Saturday, August 9, 2014

Playing with Pop-ups: The Art of Dimensional, Moving Paper Designs

Helen Hiebert. Playing with Pop-ups: The Art of Dimensional, Moving Paper Designs.  Beverly, MA: Quarry Books, 2014. ISBN 1592539084. 144 pages. $24.99.

Reviewed by Suzy Morgan

I love pop-up books. I collect pop-up books:  my family still gives them to me as birthday and holiday presents, even though I am a grown adult. I work in a library with a substantial collection of pop-up books, and I am quick to tell anyone who will listen that I have gotten to hold and play with an original Meggendorfer pop-up book. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when I was asked to review Helen Hiebert’s new book, Playing With Pop-Ups. A passing observer would probably remark that I was “elated” at the prospect of doing such a review.

Teaching the art of the pop-up is difficult, just like any how-to book about bookbinding, because it challenges the author to describe 3-D concepts in a 2-D format. Many pop-up structures function with a front-end and a back-end structure, just like a website: the viewer almost always only sees the front-end result, and the back-end support is not very apparent except to the experienced reader. I’ve looked at many a damaged pop-up book and wondered, “How on EARTH did they make this?” while trying to fit two parts of a broken whole back together unsuccessfully.  Helen Hiebert’s approach to this essential problem with teaching these complicated structures is a combination of providing templates to practice on, and a wealth of concisely illustrated instructions.

The book begins with a very brief history of pop-ups, a commentary on the state of pop-up arts today, an interesting glimpse into the production of a commercially published pop-up book, and overview of the basic pop-up terminology, tools, and tricks of the trade. I particularly enjoyed the description of the production line process of a commercially published pop-up, myself. Each different kind of fold and cut used in the following project instructions was clearly illustrated with a nice photograph and a well-written description. Hiebert also provides a list of recommended tools, as well as alternatives for some tools – like using a paperclip or the back of a knife instead of a bone folder to fold or score paper. This is a nice touch that makes the craft more accessible and promotes the kind of “creative reuse” so endemic to bookbinding.

However, in my opinion, the real genius of Hiebert’s book is the templates she provides for each project. These are pages in the book that are meant to be photocopied onto the paper of your choice, and then you just follow the dotted, dashed, and solid lines with bonefolder, knife, and glue, to create the pop-up. The first three projects are termed “Pop-up Warm-ups,” and are meant to familiarize the budding paper-engineer with the basic tenants of pop-up structure. The projects that follow increase in difficulty, but provide a nicely diverse range of different types of structures and themes.  These include a pop-up city skyline, a Valentine’s card, paper earrings, a tunnel book, and a volvelle with six slots. Our conservation lab intern and I spent a happy afternoon completing one of the projects using the templates. It’s really a no-brainer way of teaching the structure, as it removes the risk of beginner mistakes such as mis-measuring; each part of the template is clearly labeled with different lines for cuts, mountain folds, or valley folds. The other wonderful thing about the templates is that many of them are blank or simple enough that you could easily customize them or slightly modify them to create an original work. In my opinion, the templates get the point across very effectively and leave very little confusion about how they should work.

The final section of the book is devoted to a beautifully photographed gallery of current-day pop-up book artists and their work. Seeing these artist’s amazing work serves as inspiration to think creatively about your own future projects, as well as a visual bibliography of pop-up books to seek out in your local library or bookstore. As a collector of pop-up books, it was reaffirming to see books from my own library represented and to feel that kindred spark of passion for the art. In other words, “We like the same pop-up books!” Hiebert’s book is a solid addition to the library of any beginner or intermediate paper engineer, and is a welcome complement to other pop-up book manuals, such as Carol Barton’s The Pocket Paper Engineer series or David Carter and James Diaz’s The Elements of Pop-Up.

Suzy Morgan is a 2009 graduate of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, where she received a certificate in advanced studies in conservation from the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Historic Record. She has had internships at Northwestern University, Syracuse University, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Ringling Museum of Art. After working as the web developer at the Newberry Library and working in private practice as a book conservator and preservation consultant, she is now Preservation Specialist for the Arizona State Library.She is also the creator of The Multi-lingual Bookbinding/Conservation Dictionary Project: The goal of this project is to combine, in one place, all the known bookbinding and book conservation terminology, in as many languages as possible.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

20th Book_Arts-L Anniversary Bind-O-Rama Now Online

The 20th Book_Arts-L Anniversary Bind-O-Rama is now online at <>.

With this Bind-O-Rama we celebrate the 20th anniversary of this list (we went online June 23rd 1994) and thank everyone for being a part of the Book_Arts-L community, whether active poster or lurker. Never thought it would go on this long (the crazy part).

What started as an antidote to my professional isolation in the wilderness that was Central New York quickly grew into the most active book arts community, a placed where seasoned professionals, students, and anyone in-between talked shop and shared generously via their questions and answers. Back in 1998 I was invited to speak about the growth of the "Internet" as a tool for book artists at the 25th anniversary of the Silver Buckle Press in Madison, Wisconsin by Tracy Honn... That was 4 years into this adventure, and the talk is online at <>. While the growth in numbers of those online has exploded, much else remains the same. Some of my "fondest" memories include teaching folks how to use email... Looking at the list interface (subscription, posting, ...) it seems very dated, Web 0.5ish... Still, it works and is as active as ever, with many who joined in the first days and weeks still active today.

Listserv archives continue to be accessible and capture those 20 years while serving as a resource for all. Some discussions, like "what is a book" remain popular. Google searches and statistics point to uses in school papers of all levels including theses and dissertations...

The works shown below were submitted by subscribers and represent their best effort from the past 3 or so years. Given the demographics of the list I expected more artist's books than traditional bindings, but a very nice range of work non-the-less.



Monday, May 12, 2014

The 2014 Bind-O-Rama is Here

Entry Deadline is June 15, with publication date of June 25.

Entry period now closed, exhibit online June 25 or sooner.

Thank you for your interest and participation.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Open Access: A Model for Sharing Published Conservation Research (AIC News)

It's not just for conservation research...

While The Bonefolder is no more, Open Access is as important as ever. For those unfamiliar the article below explains the key concepts. Remember as authors we need to informed about AND CAN exert our rights so that our research and creative output reaches the widest audience possible...


Exerpt below from “Open Access: A Model for Sharing Published Conservation Research.” AIC News, vol. 39, no. 3. May 1, 2014. pp. 1-6.
Article written by Priscilla Anderson, Whitney Baker, Beth Doyle, and Peter Verheyen.

The conservation field has articulated the importance of publishing our research to disseminate information and further the aims of conservation. Article X of AIC’s Code of Ethics states that conservators should “contribute to the evolution and growth of the profession, a field of study that encompasses the liberal arts and the natural sciences” in part by “sharing of information and experience with colleagues, adding to the profession’s written body of knowledge.” Our Guidelines for Practice state “the conservation professional should recognize the importance of published information that has undergone formal peer review,” because, as Commentary 2.1 indicates, “publication in peer-reviewed literature lends credence to the disclosed information.” Furthermore, our Guidelines for Practice state that the “open exchange of ideas and information is a fundamental characteristic of a profession.” In publishing our research, we can increase awareness of conservation and confidence in our research methods among allied professionals as well as the general public.

However, current publication models limit the free flow of information by making access expensive and re-use complicated. An alternative to traditional subscription publishing is the Open Access movement, which strives to remove barriers to access and re-use of published information by reducing the costs of publishing and rethinking permissions issues.

To synthesize growing interest in professional publishing and spark discussion, this article proposes to:
  • Define Open Access and how it differs from traditional publishing in its approach to access and re-use of peer-reviewed publications
  • Discuss the implications of Open Access for the conservation field including interdisciplinary research, outreach opportunities, preferred medium for consuming professional publications, perspective of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC), and author impact.
  • Outline issues related to funding models, copyright, and licenses
  • Raise questions about current and future publication practices
Click here to  read the article from AIC News.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library

Langwe, Monica. Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library. Sollerön, Sweden: Monica Langwe, 2013. ISBN 9789163723797. 74 pages. 48,30€, ca$63.00 + s/h.

Reviewed by Henry Hébert

Monica Langwe’s most recent book is a more extensive follow-up to her previous work on limp bindings from the City Archives in Tallinn, Estonia (see Langwe, 2008). In Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library, the author cleaves to the same format, providing descriptions and diagrams for 11 historical bindings and includes a gallery of 11 contemporary works from international book artists. The Vatican Library is not the easiest institution to access, and from the author’s long list of acknowledgements, it is clear that a great deal of planning and coordination was required to make this project happen. With equal parts history, manual, and exhibit catalog, this volume is a delight to read and would be a welcome addition to any binder or bibliophile’s collection.

The book itself is beautifully designed, with clearly printed graphics and a typeface inspired by early Italian printing. The textblock is composed of 5 folded sections, sewn through the fold, with adhesive applied to the spine. The cover is a simple paper wrapper folded over the outermost leaves like a dust jacket. The construction is sturdy enough for extensive use and easily taken apart – a fact that binders wishing to respond to the text by rebinding the book itself will appreciate. The wrapper is printed on both sides and features labeled maps of Vatican City and the library. I found the maps most helpful, as Langwe includes a great deal of description of how the physical spaces that the library inhabits have changed over the years.

The text begins with a brief history of the collection. As one of the oldest libraries in the world, the Vatican’s collection has been through a great many changes; however, Langwe does not overwhelm the reader with dry facts. Organized by century, the history charts the evolution of the institution from the dispersal of the collection with the Avignon Papacy in the fourteenth century, all the way to the adoption of an electronic card catalog and building renovations in the twenty-first. Over the years, the library has grown by leaps and bounds through the acquisition of collections of note. Langwe provides a lists of the high spots, such as the Palatine Library of Heidelberg and the collection of the Barberini Family. Other institutions within the Holy See have been spun off of the library’s collection over time, including the Vatican Secret Archive, the Numismatic Cabinet, and the Museo Sacro.

Langwe follows with a discussion of the maturation of the conservation department within the institution. I was surprised to learn that a bookbinder has been employed by the library since 1475 and documentation of book repairs performed goes back to the late sixteenth century. The author describes several large rebinding projects that were undertaken in the past. One must assume that a number of original parchment bindings were lost in these efforts, however, we are lucky that the objects depicted in this volume survive. Today the conservation department is staffed by professionally trained conservators, who recognize the challenges of preserving the artefactual value of an object while maintaining its functionality.

Turning to the historical bindings, Langwe notes that they were meant to be functional and sometimes temporary; a means of organizing information, often with the ability to add or remove parts easily. With the popularity of limp parchment structures in modern book art and conservation practice (see for example Clarkson, 2005; Espinoza, 1993; Lindsay, 1991), it is easy for the contemporary binder to fall into the habit of thinking of limp parchment bindings in only one or two forms: text-to-cover attachment through primary sewing, such as a “long-stitch” structure, or sewn on primary sewing supports that are laced through the cover. Langwe reminds us, however, that these bindings have “infinite possible variations of materials, methods, and structure” (p. 27) and indicates that the goal of her book is to inspire the modern binder with the simplicity of these techniques from antiquity.

Nine bindings in parchment and two in paper are depicted in photographs and described with diagrams and text. Each volume includes different methods of textblock construction and cover-to-text attachment. A three-quarter view photograph of the object is followed by the title and a brief description of the item’s composition and dimensions. Clear diagrams of the textblock and cover construction appear for each structure. For volumes with more complex sewing or ticketing, step-by-step instructions appear alongside diagrams with arrows to indicate sewing or lacing patterns. Although the language assumes that one has experience with the most basic elements of bookbinding, even the novice could use this book to construct accurate models of each structure.

Each of the historical objects is mirrored by a contemporary binding from a list of 11 well-known and talented artists. A photograph of the binding appears alongside the name of the binder, the title of the work, and the title of the historical object that it represents. A brief statement from the artist and a list of materials also appear. I very much enjoyed flipping back and forth between historical and contemporary objects to see which aspects of each binding the artist chose to capture.

Szirmai (2000) in his seminal work, The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding, acknowledges that “studies of binding structures in archives are very scarce” (p. 287). Langwe’s work is a welcome answer to that call. In recent years, libraries and archives have begun to devote significant resources to digitization of content, but all too often binding structure and composition are ignored. Langwe acknowledges the difficulty in identifying bindings with common structures; however, documentation of bindings through photographs and diagrams, as presented in this book, can be an invaluable resource for contemporary binders, artists, and scholars. I applaud her work and look forward to future publications of this quality.

  • Clarkson, C. (2005). Limp Vellum Binding. Oxford: Christopher Clarkson.
  • Espinosa, R. (1993). "The limp vellum binding: A modification." The New Bookbinder, 13, 27-38.
  • Langwe, M. (2008). Limp bindings from Tallinn. The Bonefolder, 5(1), 3-5.
  • Lindsay, J. (1991). "A limp vellum binding sewn on alumn-tawed thongs". The New Bookbinder, 11, 3-19.
  • Szirmai, J. (2000). The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. 
[Publisher's note: Limp Bindings of the Vatican is also the catalog for a traveling exhibition that visited the Dalarnas Museum, Falun, Sweden, the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies, Rome, Italy, and Sankta Eugenia Katolska Församling Stockholm, Sweden between September 18 - December 15, 2013. Exhibitors of modern interpretations of the historic bindings were Jody Alexander, Carmencho Arregui, Guy Begbie, Manne Dahlstedt, Sün Evard, Hedi Kyle, Monica Langwe, Lennart Mänd, Chela Metzger, Suzanne Schmollgruber, and Peter D. Verheyen.]

Henry Hébert is the Rare Book Conservator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds a MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a certificate in hand bookbinding from the North Bennet Street School in Boston, MA. Henry is currently serving as the Communications Chair for the Guild of Book Workers. More information and images of his work can be found at

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bind-O-Rama 2013 - Cut-away Binding Structure Models

The Book Arts Web annual online exhibition is now online. 

Click on graphic to view. 

Cut-away binding structure models are a unique challenge in bookbinding - they call for mastery of a technique, thoughful planning of design to best show the underlying structure, and extreme neatness - all to illustrate the complete essence of a particular binding style. Models may range from historical to proofs-of-concept for experimental bindings (something more binders should do). These theme was chosen as the 2013 Bind-O-Rama in response to requests from conservators and others among the members of this community.

May they be useful and inspiring to all.

Enjoy, Peter

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Art Studio Handbook

Stacie Dolin and Amy Lapidow. Book Art Studio Handbook.   Beverly, MA: Quarry Books, 2013. ISBN 78-1592538188. 160 pages. $18.74.

Reviewed by Laura Capp

As a soon-to-be graduate from an MFA program in Book Arts, I have officially begun to hoard reference books.  When the experienced binders, printers, papermakers, and calligraphers I’ve been privileged to learn from are no longer just down the hall, I suspect I will be relying much more heavily on my library for the guidance, advice and inspiration that anyone setting up their own studio will inevitably need.  This is chiefly why my heart leapt for joy at the title of one of the latest instructional manuals in the book arts world:  Stacie Dolin and Amy Lapidow’s Book Art Studio Handbook, published by Quarry Books.

This manual is organized into two parts.  The first, “Getting Started,” introduces the tools one will need to set up a home studio as well as the basic steps any bookbinding project will typically require, such as determining the grain and calculating the amount of paper necessary.  I was especially glad to see a technique covered for trimming textblocks since one of the major drawbacks of graduating, in my mind, is losing access to a board shear.  This section, totaling about one quarter of the book, is most useful for those new to bookbinding or new to working in a more modestly equipped studio.

Part Two, “Studio Projects,” speaks to a broader audience, offering step-by-step instructions for twelve different sample bindings, subdivided into sections on albums, books, enclosures, and advanced projects.  Each section opens with an attentive and intelligent list of questions that will help the user to make considered decisions about the binding and materials based on his or her intentions for the book, and every project is accompanied by thorough photo documentation as well as clear, concise step-by-step instructions.  A brief gallery of the projects presented in the handbook and variations on them concludes the manual.

I would call myself an intermediate binder, having taken three semester-long bookbinding classes, and most of the structures in Book Art Studio Handbook are happily either new to me or are significant enough variations on structures I’ve learned that I’m curious to try them.  Rather than treading on the familiar ground of pamphlets, accordions, basic case bindings, Coptics, and so forth, Dolin and Lapidow provide structures that offer different avenues of exploration, at least for someone with a few years’ experience, and that are accessible to a range of binders.

To test out the project instructions, I put together both the “5-Minute Slipcase” and the “Tacketed Book.”  I found the steps for both projects to be intelligibly described and the photos informative and ample in number – easier for me to make sense of, certainly, than the illustrations often accompanying bookbinding instructions.  The result for the 5-Minute Slipcase project is a sweet little case that is a cinch to put together.  However, while this particular project is meant to be more decorative than durable – as Dolin and Lapidow point out themselves – it is quite fragile, and I would have been glad to spend a few more minutes on the case in exchange for better sturdiness.  Or, given that the 5-Minute Slipcase is quite attractive as a concept, Dolin and Lapidow might also have offered some suggestions on modifications that would achieve other effects or objectives.  The project, for instance, calls for decorative paper; using stiffer paper that still scores and folds well would be an easy way to make the case sturdier.  Having used decorative paper for my version, I opted to slip some 10-point card into the sides of the case and add double-stick tape at the seams for a slightly stronger, crisper product that feels, to me, like it has better longevity.

The "Tacketed Book" is similar in construction to a long-stitch except that the sewing is not continuous; rather, it ties off at every pair of sewing stations, essentially creating staples out of thread.  For this project, there were some slight errors in the instructions that threw me off for a spell (it calls for five sections in the materials list and later refers to the model as having seven sections; it also says that one should “segment the width of the template by the number of sections minus one” [Page 74] when I believe it should be plus one), but I sifted through that and came out with a neat little structure I’m happy to have made.

Book Art Studio Handbook ultimately offers a nice range of bookbinding projects with strong visual and written instructions, but I do confess that the title itself feels imprecise for what the book sets out to do.  “Book art” is no doubt an umbrella term for a wide variety of material objects that utilize hand-sewn bindings, handmade paper, letterpress printing, calligraphy / handlettering, or any combination thereof.  As such, “book art” is not misused in this title, but given the wide-ranging meaning of the phrase and given the fact that the manual focuses exclusively on binding structures, Book Structures Handbook or Bindings for the Home Studio would, perhaps, offer a slightly more circumscribed description of the contents.  I had hoped that Book Art Studio Handbook might also be more focused on the “studio” part of that equation than it ultimately is.  While it does catalog the tools needed to set up a home studio, the title had me dreaming of photographs of actual binders’ studios. Dolin and Lapidow state, at one point, that they “know bookbinders who work in large studios and bookbinders who work in a dedicated corner of their kitchen” [Page 12].  I would have loved to see some examples, even briefly, of this range, but the details are regrettably left up to the imagination.  The first section of the book, “Getting Started,” might have been more beneficial to intermediate and advanced binders by going beyond an introduction to tools and techniques and delving into greater specificity about methods of storage and the organizational logic of experienced binders’ studios.

That said, what is offered up in the pages of Dolin and Lapidow’s Book Art Studio Handbook is well worth the time and exploration.  Offering instruction on the page rather than in a classroom no doubt puts teachers at some disadvantage, and yet Dolin and Lapidow manage to convey the expertise, enthusiasm, inspiration, and encouragement that students are always hungry for.  It is a manual I am grateful to have in my library, and when the impulse to hoard reference books becomes its own storage problem (as it soon will), Stacie Dolin and Amy Lapidow’s Book Art Studio Handbook is one that I will be hanging onto.

[The New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers held a virtual exhibition of bindings on or inspired by Book Art Studio Handbook. Click here to view.]

Laura Capp holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa with an emphasis in Victorian and modernist British literature and is currently an MFA candidate at the Center for the Book, specializing in calligraphy and letterpress printing. She is the recipient of the University of Iowa’s Presidential and Grant Wood Fellowships and has had her work featured in Letter Arts Review. Laura also has over ten years of experience teaching literature and calligraphy courses. For more information and images of her work, visit her online at