Recap of Introduction to Bookmaking

Speaker: Gabriele Lundeen

Report Writer: Laura Peetoom

I always wondered how those 18th-century pamphleteers managed to publish whole sermons in a little bi- or tri-fold brochure. Well, it turns out a pamphlet is actually a one-signature book, and making a pamphlet is Step One of learning the art of bookbinding. So we learned from Gabriele Lundeen, chair of the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG, fondly known as “Cabbage”).

The set-up at April’s meeting of EAC Toronto branch was a bit different than usual: instead of rows of chairs, there were card tables with intriguing supplies upon them and chairs all around, like a well-organized kindergarten classroom. Then program chair Dimitra rang a bell to begin, confirming the impression.

Gabriele, a former chair of the Toronto Public Library, got involved with Cabbage about ten years ago and only recently, upon her retirement, became active in the organization’s education and outreach. To put it simply, Cabbage trains bookbinders. In the three levels of formal instruction, learners progress from pamphlets to elegant calfskin-covered books. The organization also holds an exhibition and competition every five years, in which there are entrants from around the world; the next one is in Calgary, this year. Categories include fine binding, altered books, miniature books, pop-up books and, just recently, papermaking and decorating.

To give us an idea of Cabbage’s broad definition of “book” and “book art” Gabriele showed slides of pieces from the last exhibition. There were a tunnel book (like an extended, accordion-folded diorama); a child’s suitcase lined with maps and filled with miniature travel books; and an altered book whose pages had been cut up and dyed to resemble grass (the original text being, not Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass but something about ecology—darn it!). There were bindings of wood and of fine leather with inlaid cover text. There was paper marbled to look like a landscape and books letter-pressed with finest Japanese paper. And there were lots and lots of accordion books.

Some of the pieces were so fanciful it raised the question of whether or not they could actually be called books. Gabriele explained that, although for her a true book should contain some text, many people choose to learn bookbinding because they have no other suitable vehicle for their particular art. “Book art,” then, must be a broad category. Other questions arose, from which we learned that handmade books last longer because they are made with durable materials using durable methods. Japanese handmade papers are especially fine because they are thin but very strong and can be stretched when wet. They are made with the inner bark of a certain kind of mulberry tree, scraped and processed, sometimes by families that have been making paper for generations.

Then came the most fun part of the evening—making our pamphlets. Gabriele had prepared covers for us using wrapping paper, handmade paper from Nepal, and marbled paper, all backed with Canson paper using spray adhesive. Shhh… don’t tell Cabbage—bookbinders usually use PVC (liquid white) glue thinned with cooked-starch paste (for example, 1 tbsp corn starch and 1 cup of water cooked for one minute in a microwave).  We folded, stitched, and attached magnetic fasteners and there they were—neat blank-paged pamphlets ready to be inscribed with our most profound thoughts, deepest wishes, or mundane shopping lists!

Download this pdf (2.12 MB) — added in the images folder to see all the slides from Gabriele’s presentation, including step-by-step instructions for making a pamphlet.

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