Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In search of the "Perfect" Journal



I've been looking for the perfect book to take on a trip to Europe. Of course I want paper that will let me use ink, watercolour, gouache, and take collage. I don’t want heavy covers, too many pages, spiral binding or too big. I want it be functional AND gorgeous.

Not finding exactly what I wanted, I decided to make some myself by 're-purposing' old books.

I collected books of suitable condition, size and subject including a 1969 French language Guide France, a 1947 edition of Perfume from Provence by Lady Fortescue which has illustrations by E.H. Sheppard (of Winnie the Pooh fame) and As for Italy because I liked the title and it’s size. I also want a book to experiment in before I go, so I’m using my strangest find The Function of Voluntary Muscles which I chose because of the illustrations showing how to move your arms and legs!


To transform them I started by cutting the book block from the cover with a craft knife, then separating the signatures buy cutting the threads between them and picking away the old glue and cloth. (A signature is a folded book section.) The final act of destruction was to separate the pages.

I cut slots in the back cover and attached a Moleskine-like elastic closer.

New pages were cut from both Arches and Waterford hot and cold press watercolour papers and Stonehenge paper and combined with some original pages to form the 5 signatures. For Guide France I cut the endpapers from an old atlas.

I re-used the original hole positions and sewed the signatures together with linen thread, forming the new book block, lastly gluing the endpapers on. To make the spine strong I painted its edge with glue, added a strip of muslin cloth, and left it to press under a weight. I then glued the new book block back into the original cover by the endpapers, pressing it for a couple of days while the glue dried and hardened. Finally I added a velum pocket inside the back cover.


All ready for my trip and a bit of practice before I go!

**For more images and annotated images - see my flickr site**
(Having Blogger trouble and can't get them on here!@#%*)

Update:
This post and the others like it have been so popular that I now sell my books in my Etsy shop. I search out interesting titles, covers and illustrated books if possible and they make really quirky journals and sketchbooks. If you want to see what I mean check out my Flickr set. If you want to see what I did in my travel journals on Flickr here is Paris, Provence, and Italy.
Jan
11 Nov 2008

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for saying this, but no book, even the worst one, deserves such a cruel destiny. Why didn't you scan the desired pages and bind them together?

Jan said...

I see it as more of a re-birth, an opportunity for the books to live again. These books were abandoned and unwanted. Better to be loved by me than thrown on the tip.

Alia said...

Very cool. So, how hard is it to rebind a book? I've done some book binding, and I ordered several clever repurposed books from thenovelnovel.com, but I'm a little intimidated to try it on my own.

As for the comment that no book "deserves" this fate, hmmmm. One of the books I got from thenovelnovel people was a childhood favorite I hadn't seen in years. It makes me grin like a fool and remember what a great book it was to see it again as a journal. I delighted in giving it as a gift and highly recommending the little person who received it also go find a copy of the book to read. If that isn't a good fate for a book, well, fooey!

Joy said...

Interesting. This is one of the things I've been planning to teach myself--but haven't.

Julie Oakley said...

I really wish I was capable of and could fit in bookbinding, the off the shelf ones are never quite right. This one looks wonderful

Felicity said...

I think they look wonderful, the image is perfect for your travel sketches. Much more personal than a shop bought.

Nina Johansson said...

I love this! I rebound a few myself too, it´s a perfect way to get the size and look you want, plus the right paper. And if you find the right ones you get a cool title for your sketchbook as well! And I agree - it´s a better fate for a book to be reused than thrown away. Beautiful work!

Alison said...

Oh, thank you for this - it encourages me to get on with it. i bought my watercolour paper ages ago and have several books that would be good but wasn't quite sure where to start. Lucky you going off to Europe. I hope we get to see lots of sketches.

Gillie said...

A loved book is better than a pulped book - and what better way to love a book than to give it a new lease of life. I've played a little with altered books and I've made my own journals .... but I never ever thought of combining the two. I love your travel journal and am dying to have a go at something similar myself now :)

Amanda said...

Great job. And I just discovered your flickr site so I can check this out further. Did you use the old book illustrations mixed within the new signatures or just on the endpapers? I'd love to see those muscle illustrations. I have to go rummage the bookstore now.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to bring them into work so we can see them? Sharon

Lexa Rosean said...

they sound beautiful. maybe you will make some for other writers and sell them online?

suzanne said...

Thanks for sharing the steps. This is something I've always wanted to try. I really like your finished products.

Plain Jane said...

very very cool. and thanks for the clear directions...

jgodsey said...

that SO rocks.
i have been repairing books for 20 years and i never thought to repurpose one.
thanks

Opelarai said...

What do you do with the actual book bit?

Jan Allsopp said...

I put some of the pages back into the books. I now use one page to make a little envelope (library card style) to hold a card that has all the details of the rebinding recorded on it. The pages that are left over I keep. I use them for lots of different purposes. So far they have been printed on, used for collage elements in paintings, a source for 'found poetry' and I'm constantly thinking about what else I can do with them.