I've spent some time over the last couple of days with Paul Curtis at the Mucros Bindery, working on the special edition of Irish Light. I thought you'd enjoy seeing some of the photographs showing the process of putting the prototype together.
Paul sets out a range of materials in different colours from which we selected leather for the spine and buckram for the cover.
Here are the chosen materials - a dark blue calfskin and a lighter blue buckram. I love the way these two materials complement each other, and they fit well with the colours in the cover image for the book, which you'll see later.
The title of the book will be in gold lettering on the spine, and embossed on the front cover. Here, Paul is calculating dimensions for the blocks that will be made for this from the PDF I supplied.
To help choose the style of lettering and embossing, Paul made up a sample showing the chosen buckram embossed blind (no foil) and with gold, blue and navy foil.
Next, he cuts a piece of the leather to the size needed for the spine using a piece of board as a template.
The leather must be pared down at the ends to reduce bulk when it's folded in at the top and bottom.
Next, it's time to cut board for the cover and the box. This machine is well over 100 years old and sees use every day. The blade has been sharpened only once since the machine was first made. That was 15 years ago when it was brought to the bindery. Despite being heavily used, it hasn't needed resharpening since then. As Paul says, "It falls into the category of 'they don't make 'em like that any more!'"
The bindery is full of machines like this. Apparently, while often they can be bought very inexpensively, or are sometimes given away, they end up costing a lot to move. Due to their size and weight, cranes and upper-story windows are common considerations!
Next, the spine of the dummy book is measured to calculate the width of the box.
The box is made and the book fit within it. The extra width here is to allow space for the folder which will contain the print portfolio. Note the hand-stitching of the pages in the book.
Lastly for today, fitting the canvas prints I made which will wrap around the outside of the box. This is the same image as will be used for the cover of the normal edition, but cropped to a panoramic specific to the size and shape of the finished box.
And here it is wrapped around the box.
Tomorrow, I'll be out there again and should hopefully have photos of the finished sample complete, except for the titling as we're still waiting on the blocks for that.
I'm even more excited now about this version of the book than I was before. The image works perfectly as a wrap for the box and the book itself is going to be gorgeous. I'll be gone on a workshop for a few days, and when I get back the finished sample including lettering will be ready. But in the meantime, I hope this gives you an insight into the real craft involved in making these books.