Monday, June 10, 2013

Historical Book Structures : St. Cuthbert Gospel of St. John

This semester I took the amazing and extremely intensive Historical Structures class with Julie Leonard. It was at the end of the semester that we realized how much work we actually did! We took on five major time periods within which we could pick 1-2 structures to take on and complete in the few weeks devoted to each section. The deadlines on all projects were rolling, so we could work on everything simultaneously through the semester. This was a boon, because as expected, some books took alot longer than others. As a class we worked on one book together - The Stonyhurst Gospel or St. Cuthbert Gospel of St. John, a small 7th century gospel book. It took three tried for me to get the sewing right! 

12 sections with varying folios in each one are held firmly in a finishing press. The sewing stations are then cut into the spine forming a V.
They have to be quite deep in order to cut through the innermost folios

The sections when ready are sewn with 4 lengths per needle of #60 thread.
Sewn on 4 stations with two needles. The thickness of the threads rests in each V cut along the spine.

The boards are prepared with birch wood, the corners of which are sanded down till curved.
Holes are drilled for the sewing stations as well as the thread for moulding the leather.

The back of the board looks like this. The threads are stiffened with PVA before being pulled through.

The ends are then cut with a sharp knife to recreate the flat surface.

Like so...

The other embellishments are built up using thread and pieces of leather

I wanted to cut down on the amount of leather I was using in this class as much as possible.
So I decided to do a cut-away book, so that half of the innards would be exposed. That way I can also use it as a teaching model!

The leather was thinly pared by a classmate. I could not deal with paring leather with the schar-fix!
It was just too creepy to watch all that skin falling off in little flakes. It was then moistened with water on the hair side.
Paste was then applied to the flesh side. It soaked in a lot, so I was liberal with the application.

 The leather is then doubled over on itself and left to sit, making sure the hair side doesn't dry out.

I then folded the leather over the top of the book  and began working it with my fingers.

After about 5-7 minutes it started to look like this

I used a micro spatula and a small bone folder applying gentle pressure on either side of each thread. The leather would slip constantly with the slightest of pressure. After a while keeping it wet wasn't working. It needed to retain shape, and so it had a dry bit by bit while working it.

After another 10-12 minutes it starts to take shape.

And finally ater about 20 minutes, it starts to resemble the actual book vaguely.

A bit more work time and it looks better. I finally pressed it in a nipping press using a lot of foam
on both sides and light boards. This helped shape it a bit more and help the air out.

The next day I re-moistened the turn-ins, applied more paste and worked them in to complete the book.

The corners are pinched up...

...and cut off.

Leaving a small tongue to cover up any board that tries to peek through.

The finished book after the tooling.

I followed the pattern exactly. It was hard trying not to make it perfect.

The back of the book.

Everyone's finished books!

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