For my sister-in-law’s graduation present I made her a custom journal. I purchased a text block of lined paper that was sewn and glued together in Italy from Hollander’s, along with some French marbled paper. Having purchased the text block meant I only had to add a cover to it and I decided on a nice piece of maple with some light figure for the covers and a nice piece of brown leather for the spine. I sourced the leather from a local shoe repair man. Using wheat paste glue, I glued and then stitched the leather to the maple board covers. Then glued the the wood and leather cover around the text block and added the marbled covered sheets.
I already have a request for another, though the next one will be slightly different. I learned a lot in the process about what to do when and what not to do where for future books. I was happy with how my first book turned out and my sister-in-law was excited about the gift.