I’ve been falling down the tumblr rabbit hole and I totally forgot about this thing.
So anyway, here’s what I’ve been doing lately:
That’s a 15th-century Mamluk book binding, based on a group of books in an exhibition at the University of Chicago in the 1980s. This book is more ambitious than any of the projects I’ve done so far, in that I used entirely period materials, and made the pasteboard myself. I’m getting much better at tooling, which was aided by using vegetable-tanned leather instead of the chrome-tanned I used on the last book. I still have a couple of things i need to work on, but all in all, it’s pretty close!
One of the most amazing things I learned was that the turn-ins on most every Mamluk book up to a certain time period (~ the 1500s) are pasted over the doublures, which is pretty much the opposite of books produced in other regions. I had a full hour “holy crap” session when I figured that out. I felt really smart.
(Will post process stuffs once I’ve got access to my photos.)
I can’t decide if I want to do another Mamluk book next, and try to perfect the process, or move on to Mughal books. I’m kind of leaning that way, mostly because of this beauty:
This is a Mughal book from the 16th century. It’s very similar in design to Persian books from the same period, but the tooling techniques are rather different. They’re entirely gilded, and almost incised. You can tell by the gloved hands that this beauty is rather large. The interiors are full of annotations (so many that the margins are totally covered).
But the thing that makes me drool? The doublures:
I am encouraged by the fact that each of the filigree pieces is a separate inset bit, with lapis painted pieces underneath. I will have to work very hard on the fineness of my painting and tooling to be able to do a reproduction of this justice. BUT JUST LOOK AT IT. How could you not? It’s amazing. I have the leather already. I will do this thing.
I also found a source online for directions on how to do aged and burnished paper, which is a thing I’d like to learn. The paper I’m using is very nice cotton rag, but these books were all bound using aged and burnished paper. You can’t really buy it commercially, but now that I’ve found a source on the process, I can at least make a sheet or two (it’s a laborious process, so I have no illusions about being able to do it for an entire book).
Also in the queue are another Mamluk book, the papyrus pasteboard book from the British Museum (I think, or is it the Bodlean Library?), and one of the tiny little octagonal books that come up ever so often…
It’s hard doing these when I am also teaching workshops for beginners, but I read somewhere that even in period binders took 8 months to two years to finish bindings, so I think I’m doing pretty well.
I will need more shell gold, though. That stuff goes quickly.