One of my goals for 2022 is to be “more digital and more physical.”
Even as I explore the future of creativity through AI-generated art, writing with GPT-3, and special edition NFTs, I also expand my physical print products by selling special edition print books through my Shopify store, speaking at in-person events, and writing a memoir about my solo pilgrimage walks.
One of my projects this year was to go even more ‘physical' and try my hand at bookbinding. I had one-on-one lessons with Stephen at Bound Books in Frome, UK, and he helped me through the process.
Here are the steps we went through over several sessions. I will absolutely use the wrong words for things, as I am not an expert, just an enthusiastic student!
Formatted and printed one copy of A Thousand Fiendish Angels from Amazon KDP Print
I wanted to make something really original, so I formatted a new edition at 4.12 inches x 6.75 inches for my trilogy of short stories, A Thousand Fiendish Angels, which is a trilogy of short stories linked by a book of human skin. Yes, it is occult/dark fantasy/horror! I liked the idea of doing something small that fits nicely in my hand.
I used Vellum for formatting and then printed an Author's Copy from Amazon KDP Print. It's free to publish on Amazon and I haven't published this edition for sale. I just printed an author's copy and saved as a draft.
The first thing to do is rip off the cover!
Preparing the spine
We hack sawed into the spine to make grooves for the strings that would be used to attach the boards later.
We then attached material for the blocks
We wrapped the book in clingfilm to protect it during the process, then frayed the ends of the string so they will attach more easily and with fewer lumps.
We stuck the strings to the material.
Aging paper to add to the book
A Thousand Fiendish Angels is a trilogy of short stories linked by a book of human skin. Anthropodermic bibliopegy if you're into that kind of thing!
I wanted the book to look like the tome it relates to, and I wanted to have some aged aspects to the interior as well.
I printed the opening quote from Dante's Inferno that inspired the book title, and we aged it with tea leaves in a tray of water.
We pressed the sheet with a piece of textured card to give the ‘aged' paper more form, then burnished the surface with oil paint to bring out the texture and soften the edges of the tea marks.
We did the same aging process on a piece with my JFP author's mark, which I use on my special edition NFTs as well.
We inserted this extra page into the back of the book with a black piece of paper to offset the image.
Add the boards to the spine
We pared the edges of the board. (Stephen showed me all these things on a small area and I did the rest, honest!)
We stuck the boards to the material on the spine.
Add end papers
I bought endpapers from Etsy — there are so many beautiful options to choose from. I went quite gothic with my color scheme in black and red.
Binding the book
It took a while to choose the materials for the cover itself. I wanted an ‘old' look, and also to use leather.
The book in the stories is bound in human skin, but this one is Moroccan goat skin (dark brown), and the textured red is embossed wallpaper treated with oil paint and burnished.
There was lots of measuring, cutting, and gluing.
We stuck in the end papers.
Discovering in the process that this particular type of paper soaked up a lot of glue!
We let the book dry standing on its end and I bent the boards back into shape every so often while the end papers dried.
The final book. A Thousand Fiendish Angels, hand-bound by the author, J.F. Penn
Here's the finished product. I'm really happy with it!
This particular book is not for sale, but you can buy it in other formats from my store, CreativePennBooks.com, or from your favorite retailer, or borrow it from the library.
Will I do more book-binding?
I really enjoyed learning something new, and I love holding this (very) special edition in my hands and saying, ‘I made this!'
But it's pretty time intensive.
So for now, I will be getting back to writing stories and will leave binding for another phase of life. Preferably when I have a space where I can create in ‘analog' mode as my desk and computer dominate my home office and my audiobook booth takes up a lot of room as well.
If you'd like to read the stories, A Thousand Fiendish Angels is available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook editions from my store here, and also available on your favorite online store, links here.