18th Century French Bookbinding Model

  • 18th Century French Bookbinding Model

    Made during the 2015 Historic Book Structures for Conservators workshop, which was taught by Jeffrey Peachey at the Winterthur Museum conservation studios. This style of binding was extremely common in France during the 18th century, and they are easily recognized today by their marbled leather, gilded spines, blue and white endbands, bright “snail” marbled endpapers and vermilion-sprinkled edges.
  • The Making of the Model:
  • Folded paper quires are beaten with a 7 lbs. hammer to make the text block less "spongy" and more compact:
  • Paper quires are not pre-punched to make the sewing neat: the quires are sewn two-on onto linen cords with the aid of a sewing frame:
  • The linen cords, or "slips," are laced into the thick paper boards:
  • The slips are pasted and beaten flat, the spine is rounded, backed and pasted-up: 
  • The text block and boards are ploughed smooth with an Ely Edge knife:

  • The text block edges are sprinkled with vermilion:
  • The endbands are sewn around paper cores with blue and white linen threads:
  • The finished headband and bookmark ribbon:
  • A piece of leather is pared very thinly at the turn-in edges and spine:
  • Leather is adhered to the boards with paste and placed in a press. The raised bands on the spine are emphasized by tying-up with string and the leather is allowed to dry under light pressure:
  • After the leather is dry, the book can be "marbled" with a solution of ferrous sulfate, applied with a sea sponge:
  • The marbling is followed by alternating applications of wheat starch paste, egg glaire and finally a layer of bees wax. Lastly the marbled endpapers are pasted down to obscure the rough leather turn-ins:
  • The book is finished with some blind-tooled lines for decoration. Historically, these books would have red and green leather spine labels and ornate gold tooling to decorate the spine, however these finishing touches were not possible within the scope of this course.
  • Many thanks to the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library and to Jeff Peachey for teaching the Historic Book Structures for Conservators Course of 2015!