Books. Big, fat, shiny ones. Little itty bitty ones. Modern and old. Thick and thin, hard and soft, paper and leather and cloth. That’s what we’re talking about here.
And so, it seems, is the rest of the world. Suddenly, new technology threatens our good old paper and we fear we may be the last humans ever to know books – how they look, how they smell, the feel of the paper and the weight in our hands.
Now, I don’t particularly fear this myself. I’ve got an e-reader. It came preloaded with 100 novels, most of them classics, and I’m still holding on to my hardbacks of the very same books. I’m even in the market for more. Because a book is more than text.
Books are about illustrations and graphic design and types of paper and why you use one and not the other. Books are about typography and physics. Not the textbook kind of physics, but the applied kind. How the stress of opening the book and thumbing through its pages falls on some places in the book structure and not others and why. Why some books fall apart and why some can only be made to stay open with an axe.
Some books are about fine leather and superb decoration and others are all about sturdiness. Some are about bright colours and others are about subtle, delicate text. A well-designed and carefully-produced book can enhance the reading experience.
That’s what this blog is about: the physical presence of books. I’m curious, and I have some knowledge and no objection to knowing more. As a hand bookbinder I have done everything from basic thesis binding to rebacking 18th-century bindings to fixing that glossy picture book from the 70s where the pages keep falling out. Six years of that means I have had lots of thoughts about papers and glues and structure, and I mean to muse on these things.
So who do I think is going to read this blog? Possibly no-one, of course. But just to start out, I'm thinking that you might be a student, whether just learning or more advanced. Maybe you're an artist who wants to make a book and is wondering where to start. Maybe you're a librarian or have a job taking care of some pile of books - yours or someone else's. In which case I want your job.