Bookbinder’s Holiday Gift List: 12 Essential Books And More!

It is almost holiday season. Still, there is some time to choose a gift for your fellow bookbinders, friends, and colleagues. Luckily, there always is something new to learn about bookbinding. Even from the books you already have for a long time. Becoming more experienced you may find further small details and techniques (nevertheless important) in texts you read a long time ago.

The list we offer you here may be useful not only for beginners but also for experienced bookbinders. If you have anything to add, we encourage you to share your ideas in the comments section below.

Some books are available not only in print editions but also as Kindle ebooks. I prefer to have all my bookbinding books in hard copies because illustrations are not always transferred well to Kindle. Anyway, I’ll give both links when possible.

2015.12.02 - Hand Bookbinding A Manual of Instruction - Aldren A. Watson

Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction

by Aldren A. Watson (Kindle edition)

That’s a thorough essential guide to bookbinding that includes both information on bindings, and tools and equipment you should use. You will find instructions on how to rebind an old book, make a box, etc.

The book was first published in 1963, but most of the information remains up-to-date. You will not find some newer materials and book structures here, but it is a good thing for a beginner. Illustrations are black and white. Fortunately, they are drawn (and pretty nice), and not photos.

Order at Amazon.com

2015.12.02 - The Craft of Bookbinding - Manly Banister

The Craft of Bookbinding

by Manly Banister (Kindle edition)

Often considered to be a complimentary book to Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction by Aldren A. Watson (or vice versa). It gives less information on tools. However, there are helpful instructions on making presses and plows. Many pictures give you an idea of what you have to do even while instructions are not always entirely clear. Unfortunately, this style of black and white photographic illustrations is far from modern tutorial standards. In that respect, the book by Aldren A. Watson is much better.

Anyway, it is a good start for any beginner.

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2015.12.02 - The Complete Book of Bookbinding - Josep Cambras

The Complete Book of Bookbinding

by Josep Cambras

That is one of my first recommendations to all my students. I suppose one of the reasons is that The Complete Book of Bookbinding was one of the first books about bookbinding I have read in English (plenty of books on the subject in Russian before that moment). It has lots of lovely color photographic illustrations, includes all the necessary information about tools and equipment, and offers its readers several projects to fulfill. You may as well use it as textbook walking through and becoming more and more experienced in bookbinding basics.

The book is not comprehensive as Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction and The Craft of Bookbinding, but it gives you everything you need to start bookbinding and adopt all the right habits.

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Josep Cambras has two other books: Bookbinding Techniques and Projects and Handmade Bookbinding Techniques. I have never read the latter, but many of my students find Bookbinding Techniques and Projects to be a bit misleading and confusing. It is more like a set of projects, not a tutorial or bookbinding instruction book. You definitely shouldn’t start studying bookbinding using them.

2015.12.02 - Non-Adhesive Binding - Books without Paste or Glue - Keith A. Smith

Non-Adhesive Binding

by Keith A. Smith

All four of the books Keith A. Smith wrote on non-adhesive binding are worth adding to the current list (that’s the reason I didn’t write the full title of the book above):

There are many more bookbinding books by Keith A. Smith, and they all are worth buying (if you like his writing style).

Anyhow, if you can easily replace his other books with anything listed above and below, it is much harder to find a substitute for his non-adhesive binding tetralogy.

2015.12.02 - Japanese Bookbinding - Instructions From A Master Craftsman - Kojiro IkegamiJapanese Bookbinding: Instructions From A Master Craftsman

by Kojiro Ikegami

To continue with non-adhesive binding, I should mention this book by Kojiro Ikegami. It may be an absolute bestseller on Japanese binding. Kojiro Ikegami is a master bookbinder in a third generation. You will find here a brief history of bookbinding in Japan, many details on traditional tools, and a thorough description of Japanese bookbinding methods. A chapter on bookcases and enclosures is included in the end, as well as information on conventional ways of mending books. It is also adapted to western readers — suppliers and tools listed in the book are widely available in Europe and North America.

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2015.12.02 - Bookbinding for Book Artists - Keith A. SmithBookbinding for Book Artists

by Keith A. Smith and Fred A. Jordan

Another book by Keith A. Smith. I would advise to buy it if you’d like to make the first step from mere bookbinding to book art. It focuses more on detail and quality finishing but may open to you the world book art and artists books.

The book is written in co-authorship with Fred A. Jordan, and it benefits a lot from two different bookbinding approaches each of the authors prefers.

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2015.12.02 - 500 Handmade Books - Inspiring Interpretation​s of a Timeless Form - Steve Miller

500 Handmade Books: Inspiring Interpretations of a Timeless Form

by Steve Miller

That’s not a tutorial or a textbook. You should avoid buying that book as your first one — you’ll find no instructions here. Instead, there is a collection of 500 bindings you can be inspired with. It may take you a bit further after you’ve mastered some things Keith A. Smith and Fred A. Jordan are teaching in their Bookbinding for Book Artists.

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2015.12.02 - How to Make Books - Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book - Esther K. Smith

How to Make Books: Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book

by Esther K. Smith (Kindle edition)

As the list goes from more basic bookbinding techniques to more elaborate things, I may have placed that book at the very beginning of this post. This is a collection of spectacular and simple tutorials suitable both for adults and kids. However, even an experienced bookbinder may easily find some new ideas here. And that’s the reason I waited to name it until the current moment. That’s a must have if you want to understand how to start making your books creatively different, both in design and structure.

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You may also order this and other books by Esther K. Smith at her Etsy store.

2015.12.02 - Bookbinding - Its Background and Technique - Edith DiehlBookbinding: Its Background and Technique

by Edith Diehl (Kindle edition)

The last two books are recommended for experienced bookbinders. I would rather say they are a must have if you want to understand and to know how the modern book developed through the ages and what makes a good binding differ from an ordinary one.

Diehl had a vast experience in bookbinding and in teaching bookbinding in the US over the first half of the 20th century. Bookbinding: its Background and Technique was first published in 1946 and remains one of the iconic books on the subject. It covers an enormous range of bookbinding topics: paper and print; book formats, signatures, and sewing; binding types and design; minor repair, restoration and more.

If you want to become an excellent bookbinder, you have to add this book to your collection.

The book was initially published in two volumes, but now you can buy it as two volumes in one paperback edition (that’s precisely what I did).

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2015.12.02 - The Thames and Hudson Manual of Book Binding - Arthur JohnsonThe Thames and Hudson Manual of Book Binding

by Arthur Johnson

Another foundational writing, this time by Arthur Johnson, a well-known British designer-bookbinder. The book not only instructs you on how to make a durable and functional book, but it also gives you an understanding of the beauty and aesthetic pleasure the book may offer to its users.

The book covers a wide range of subjects: from tools, equipment, and material, to all stages and processes of the bookmaking. It may not be an easy reading; you should treat it more like a reference book. But that’s exactly the book that gives you a new idea every time you open it again.

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Hope that helps to form your shopping and gifts lists =)

If you have any thoughts on books listed above or have anything to add, just leave a comment below. We plan to publish more narrowly-specialized lists in the nearest days (conservation and restoration, bookbinding history, etc.) Maybe you’ll find something even more attractive there =)

2017 Update

Making Books: A Guide to Creating Handcrafted Books

by the London Centre for Book Arts

This book has a 50-page introduction that gives an idea of how a bookbinding workshop is ticking, information on tools and materials and other useful data. The rest of the book is split into six chapters, almost all of which have two or more subsections:

  • Pamphlets
  • Concertinas
  • Stab bindings
  • Slim case bindings
  • Exposed spine bindings
  • Multi-section case bindings

So, it covers most of the things you want to try as a beginner. For more advanced users it may work only as a reminder of some small tricks and steps. You can find a review of the book among the iBookBinding posts.

Order at Amazon.com

2018 Update

The Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures

by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol

Hedi Kyle is a renowned book artist and educator. In this book, she offers step-by-step tutorials that will allow you to recreate, using folding techniques, her unique designs. Projects include flag books, blizzard books, the fishbone fold, and nesting boxes. Both for beginners and experienced bookbinders this book may become a true source of inspiration!

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