Tag Archives: bookbindery

How the Double is made

The project

Approximately a year ago, in April of 2017 a young Lithuanian poet Virginija Kulvinskaitė, also know as Virginija Cibarauskė, a one of the most promising literary critics in Lithuania, published an electronic version of her first book of poems titled Antrininkė (meaning “The Double” in Lithuanian). The book is accessible for free in the publishing house for electronic books Naujas vardas.


The cover of an electronic version designed by D. Dirgėla


Despite of the still unusual format of electronic book of poems, the book of Virginija was received warmly and even selected to the list of the most creative books of 2017 by The Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore.

After a year of the publishing of this successful electronic version, Dead Shirt Society launched their very first project of limited edition of this particular book giving it a physical and tactile aspect. This seems to be the first time when electronic book was converted into a completely handmade book of limited edition.

The process

Since the book had only electronic version, we needed to give it a physical book-like shape. So, the whole layout with the 6 sections made by 16 pages or 8 sheets was created. In collaboration with the author, we decided that the text should be self-sufficient and independent, so we discarded any introduction of illustrations.



For the printing of the book we have chosen a digital printing, which is, in fact, the actual reason of the easy and not expensive printing of small number of samples. We decided that the most suitable number of samples would be 30, which itself is already quite a lot to bind all of them by hand. The books were printed on the paper Scandia Ivory 2000 130 g/m² which is nice to touch and have a beautiful yelowish tone.

Speaking about the design of the cover, on the one hand, of course, it was important to reflect the atmosphere of the book and the poems of Virginija. On the other hand, the final result should have been affordable and not too expensive. After several readings of the entire book and then hundreds of readings while the layout was made, finally we came up with the idea based on the image of an ice hole in the surface of lake during the wintertime. This image as a definitive one came to the mind after sketching and reading a poem titled “visiting an ice hole” (p. 45). It seemed that it reflects the cold and translucent atmosphere of the book and the dark, ghostly and even threatening shade. So, all in all, the figure of the Double, in the cover of the book became a kind of dark Ophelia seen through the ice hole.


Cover trial


The image of the Double was created by Vytautas Pliadis, a Lithuanian underground artist, a musician named as Obšrr, an architect and the author various graphic works. By etching technique Vytautas reproduced an XVIIIth century block print that we all together have chosen from one English chapbook. The etching, due to the printing technique itself (printed on yellowish paper Hahnemuhle, 300g/m²),  in every sample’s cover is different and that makes them quite special.


XVIIIth century woodcut reproduction from Chap-books of the eighteenth century, with facsimiles, notes, and introduction by John Ashton; 1882; Chatto and Windus, London. (Source of the image)


The etching made by Vytautas after giving it’s shape


The text block

When the content was printed, we still needed to create the whole physical book structure. So, there were sections made and the samples with several sections of additional endpapers and the block was sewn in the sewing frame on three linen cords with cotton thread.


Sewing the text block


Then the margins of the edges of all the samples were cut to make the block nice and smooth. In this way we also got an actual size of the book.


Sewn and cut blocks


The second important part of binding process was giving the right shape to the spine. So, the shape of the book was rounded by special bookbinders hammer. Two-layered endbands made of paper was pasted down in upper and lower edges of the spine. Then several layers of linen cloth and paper was pasted down to consolidate this rounded shape and parts that will keep the block firmly connected to the cover.



The cover

The cover was made of 1,5 mm cardboard. After the right size of boards was cut, it was about the time to create a oval-shaped inlay to embed the etching. To avoid mistakes in measuring, I prepared a template.



After shaping the oval inside the front board, two boards and the spine board was pasted down to the black linen cloth, previously padded by thin paper.


Preparing the cloth for the cover


The edges were folded with bonefolder inside, so that the borders of the book would have the regular and smooth look. When the cloth was being pasted to the oval-shaped inlay, the compensation (the template) was used to give the right shape while pressing and drying the cover.


The Book

When the over was made and the block was ready, it was about the time to connect them into The Book. Thats why until now the ends of cords were left loose and thats why the paper leaf used for the spine lining was left with longer edges. All these elements together with torn parts of protective endsheets work as strong hinges which let the cover open, but stay firm at the same time.



The hinges are pasted down and shaped in a groove in the outer part of the cover which makes the book more flexible for the opening.

One of the last steps was the attachment of the decorative endpapers. Endpapers previously were decorated by step-by-step immersion into liquid dyeing solution. As a result, the simple layered pattern matches nicely with the deep dark waters that one could find under the ice-hole of the cover.



To attach the endpapers to the book, I firstly used a certain template to cut a special bifolio. Then one side of the endpapers is pasted down as well as the hinge area and left to dry completely. Afterwards, the remaining part of the loose endpapers’ part is cut according to the shape of the text block.


Cutting the remaining parts of the endpaper


A this step the book is almost finish, although you might want to keep it under the light pressure a couple of days more in order to make all the parts “to get use” to each other.

At the very last step a precious etching, as an jewel, was cut in the right shape and pasted down into the cover. The finishing is made with an agate stone.


The jacket

The last, but not least part of the process is a manufacturing of the dust jacket. However, in the case of  The Double this jacket is not only a mere protective jacket, but an integral part of the concept of the cover. The jacket was cut from a thin grey board (220 g/m², Fabriano Elle Erre) and folded according to every book sample. By using a special cover template the front oval  and back hole were cut away and their edges were slightly smoothened by soft sandpaper.


Folding a dust jacket


The oval hole in the front cover worked perfectly as a main reference for my title template. The plates with the right types were made by special order in the company that makes this kind of plates for the printers world. We decided to use a simple black stamp ink for the book title and the name of the author. The types were printed by moderated time and pressure in the press. That’s why you can feel a nice relief when you touch the cover.



Finally, determined shapes of two color paper was cut by special templates to create the deep layer effect in the cover. These pieces were carefully attached to the inner part of the jacket. Everything was left to dry.



Afterwards, the books were dressed up with each of their jackets and left at least a couple of days to stay calmly under the light pressure. See the finished book in our gallery.

We are very proud of the result of this collaboration with Virginija. And we are also very glad that our work was warmly received  during the presentation on 9th of May in Studium P in Vilnius, where everybody could see, touch and order his or her sample of the book.

Warm memories from Montefiascone

Now when the autumn is getting into it’s dark zenith, at least here in the North, it’s good to remember the summer and an enriching workshop of historical bindings and document conservation that took place in Seminary of Barbarigo in Montefiascone town, in sunny Italy during 7-11th of August. It was a third week of Study programme 2017 organised by The Montefiascone Conservation Project. I was able to participate there thank’s to the educational grant provided by Lithuanian Council for Culture.



The workshop The Secret Ledger and Memorial Book of Pepo degli Albizzi: An Early 14th Century Italian Ledger Binding was guided by an experienced document conservator from New York, Library of Academy of Medicine, Scott W. Devine. During the course we had a good oportunity to observe the meticulous study not only of the structure of original book that Scott made before the workshop, but also a deep knowledge of the content and the history of this particular sample of ledger book.

The manuscript was written in 14th century by Florence merchant Pepo degli Albizzi, a representative of Albizzi family who’s influence in Florence at that time is comparable with their later competitors Medici. Pepo degli Albizzi received a blank notebook bound in bright pink leather as a present for his wedding. This let us presume how the book itself was considered as an expensive object during those days. The interesting thing is that he used this book not only for his business notes (lists of debts), but also as a personal diary where he put the list of important family events.


Pepo d’Antonio di Lando Degli Albizzi, Secret Ledger and Memorial Book, 1339-1358. Case MS 27, The Newberry Library (Source).



As long as the book includes dyed alum tawed leather, we also had a very nice introduction made by Cheryl Porter, a document conservator and a soul of the whole Montefiasconce Conservation Project, about history of alum tawed leather manufacture and it’s use. She also introduced us red pigments historically used as leather dyes.

The main part of the course was dedicated to the reconstruction of Albizzi’s manuscript and making a cutaway model of the original book. According to the detailed instructions of Scott, we started by dyeing the leather with the mix of two types of dyes made of brazilwood and lac.



Often we are mislead by the shady and washed-out colours of antique objects. So at the beginning it was quite shocking to recognise the the old manuscript was so brightly pink.


When it was dry, another alum tawed leather was pasted on top with a sheet of handmade paper between them. According to Scott, the presence of the paper in Albizzi’s manuscript together with the structure of the book (the limp binding) once again shows a big Arabic world influence in the Mediterranean region.



The book block consisting of six sections was sewn on three dyed leather tongs and put into vellum wrapper. Particularly this structure of the book shows how well protected this type of books was: Albizzi’s manuscript seems to survive until our days without any later intervention.



Pasted and trimmed leather was decorated by two-color stitch.


Moreover, the presence of the overband tackets also made the binding extremely firm and resistible. Dyed leather strips of overband tackets are fixed with undyed alum tawed leather laces that also works as a decoration, that is also so typical for ledger books, also known as archival bindings.



Even the headbands also have their own tackets, fixing them to the book cover and giving the right shape of the block.



Finally, overband tackets’ stripes were fixed by a typical “albizzi” tacket:



At the end of the workshop we were allowed to see some samples of ledger books found in the archive of Seminary of Barbarigo. We could see repeating main structural elements of the ledger books, that where common from 10th until 19th centuries.



The same messy way to fix the knots of the overband tackets



The same way to wave the alum-tawed lace on the overband takcets



And the same way to fix the headband with it’s own tackets



To sum up, I think that the information provided in this workshop was not only useful for those who do research on ledger or Italian bindings, but also as a very good example of a detailed investigation what is used to be called as an “archeology of bindings”, where the the shape and the structure of the book complements the content of the book and vice versa.

Coming back home to Vilnius, after the workshop, a glass of wonderful Est! Est!! Est!!! helped me to digest a bunch of impressions and information received during the workshop.






Heroic works. A catalogue of contemporary bookbindery

Happy to announce that one of the works of Siberiana Books appears in beautifully published catalogue of the International Competition Designer Bookbinders 2017.

This year the main topic of the Competition was a hero and mythology. Ieva Rusteikaitė, a bookbinder of Siberiana Books, has created a fine binding for “Des dieux et des hommes. Études de mythologie lithuanienne” (PUF, Paris, 1985), a study of Lithuanian mythology written by the great semiotician a Algirdas Julien Greimas. You can find more details about the binding here.

It is an honour to appear on the side of a group of beautiful and well made contemporary creative bindings. It is also good to see that the art and the craft of bookbindery is kept alive in so many countries.