Book binding: The Thirty-Six Lessons of Vivec

I have a review of The Thirty-Six Lessons of Vivec in preparation and should post it soon. I’ll take the anticipation of that post as an opportunity to show off the book that I made for Starburst’s birthday last year (the one in 2013; this is officially Old News, but as they say on Springer: it’s my blog, I do what I want!). Ruby’s considerable talents were very helpful throughout the process, especially with the case.



The case for the book to go in. Its height was calibrated to have some extra space on the top, but the paper I used for the book is stiff and the folds make the book fatter than expected, so it’s a tight squeeze.


The outside of the book, with the case in the background. You can see here how the pages tend to expand like a spring, which was unexpected. I’m very pleased with the cover pattern and especially the gold/ash-color juxtaposition. It just screams “glorious invisible warrior-poet of Vvardenfell,” don’t you think?


It’s bound with a Coptic stitch. I used yarn, which is nontraditional, but it seems to work well and it helps to accent the stitching by being uselessly huge. There are three folios containing 12 sermons each.



The title and middle pages (sorry–the bottom picture especially is focused poorly on the text). I went with a Garamond serif font. If any font snobs read this blog, I look forward to hearing in the comments why this is a terrible choice and I’m a terrible person.

I formatted the book so that each sermon would fit onto two pages that are adjacent when open; the whole book is 72 pages long as a result. Sadly, I failed to catch a couple of typos copied over from my source for the text.

I tried unsuccessfully printing on a few different printers. The pages are thick, which has a cool effect when combing through the book and also makes the whole thing appear more substantial; however, regular printers can’t handle them. These various printing attempts lost me quite a bit of time and nice paper, which was especially annoying because the paper came in large sheets that had to be cut down by hand to a printable size (individual sheets of nice paper get expensive really quickly). In the end, I had to get the printing done at a print shop, where the industrial printers did a beautiful job. The pages need to be re-ordered in some crazy-looking way with double-sided printing (e.g., the first and last page need to be on the same sheet). I was pretty worried that I had reordered them incorrectly, but it wasn’t a problem.

When the paper is folded within a folio, the pages no longer line up flush against each other because the outside pages have a greater circumference to travel than the inside pages. I therefore cut the pages back to size. At this step, I was able to use a large office paper cutter. The blade was extremely dull, which should have been a disaster, but luckily it created a really cool effect where the pages are more ripped than sliced at the edges. This would probably not be as cool if the pages weren’t thick, but I like the result. I cleaned up some of the more pathetic cuts by hand.

The cover is some kind of hard, thick cardboard stock, which I cut to size with an X-Acto knife. This was much harder than I anticipated, probably because I specifically selected the stock to be hard. I then attached the fancy cover paper with glue and covered the edges with a blank sheet of the nice printing paper on the inside cover.

Blick happened to be out of awls when I went there, so I made stitch holes with a pottery needle–familiar to me from a past life, they’re supposed to be for cutting slabs, creating holes, and doing fine detail work in clay. Making the holes in the cover was painfully tedious for the same reason as cutting it to size was. With the holes in place, following standard directions for sewing the Coptic stitch was easy and actually kind of fun.

Ruby transmuted a regular cardboard box into the case frame using some kind of magical incantation. I then glued the fancy cover paper and some fancy black paper down in the pattern you can see above. The lid can be tied closed by means of the two apertures on the front and top, each of which is attached to a separate strand of ribbon.

All in all, this was a surprisingly huge pain in the ass (which should not itself have been surprising), but the second time would go much more smoothly. The one truly frustrating thing was finding that I couldn’t use regular printers–a lesson learned only by a mace, but also learned only once.

As it turned out, this was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever gotten. Starburst and I began sporadic close studies of The Lessons, reading aloud from the book one sermon at a time. Since I moved, we’ve made a regular schedule of it–one sermon every other week–and we’re on schedule to finish well within the year. These readings are consistently among the highlights of my month.

Since we no longer live together, I have to use a document on my computer instead of the book when it’s my turn to read aloud, and the experience just isn’t the same. Who knows, though–maybe if I’m nice to myself, I’ll make another copy for my own birthday this year.

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