Sometimes things don’t go as planned.
I’ve been plugging away at fine bindings pretty regularly. Titus Andronicus for the Designer Bookbinders International Competition (which didn’t get in, so don’t be surprised when it’s not on the image page), Library of Babel for the Annual North Bennet Street School Student-Alumni show, and most recently, La Monde comme Il Va for the Society of Bookbinders International Competition.
This is the last photo I have of this book. It was all downhill from there.
La Monde comme Il Va by Voltaire is a short story about a barbarian named Babouc who is commanded by the angel Ituriel to go see the city of Persepolis and determine whether it should be saved or destroyed. Through a series of vignettes, Babouc determines that Persepolis is both very wicked and very wonderful, and that it seems impossible to have one without the other. He commissions a metal-smith to make a statue of precious and base metals, covered in gems and worthless rocks, and brings it back to Ituriel as a representation of the city. Ituriel gets the message, saying the world will be left to take its course.
My idea for the book was to emulate this theme by covering the book in some pretty ugly leather. I dyed it with a crackle effect, using paste as a resist between two different colors of dyes. I would then tool a plan of the ruins of Persepolis in gold. Sort of bringing together the precious and base while hinting that nothing lasts forever.The tooling did not go well. Maybe I’m just out of practice with gold, maybe this newest batch of fixor I mixed up isn’t quite right, maybe my tools weren’t polished enough, or maybe the leather didn’t want to take the gold. I don’t know, but the gold was not working. So I turned to foil tooling. That went better and gave something interesting to the binding. Not as precious as real gold, but I was working on a deadline. And then it happened: I missed. I had a really, really out of place impression, fully tooled with gold foil.
Nonetheless, I continued on, going to put on some nice pastepaper pastedowns on the inside to distract myself from the tooling, giving myself a few days to think on what I would do with the tooling. That did not go well either, with glue getting in some bad places. In my attempts to clean it off, I tore one of the pastedowns.
I had screwed up this binding a lot. I had made many mistakes. I had been lazy and desperate and chasing a deadline. I sat back, put the book away, and gave myself a few days to think before I came back to it.
When I came back to it, I decided to start over. This wasn’t an easy decision. As I think about it now, yes, what went wrong could have been fixed. I still wouldn’t have been happy with the piece though. Look, I’m still just getting started out in this field. I’ve done several fine bindings, but I labor understand that there’s still a long way to go. So in light of La Monde Comme Il Va going very, very badly, I took out all of my fine bindings and focused on what didn’t work on each of them, artistically and structurally. That was not easy, but it needed to be done. As you can see above, I came up with a new idea for the binding. One of the thing I was concerned about with the previous design was the strength of the leather in the joints. Due to the process to get the cracks, it seems like the top surface of the leather tears a little. This doesn’t feel like a really good idea when it comes to a book I want to endure.
The new design involves a full leather dark brown goatskin binding with large onlays of my dyed leather. Here it is as it stands now:
I’m pretty pleased with it! Not pictured are a gilded head and gilded leather hinges. I’m not sure right now where the rest of the binding is going, but right now I have another project to finish up. That other project though is another post.