A Book About the Books
June 21st, 2009 | Link

Moving from a production mindset to an experiential mindset in bookbinding has inspired me to record more information about the books while making them. Previously, I photographed a book when I completed it, and perhaps blogged or posted the picture to my Bookbinding set on Flickr along with few notes about the size and number of pages, and then moved on. If it was a book I was likely to make multiples of and didn’t change much from one to the next—such as a photo album or journal from a purchased book block—I might record the sizes to cut for the boards, cover paper and book cloth in the (purchased!) notebook I stick in the box with my binding tools, but that was it. So I’ve started to catalog the books as I work on them.

I bought a wire-bound sketch book for this project, because I wanted the freedom to rip out pages if needed, and to be able to paste in photographs of the book and samples of paper and book cloth. The format for each entry is something like this:

  • Catalog number and title
  • Finished size and number of pages
  • Description
  • Cover: board or cover stock, thickness or weight, measurements of cover and spine pieces, samples of decorative paper, book cloth, paste-down, etc., and place of purchase
  • Pages: paper used, weight, full-sheet size, place of purchase, folio size, number of folios per section, number of sections, and a sample
  • Sewing: thread used, location of sewing stations, method, and a sample
  • Notes on construction: information I found useful in the construction of the book, such as reference books/pages for instruction; any details such as the size of the bit I used to drill holes; what I think went well or poorly; what I’m happy with or not happy with; etc.
  • Date completed
  • Name of the recipient, if I didn’t keep it
  • Sketches and/or photographs

So far there are four entries in my Book About the Books, and I already wish I’d done this two years ago.

What about you other bookbinders out there? Do you keep a catalog or journal of your books as you work on them? What other information do you find helpful when you’re looking back over your works? What do you do?


  • Elissa says:

    I also keep a process book for my production work. It doesn’t have all of the details you listed though. I mostly track time spent on certain tasks so I can accurately and fairly price my work. When developing a new product, I do keep notes on the whole process – measurements, materials, time spent, etc.
    When I have settled on details that will stick, I move the information into another book – I call it my “Recipe Book”. I like your idea of dating when you complete a project – I might add that to my Recipe Book from this point forward. It would be a nice addition to the history of what I’ve done.

  • Shannon says:

    Thanks, Elissa. Reading this, I noted that I rarely track how much time I spend on any task, and I have a difficult time with pricing—which might explain some of my dissatisfaction with the experience of selling.
    Funny how I don’t run into this problem when consulting in software or user experience design, where I track every hour.

  • Carol says:

    I’ve just found you through Simon’s post on winning one of your books. I’m always pleased to find blogs by book binders and yours has a lot of very interesting posts. I particularly like this post because it reminds me of how really bad I am at documenting my binding and I’m going to try to take your advice and become better at it.

  • Shannon says:

    Hi Carol, welcome, and thanks!

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My name is Shannon Hale. This blog is on indefinite hiatus, but it contains archives of the last 10 years of posts about bookbinding, knitting, sewing. and other random things in my life.


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