You can find many video tutorials on bookbinding these days. But these online sources aren’t typically as comprehensive as the information you can find in a book focused on this centuries-old art. Whether you are just embarking on your bookbinding journey or hoping to develop some new skills, texts written by professional bookbinders can provide instruction and offer inspiration while allowing you to advance at your own pace. There are countless guides in bookstores; here are some of the most outstanding ones for hobbyists and serious bookbinders alike.
1. Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction
Pragmatic, straightforward, and accessible, Aldren A. Watson’s guide to bookbinding is a great resource to keep on your bookshelf. Watson, a multihyphenate artist, provides a comprehensive overview of traditional bookbinding methods—from quarterbinding to single-signature binding—that both beginners and experienced bookbinders can enjoy. He also includes instructions on how to create your own tools, rebind a book, and make a book press. A professional book illustrator, Watson provides more than 270 of his own clear and detailed drawings to illuminate the text.
2. The Thames and Hudson Manual of Book Binding
This book is perfect for experienced bookbinders who want to learn the intricacies of the craft, from the structures of specialized bindings (like limp and sunk-cord) to methods of testing the pH levels of papers. Written by British bookbinder Arthur Johnson, it is a history book, artist’s companion, and instruction book wrapped up in one. It treats bookbinding as a multilayered craft, examining preparation and finishing processes, special techniques like lettering and leatherwork, and much more to help you take your binding to the next level.
3. Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions From A Master Craftsman
If you are interested in non-Western techniques, we recommend this excellent option from Kojiro Ikegami, a third-generation master binder of Japanese books. Carefully translated from Japanese, it presents simple and easy-to-follow instructions on how to create objects such as flutter books, accordion-style books, and stab-bound books. Learn about the history of these methods, traditional materials, and how to make your own tools using everyday household objects. Filled with black-and-white photographs, this is a simple but beautiful book that is both instructive and pleasing to simply thumb through.
4. Cover To Cover: Creative Techniques For Making Beautiful Books, Journals & Albums
The late artist Shereen LaPlantz wrote this instructive book in 1998, and it remains one of the best introductions to bookbinding. Filled with detailed illustrations and encouraging writing, it teaches you how to bind, stitch by stitch, starting with basic pamphlet techniques before moving on to more complicated constructions. If you’re feeling intimidated by bookbinding, this is a wonderful way to grasp the subject and grow your skills, whether in a classroom setting or independently.
5. Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms
If you are interested in experimenting with book forms, we recommend this inspiring paperback by printmaker Alisa Golden. It focuses not only on bookbinding but on paper folding and other creative paper techniques, featuring more than 100 ideas for constructing a book. Learn how to create concertina booklets, rolled scrolls, flexagons, and much more. Golden’s step-by-step instructions can be a little unclear at times, but she augments them with informative diagrams and beautiful photographs. Overall, this is a compelling choice if you want to complement traditional skills with more modern processes.