Saturday, December 16, 2006

Paper: Deckle Edges & Simulations

The term deckle edge refers to the distinctive, feathery edge of handmade paper. It occurs when the handmade paper is made. The name comes from the equipment used to make the paper, a mould and deckle. The mould is a wood frame covered with a special papermaking screen. The deckle is an open frame that is placed on top of the mould. The papermaker places the two pieces together and drags them through a vat of fibrous material floating in water, called the pulp, catching the fibers evenly on the screen. The deckle is removed and the sheet of paper is transferred from the mould to an absorbent surface called a felt for pressing the water out of the paper sheet.

Handmade paper normally has four deckle edges and the edges are often quite dramatic while machine-made paper has two and are more subtle. Although early printers looked upon the deckle edge as a defect, and almost invariably trimmed most of it off before binding, in the latter part of the 19th century, it became the fashion to admire the deckle edge for its own sake, and to leave books printed on handmade paper untrimmed. Left in place, the deckle edge becomes a decorative, textured edging.

Simulating a Deckle Edge. A true deckle edge can only be achieved during the paper making process. However, there are various ways to simulate the effect, some more effective than others.
Tearing. The easiest way is to paint a line of clean water with a watercolor brush either freehand or held against a ruler, wait a while, then pull gently. Add more water or pull less gently depending on the strength and the grain of the paper and the effect desired. If you score the line first using a bone folder, then paint with water, the result is a finer edge.

Rulers. Deckle patterned rulers are available against which the paper is torn. A wet tear will achieve a more feathery effect than a dry tear.

Scissors. Although the effect is decorative, deckle scissors, those with irregularly shaped cutting edges, create the least natural looking deckle edge.
Photos of deckle edges (top): left: handmade paper; right: machine-made paper.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Book Formats & Paper Sizes

The traditional terms for describing book formats are derived from early printing methodology and the size of early handmade sheets of paper.

Paper Sizes: the most common names for the original size of paper from which the formats described below were created are:
· Imperial (30 in. by 22 in.)
· Royal (25 in. by 20 in.)
· Demy (22 ½ in. by 17 ½ in.)
· Crown, cr (20 in. by 15 in.)
· Foolscap, fcp (17 in. by 13 ½ in.)
· Pott (15 in. by 12 ½ in.)
A sheet, when folded, has twice as many pages as leaves, for the obvious reason that it is printed on both sides, the number of leaves depending on the size of the original sheet and the way in which it is folded.

When two leaves (four pages when printed on both sides) were printed on a sheet so that it could be folded once, collated with other folded sheets and bound, the format of the volume was a "folio". When four leaves (eight pages) were printed on the same size sheet, which would later be folded twice, the format of the resultant volume was a "quarto" (four leaves). The term "octavo" relates to the sheet having eight leaves printed on it. The octavo is the most general size of a book, and the printed text is so arranged that, when the sheet is folded, the sixteen pages follow consecutively (see illustration). This folded printed sheet of leaves prior to binding is called a gathering. After binding it is referred to as a signature.

Today some booksellers are providing the height of a book in inches or centimeters rather than using these early terms which do not relate directly to the sheet size or process used for printing today. The following is a guide to convert book formats to approximate book sizes:
· Folio: more than 13 inches tall
· Quarto (4to): approx. 10 to 13 inches tall, average 12 inches
· Octavo (8vo): approx. 8 to 10 inches tall, average 9 inches
· Duodecimo (12mo): approx. 7 to 8 inches tall, average 7.5 inches
· Sextodecimo (16mo): approx. 6 to 7 inches tall, average 6.5 inches
There are smaller and larger books, i.e. many miniatures are 64mo. Most hard bound books today are either octavo or duodecimo in size.

For definitions of other commonly encountered book terms see Glossary of Terms.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Free Online Bookbinding Books

I haven’t had a chance to get deeply into these books, but a cursory look impressed me.

The Art of Bookbinding by Joseph W. Zaehnsdorf
Bookbinding and the Care of Books by Douglas Cockerell
Bookbinding for Beginners by Florence O. Bean
The Binding of Books by Herbert P. Horne
The Story of Books by Gertude Burford Rawlings
A Book for All Readers by Ainsworth Rand Spofford
The Story of Paper Making by J.W. Butler Paper Company
Bookbinding by Paul N. Hasluck