Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Book

And Now for something Completely Different. I think I've shared bits and pieces of this before, but never the "entirety" as it were. It's not photography, just a book I made.

My neighbor, across the alley, Alan, is a man of God. In the best possible meaning of that word. Raised a non-observant Jew in Queens, he landed in his 20s in a Christian seminary, and went to be a minister for many years. Now he does different things, but still in the service of the church. He's a good man, a normal man, not too given to proselytizing, just a decorous and reasonable amount.

Also, he has a kind of affinity for Paul the Apostle. Paul said some stuff that makes him really kind of unpopular in these modern times, and at least from where I sit he's often held up as the source of much that's wrong with the Catholic Church. Be that as it may, Alan thinks Paul was a basically good fellow, and worth reading. Accordingly, I resolved to read Paul and see what exactly I made of it. So I did that.

Then I thought to myself, reminded somewhere along the lines of a reading copy of the King James Bible that my father owned, "wouldn't it be interesting to make an edition of Paul's letters just as if they were any other famous figure's letters?"

So I did that. And I made a book, and I built a copy of it for Alan as a gift, because I like Alan. Then I made three more copies to be finished elsewhere for other reasons, and then I built one for myself. This is what I am showing you here, today.

I have not the skill, the temperament, nor the equipment to make books that look machine-made, precise. Accordingly, I embrace a kind of hand-made aesthetic. Functional books, durable books (I hope), and maybe attractive books. But certainly a bit "artisanal" in character.

Blue bookcloth and a kind of outrageous gold paper I own. My sister probably bought it for me (thanks!) from Hollander's in Ann Arbor, MI.

The spine is printed with these super-sketchy "craft grade" rubber letter stamps that don't line up worth a damn and are hard to even get properly inked. Hand-made, baby!

Endpapers. Note deckle-edge. So chic! Also a good way to use that edge, in my opinion.

Front-matter. Note the somewhat too deeply sawn holes for sewing, those slots in the gutter. This does not affect function at all, but is a trifle un-aesthetic, I guess. Bastard Title. Frontispiece (tipped-in color plate, natch) and Title. Colophon and Dedication. Preface.

And finally some content to give a sense of the interior page design.

I have to say that I am very pleased with this book. I stole a lot of good ideas to make it, and I rather think it shows. Thank you, nameless generations of designers, who invented all these good things!

The case is a hair small front-to-back, but I got it on pretty straight which is good. The endpapers are likewise not precise, but fairly straight. The whole thing is good enough, and feels good in the hands. 7.5 inches by 5.5 inches (this is letter-sized paper folded in half and trimmed.) The thing looks a trifle short and squat, because Paul was short and squat. The blue and gold also refer to Paul, as does the little glyph which closes each chapter. The references are open, and slight, but deliberate.

The text is KJV, and I left the capitals at the beginning of each verse, as a very slight nod to the verse-structure traditionally imposed on the text. You don't notice it, reading (I don't) but it's there.

It's infinitely more readable than a traditionally formatted bible.


  1. Replies
    1. Coming from you that means a lot ;)

    2. It was a while ago, but it looks like I just did it in OpenOffice? I set it just as if it were to print on letter-sized pages, and then used a thing called BookletCreator to reduce the output PDF and arrange pages for printing two-up on letter sized pages.

      This requires a certain amount of fiddling with font sizes and margins in the "original" so that it lies well on the final, shrunk and re-arranged, pages.

  2. Reminds me of the book "Tell No Man" in which the protagonist had his secretary type up each of Paul's letters individually and mail them to him, so it was like he was receiving them personally from Paul. Must be something about these epistles that inspires creative iterations like that and like what you did. Do you have extra copies of your edition for sale?

    1. I had not heard of that, what an interesting idea!

      I do not have any extra copies, not because I am hoarding, but because they're a lot of work to make. I occasionally ponder doing a commercially printed edition, but, eh. That sounds like work, and it's not clear to me that I haven't already placed copies with 100% of the potential audience.

  3. Nice work, though the endpapers do clash a bit IMHO. Interesting, the left and centre justified page numbers on facing pages -- not seen (or at any rate, not noticed) that before.

    If you're looking for some harmless book-related fun for all the family, I recommend checking out "The Art of the Fold: how to make innovative books and paper structures" by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol.


    1. Thank you! Page numbers are centered on the first page of a chapter, and land left/right in the corners for other pages, but I see that is not clear! It did occur to me that I had not supplied a picture of facing-running-text pages, but then I shrugged and carried on.

    2. myself, I like the "365 Bindings" entry on the blog My Handbound Books - September 2 2016. [stone seal] It feels like infinite riches...

  4. Quite a fine project. And five of them! I took an interest in bookbinding for a while some years ago and soon realized it's more like taking up the piano than taking up scrapbooking, say.