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Book Arts: An Age Old Craft in the Hands of Millennials

By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarian

FullSizeRenderFlatback case-binding hand-bound by librarian Lindsey Gumb

What do you get when you put a librarian, an archivist, a creative writing professor and a class full of literary-enthusiastic seniors into a room? A colorful, interactive workshop on book arts and bookbinding, of course!


In early November, Instructional Technology Librarian, Lindsey Gumb, and University Archivist, Heidi Benedict, collaborated with Professor Renee Soto and her senior creative writing students on a bookbinding workshop held in the newly renovated Mary Tefft White Cultural Center. Trained in bookbinding at the North Bennett Street School in Boston, and by a friend in book repair, Lindsey and Heidi, respectively, share a passion for the art of hand-binding books, and were eager to collaborate with Professor Soto and her students in an experiential learning workshop.


The session was extremely interactive and included a step-by-step demo of how a book is constructed, starting with textblock (the pages of a book) and cover creation, adding decorative paper to the covers of a book, and the process of attaching (or “casing-in”) the textblock to the book’s cover. After observing the demo, students were each given a hand-sewn textblock and two boards that would become the covers for their very own books. Group tables covered in scrap paper were set up around the room with a variety of bookbinding supplies and tools including PVA glue, brushes, scissors, bone folders, Xacto knives, and the best of all – the students’ very own hand-marbled paper! That’s right, prior to the workshop, Professor Soto and her students studied the historic process of paper marbling and had the opportunity to actually make their own – so cool!


IMG_0308 (1)Paper marbling (seen above) can actually be traced back to the 10th century in Asia, however, the marbling we are familiar with today evolved in Europe during the 17th century

image2Professor Renee Soto lends a hand during the casing-in process


Students used their own marbled paper to not only cover their books as a necessary technical step in the process of bookbinding but also to add a unique and artistic touch. After covering their boards, they cased-in their textblocks and with a little tweaking and finessing, had created their first books! From the chatter and smiles around the room, the workshop appears to have been a wild success, and students left not only with their very own handmade books but also perhaps feeling inspired to hand-bind a volume of their own poetry or prose.


IMG_0879Lindsey Gumb, Heidi Benedict, and senior creative writing students hold up their handmade books outside the University Library


Interested in learning more? There are full-time programs, workshops and open studios all within an hour of Bristol that you can participate in, as well as many books and online resources to get you started on your own.   If you have questions, feel free to contact Lindsey Gumb or Heidi Benedict.