Thursday, March 28, 2024

Werner Kiessig Bindings Being Digitized

I introduced Werner Kiessig in this post from 2020. Kiessig lived and worked in Berlin, Ost, but was also a member of the Meister der Einbandkunst (MDE), then a largely West German group that changed its name to "Meister der Einbandkunst – Internationale Vereinigung e.V." so that Kiessig could become a member.

Here is a binding from Handeinbände, his 1984 exhibit at the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek. He was best known for his "fine bindings." In some of the examples, one can see how he used simple and more available materials to create handsome bindings

The State Library of Berlin (Staatsbibliothek Zu Berlin, aka Stabi) has begun digitizing his bindings with multiple views. Below some excerpts from Instagram. The collection can be viewed direct on the Stabi's website here.

Friday, March 1, 2024

John Francis Dean - My First Mentor And Inspiration

Yesterday, I learned of the passing of John Francis Dean (2/11/1936  -  2/29/2024). Looking back, John probably had the greatest impact on me in the conservation and preservation field. I shared some of my experiences with him in a post here several years ago.

After emigrating from Great Britain to the United States in 1969, John F. Dean managed the preservation program at the Newberry Library before establishing the apprentice training and conservation program at the Johns Hopkins University in 1975. He went to Cornell University in 1985 to establish and develop the Department of Preservation and Conservation. He is widely recognized as one of the major proponents of preservation programs at academic libraries and was the 2003 recipient of the American Library Association’s prestigious Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award. A thread throughout his career arc is David Stam who as as Director of the Newberry Library brought him to the U.S., then as Director of the Library at Johns Hopkins brought him there. They remained life-long friends until David's passing last February. David was University Librarian at Syracuse when I arrived there ...

John Dean (2nd from left) with Yoko Sampson demonstrating
during one of the frequent tours he gave of the program at
Johns Hopkins. The image is undated, but could have been during my time.
Image from the Johns Hopkins University graphic and pictorial collection

I was introduced to John at the start of my freshman year at Johns Hopkins in 1981. Like many students, I needed a work-study job, and being a faculty brat my parents knew the campus options well… So, “son, the library hires a lot of students… Shelving books is boring, but there’s this Englishman in the basement who has a book conservation program and manages preservation…” Sounded interesting, went down, talked to John Dean, and got the job. That experience, and all the people who worked there changed my ideas, interests, and goals. This was a fully developed program with circulating collections repair and rehousing (my job, largely), rare book, and paper conservation. They also managed the library binding program that was substantial in those pre e-journal days…

I was put to work learning how to repair the heavily used books from the circulating collections, make basic enclosures for brittle items, clean stacks, … Because of the nature of the program John created at Johns Hopkins, I was exposed to all levels of work, something that deeply intrigued me so that when I wasn’t training for bike racing or studying, I also volunteered with the paper conservator, and just observed the goings on. John encouraged this interest by inviting me to observe presenters brought in like Tini Miura, exposing me to other aspects of the field. Knowing that I was a semester ahead, he encouraged me to take an internship in Germany to see what impact that experience might have - That experience led me to apprentice there after graduation and then experience my own sort of journeyman years.

John F. Dean striking a pose while at Cornell.

In 1993, I began work as a rare book conservator at Cornell where I was reunited with John. He had left Johns Hopkins in 1985 to start the conservation and preservation program there. While Cornell did not have the apprenticeship program, it was a very broad and comprehensive program that included commercial binding, circulating book repair, box making, special collections conservation in books and paper, and reformatting that included the then nascent digitization. Thanks to that exposure, I developed a far greater understanding of the complexities of the field and how they all interconnected. This was quite different from single item treatment in a private practice where those interconnected parts were not always obvious. Like at Johns Hopkins, the program he created was very active in the training of other professionals through internships and workshops. It was one of those interns, Marty Hanson who was the Preservation Administrator at Syracuse, and who later lured me away from Cornell to establish "my own" conservation lab while earning my MLS. The ultimate work-study job. John was also very involved internationally, especially in Southeast and East Asia so that interns from there were not uncommon either. He was also very successful in sponsoring and supporting consortial preservation efforts. John "retired" from Cornell in 2005.

John Dean and I getting ready at the inaugural
Brodsky Lecture in 2005.
Photo: Steve Sartori, SU Photo and Imaging Center.

In 2005 I was fortunate to be able to help create and then lead the Brodsky Series for Advancement of Library Conservation at Syracuse University Library. It was only natural that John was invited to be the first speaker on the topic of Conservation and Preservation in the Digital Age. From my introduction at the inaugural lecture:

John Dean our speaker for this afternoon’s inaugural event will speak on “Conservation and Preservation in the Digital Age,” a topic he is uniquely qualified to speak on as a result of his leadership in such activities at Cornell. John Dean is Cornell University's Preservation and Conservation Librarian.  He received his City and Guilds of London Institute medal in bookbinding in 1956, a Master of Arts degree in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1975, and a Master of Liberal Arts degree in the History of Science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1981.  Following his six years apprenticeship, Dean established and lead four major preservation programs beginning in 1960, at the Manchester Central Research Library (England), the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Johns Hopkins University Library (Baltimore), and, since 1985, Cornell University Library.  He is author of several works on conservation and preservation management, has taught conservation and preservation management at the University of Maryland, Syracuse University, the University of Alabama, and the State University of New York at Albany, and is a member of several national and international preservation committees.

It was John Dean who introduced me to the field when I was a work-study student in the conservation lab at Johns Hopkins, urged me to go to Germany to apprentice as a bookbinder, and has been a true mentor and friend. I can think of no one more appropriate to inaugurate this series.

John's lecture can be viewed and downloaded here. He speaks about his own training starting on page 7 of the transcript.

With John at the memorial gathering for David Stam at the end of April 2023.
Despite the best intentions, it was the last time I was able to see John. 

John, thank you for everything over these decades. You and your program saved me while in college, and you were the best mentor and role model I could have hoped for as an academic library conservation and preservation professional.

Rest in Peace

Addendum: May 4, 2024

Display from the memorial celebration for John held at
The Kendall in Ithaca, NY. It was good to be able to say goodbye
with his family and friends and colleagues from Johns Hopkins 
and Cornell. Many fond memories were shared that showed the 
the profound and meaningful impact he had on the people around him
whether personal or professional.
There was often no separation between the two.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dietmar Klein - The Passing of my Meister

It was with sadness that I took notice today of the passing of Dietmar Klein 10/14/1943 - 2/22/2024), the bookbinding Meister I apprenticed under, in posts shared on social media. As almost always happens in moments like this, one reflects on the impact of that person on ones life, and in this case career. 

Working in the Conservation and Preservation as a work-study student while at Johns Hopkins and then interning at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg inspired me to embrace bookbinding and conservation as a career. As my time as a college student was winding down, I escaped campus (and some exams) to interview at the three binderies in Germany that responded to my query about apprenticing. Ones of those was the Kunstbuchbinderei Dietmar Klein located in Künstlersiedlung Halfmannshof, an artists' colony in the heart of Germany's industrial heartland of the Ruhr Valley. that alone was enough to entice me to accept their offer to apprentice. I described the adventure of getting there, and my experiences as an apprentice in "The Ponderings of a Bookbinding Student- Part 2".

Me between my Meister Dietmar Klein and his wife Regina Klein
at my Lossprechung in July of 1987. The Lossprechung marked
the successful completion of my apprenticeship. Frau Klein would
receive her Meister shortly after.

I came into this apprenticeship older than the average apprentice at the time, with direct experiences in the field, and from a different culture (even though I was German, I grew up and studied in the US). While these experiences, especially working in binding and conservation helped me hit the ground faster, they could also be a kind of liability as I was not the clean slate that one often desires with apprentices, leading to friction. But, as I was often reminded, "the apprentice is always in the wrong, the Meister in the right, and on the off chance the apprentice might have been right, they were still in the wrong." As someone else told me, "Lehrjahre sind keine Herrenjahre" ( "Learning years are not earning years" i.e. one starts on the very bottom rung in every respect ). Having the proclivities to get ahead of myself didn't help either. In something I came to regret later, my apprenticeship was shortened from 3 years to 2 based on those previous experiences. I also only experienced 1 year of Berufsschule (trade school) rather than 3 based on my age and education. It was what it was, as we say today. 

The whole crew in my final year: Me, the other apprentice Nicole,
the Meister, and the Gesellin (soon to be Meisterin).
Photo: Ruhr Nachrichten, 9 December,1986.

In the end, I passed my Gesellenprüfung (journeyman's' exam) and was given this advice from the Meister - "now you can set about to prove that you are better than your exam results, a better situation than turning out to be a disappointment after". A long career in various roles has taught me that this is so very right. As an apprentice I focused on the essentials of the work, but was exposed to so much more in those special jobs that came into the shop. Our bread and butter was large batches of 100+ journal volumes/week that we bound for regional municipal, corporate, medical, legal libraries. We also did repair and rebind work for individuals, as well as special commissions such as presentation bindings, guest books, fine bindings, and restoration work. As an apprentice, I was regularly tasked with contributing to that work as my experiences allowed including disbinding, sewing, forwarding, ... Gold tooling and finishing were not part of that, but in a small shop like ours with 3-4 people doing the work, there was ample opportunity to "steal with the eyes" by observing and keeping notes. 

The skill that I came to most appreciate was the ability to "work", by which I mean the ability to look at a job (1 volume or 100), see what was needed, organize that work, and complete it without losing track of the process. Through that repetition I also learned to internalize so many processes that they became second nature. I could think about the next step (or other projects and things) while working on what was at hand and didn't need to think about how to fold that end sheet, sew that book, make those cases, stamp titles, ... It also allowed me to focus on the details. While my work as an apprentice was essentially library binding by hand, those organizational skills scaled up for special collections conservation work and everything in between. Even now, when I no longer bind or conserve in my day job (and I haven't done any binding in a year and a half) those experiences allow me to jump right back in, albeit at a slower pace (for lots of reasons).

The Meister in his happy place doing gold finishing.

Following my apprenticeship I headed to Ascona, then back to the US and lost touch with the Kleins. On my "honeymoon" in Germany as I was driving between relatives, I saw the exit that lead to the Halfmannshof where the Kunstbuchbinderei was. It had been 7.5 years since I left, and I was filled with a sense of apprehension as I pulled up into the parking lot and looked towards the bindery. I got out of the car and my wife and I walked in. The Kleins were surprised to see me again and we had a good long visit. Showing the bindery to my wife brought back many memories, and when we left we promised each other to keep in touch - we still are.

Kleins visiting me at Syracuse University Libraries in 2009.
They were on a big USA trip ...
Note the Bonefolder caps we are all wearing.

In 2009, the Kleins visited me in Syracuse on their way across the USA. It was very good to see them again, and to show them the Conservation and Preservation program I was leading at Syracuse University Libraries, the kinds of work we did for the special and circulating collections, and tell them how my experiences with them helped shape me and to develop the skills I needed to complete and mange the work, as well as teach students and work-study students.

Thank you Herr Klein for all that you taught me. You helped me become who I am (and prove that I was better than my apprenticeship grade).

His family are in my thoughts.

Rest in peace | Ruhe in Frieden

Saturday, February 3, 2024

The Prodigal Binding Returns

Once upon a time, isn't that the way most tales start, I organized my first national traveling exhibition for the Guild of Book Workers. That was the 10/'92 - 3/'94 traveling Fine Printers Finely Bound Too (Download @ 13MB). Organizing and shepherding that exhibit were an adventure, especially as I had never undertaken anything like that before ... Lots of teachable moments. 

Due to unfortunate circumstances, I also ended up designing the catalog by myself with a VERY tight deadline (HAD to be published by the opening), and had no experience doing that sort of work beyond those as high school yearbook editor a little over 12 years earlier. Fortunately, I had an excellent photographer. The rest was up to me. I worked with what I knew, namely WordPerfect 5.0 and the very limited typefaces I had available. Those were the days. Choices were informed by what I was infatuated with at the time. Not everyone was happy, but it was out on time. Again, a learning experience.

Cover to the printed catalog of Fine Printers Finely Bound Too.
(Download @ 13MB)

One of the things I made sure of was that there were plenty of copies in sheets. Binders crave books in sheets, and there were many wonderful works for inspiration within those pages. and then set about binding 2 copies in 1993. The one on the top one was for me, the bottom one a commission from the then Guild president. The technique described is what in German is referred to as the Franzband, THE fine binding structure for full-leather bindings. He presented on the technique at the 1990 Guild of Bookbinders' Standards, so read his Journal article, "The Logic and Techniques of German Bookbinding", and see the presentation handout here.

Fine Printers Finely Bound, Too. The Guild of Book Workers, New York, 1992.
Sewn on 3 frayed out cords; gray "zig-zag" endsheets and sewn red leather joint; graphite top edge; red and gray endbands. Covered in full chagrin leather with multicolored onlays in black, gray and sharkskin. Tooled in gold and blind. 24 x 16 x 1.5cm. Bound 1993.

Fine Printers Finely Bound, Too. The Guild of Book Workers, New York, 1992. Commissioned copy.
Sewn on 3 frayed out cords; gray "zig-zag" endsheets and sewn red leather joint; graphite top edge; red and gray endbands. Covered in full chagrin leather with multicolored onlays in black, gray and shark skin. Tooled in gold and blind. 24 x 16 x 1.5cm. Bound 1993.

When she retired and sold off her business, that copy disappeared for years before reappearing at an auctioneer where I got outbid. 

The first auction after eBay. I got outbid ...

It then reappeared on a dealer site for A LOT of $$. I was flattered, but yikes ... 

Dealer listing. I was flattered ...

Then they retired and off their stock and this book went to another auctioneer. 

The final auction ...
Probably could have gotten it for less, but pizza dude rang the bell, so "hail Mary" bid it was.

This time I was successful and the prodigal book returned home to be with its sibling.

Both, reunited after over 30 years ...

And, because he couldn't help himself, Fritz Otto took a close look at it. The textured shark leather onlays intrigued him...

"Interesting texture on this shark leather, and you did ok binding it ..."

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Holocaust Memorial Day and the Collins

January 27th is recognized as Holocaust Memorial Day, the day of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. With the increasing and ongoing spread of totalitarian movements, rhetoric, and imagery across the globe, it is important to remember the past and where it can lead if we are not vigilant and push back at all times.

Ernst and Else Collin from the catalog to the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung of 1929, an image of a painting by Walter Kampmann. Ernst is sitting in a chair with a book [paper], and holding a writing instrument, his head seemingly lost in thought resting in his palm. A woman, presumably his wife Else (nee Cronheim) almost has him in embrace, one hand on his right arm, with her left almost on his shoulder. More here.

Ernst and Else Collin were deported to Auschwitz on December 9th, 1942 and murdered there. But, their horrors started much earlier, officially with the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933, and their systematic exclusion from public places, education, their places of work, their ability to live their lives freely, and so much more.

III) Transportliste: 24. Osttransport mit 1061 gelisteten Namen in das KL Auschwitz, 09.12.1942.
Note the Israel or Sara in the name. These were added by the Nazis to all Jewish individuals.
Page from the Transportliste for the 24th deportation from Berlin to Auschwitz, 12.9.1942.
The address for the Collins is from the Judenhaus at Aschaffenburgerstr. 6 in Berlin where they
were picked up, most likely the now yellow building.

Image of the Transportliste from the Arolsen Archives.

From there they were taken to the freight station in Moabit where a memorial was dedicated to those deported to their deaths. Other information links their deportation train to "Gleis 17" of the Bahnhof Grunewald and to their deaths. That platform is now a memorial with the dates of the transport in steel as part of the platform. More here. The Deutsche Reichsbahn (German railways) was very complicit in these transports, and created this as a "central memorial" to those deported and the role of the railway. 

Detail from the memorial by Axel Mauruszat.

On April 1, 2014, almost 10 years ago, two Stolpersteine (Stumbling Blocks) were laid to memorialize Ernst Collin and his wife Else (nee Cronheim) in front of the entrance to their home at Cicerostr 61 in Berlin. Stolpersteine are "monuments" created by Gunter Demnig that commemorate victims of the Holocaust. They are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for an individual victim of Nazism – both those who died and survivors – who were consigned by the Nazis to prisons, euthanasia facilities, sterilization clinics, concentration camps, and extermination camps, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide". The "stones" record the name of the individual, their birthday, and their fate. In Berlin the Koordinierungsstelle Stolpersteine works together with Stolperstein Initiatives in the various city districts, in this case Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.

Photo Gerhard Schumm, 4.1.2014

Google Maps recently updated its Streetview images for Berlin, and the Stolpersteine can finally be seen, sort of.

Detail from Google Streetview of Cicerostr 61 in Berlin.



Saturday, November 18, 2023

Picturing Ernst Collin

I've always wanted to put a face to the name. In the case of Ernst Collin that was, sadly, not possible. I got excited recently when I decided to look for Ernst Collin on and found someone whose profile indicated that they had two images. As we say in German, Fehlanzeige... The images were those of the marriage certificate between Ernst Heinrich Collin and Else Cronheim that I had also found there. This was very important because for the first time I had an official, documented connection to his parents Georg Collin and Regina Collin (nee Josef) who were also listed on the certificate. Otherwise, all connections were embedded in his often-self-referential articles. In contrast, there are images of his doppelgänger Heinrich Ernst Collin-Schönfeld in the latter's papers at the Leo Baeck in New York. His marriage certificate to Margarete Weisgerber-Collin was also available in Ancestry confirming those details.

But a confirmed photo of the Ernst Collin of the Pressbengel ... has still not been found.

There was a photograph that appeared in both of Ernst's two articles about binding in fish skin (both 1934) showing the customer sizing up a fish that might be used on his binding. In that image, the customer is shown from behind and slightly to the side, but not identifiable. For me, that was Ernst, I wanted it to be him.

Is the customer at right Ernst Collin?
Holding the fish at left is Franz Martini, the binder.
Ernst took the images for the article, so was there.

A year or two after finding that image, I found a wonderfully expressionist ex-libris for an Ernst Collin that was created by Walter Kampmann in 1920. Featured in the ex-libris was a face. In circumstances like that it is easy to jump to conclusions, and I did. The ex-libris was found in a bound volume of Die Heftlade, the "modest" bookbinding journal published 1922-24 by Ernst Collin for the Jakob-Krause-Bund. The reason for trading-up was that this copy had all inserts and the remaining two issues from 1924. The Heftlade did not appear in 1923. Among the inserts was one to accompany an article on collecting ex-libris by Ernst. 

Ernst Collin ex-libris by Walter Kampmann, 1920.

It's been a while since I was actively searching for articles by, and mentions of Ernst Collin, but I recently came across the journal Exlibris Buchkunst und angewandte Grafik, volume 31, 1921. In it, an article by Ernst about Walter Kampman that also included the ex-libris above among many others. In the article Ernst also described his ex-libris, providing the confirmation that this was his, and not the "other Ernst's".  

Passage in which Ernst interprets his ex-libris.
Below, the transcribed text.

Das nächste Exlibris Ernst Collin [Beil. zw. S. 52/53] hat der Künstler dem Verfasser dieses Aufsatzes gewidmet. Es gilt dem Kunstkritiker. Dessen Kopf nimmt, ruhend auf einer Feder, die von Fingern geführt wird, die Diagonale des Bildes ein. Es soll der Kopf des Kunstkritikers sein; die Augen hinter der Brille sind geradeaus gerichtet, ein Symbol der kunstkritischen Arbeit, die, vorurteilslos und unbeeinflußt, nur geradeaus schauen darf. Es ist nicht uninteressant, hier zu erwähnen, daß der Künstler nicht beabsichtigt hat, in den Kopf eine Bildnisähnlichkeit hineinzulegen, daß mir aber von Freunden versichert worden ist, sie hätten mich sofort erkannt. Von dem Finger geht eine Treppe aus, die zu einem Hause führt; vor diesem steht der Künstler, an der Staffelei malend. Er steht auf einer Rahmenleiste, die ein nur zum Teil sichtbares Bild mit einer tanzenderscheinenden Figur umrahmt. Der Aufbau des Bildes ist sehr konzentriert, Licht und Schatten sind dem Charakter der Darstellung gemäß streng und rhythmisch verteilt. Hier kommt Kampmann, wie er es bereits bei einigen vorhergehenden, hier nicht ab gebildeten Exlibris getan hat, zu einer freieren und doch der Zeichnung sich an- und eingliedernden Anordnung der Schrift. Die aufsteigende Anordnung bei dem Eigennamen meines Exlibris scheint mir die aufbauende Arbeit des Kritikers andeuten zu sollen.

And in English with a little help from Deepl for expedience:

The artist dedicated the next bookplate to Ernst Collin [insert between p. 52/53], the author of this essay. It is dedicated to the art critic. His head, resting on a feather guided by fingers, occupies the diagonal of the picture. It is supposed to be the head of the art critic; the eyes behind the glasses are directed straight ahead, a symbol of the work of art criticism, which, unprejudiced and uninfluenced, may only look straight ahead. It is not uninteresting to mention here that the artist did not intend the head to resemble a portrait, but that I have been assured by friends that they recognized me immediately. A staircase leads from the finger to a house; the artist is standing in front of it, painting at an easel. He is standing on a frame that surrounds a picture of a dancing figure that is only partially visible. The composition of the picture is very concentrated with light and shadow distributed strictly and rhythmically in accordance with the character of the depiction. Here, as he has already done in some previous ex-libris not depicted here, Kampmann has arrived at a freer arrangement of the lettering, which nevertheless adapts and integrates itself into the drawing. The ascending arrangement of the proper name of my bookplate seems to me to indicate the critic's constructive work.

Recently, eight years later, I found yet another work by Walter Kampmann depicting Ernst Collin in the catalog to the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung of 1929. While the first was very expressionist, this one is a little less so, and depicts him in a chair with a [notebook] and holding a writing instrument, his head seemingly lost in thought resting in his palm. A woman, presumably his wife Else (nee Cronheim) almost has him in embrace, one hand on his right arm, with her left almost on his shoulder. As item 73 in the catalog, it is described as a painting (Gemälde), with the "N[G]" possibly indicating that Kampmann was a member of the "Novembergruppe", a group of expressionist artists. 

Image from the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg's 
digital collections.

The search for a photograph will continue, but given that so much of Ernst's writings were focused on the arts and art criticism these are quite lovely to view.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Disbinding Bradel, Part 3: Binding your Pappband, aka ur-Bradel

In this [final] installment I will walk through the steps of constructing the ur-Bradel, in German "Pappband" as it would have been bound at the turn of the 18th, very early 19th century. Binding. With a little planning you can make your binding as a cut-away as I did during the workshop these images were for. The images were taken from the multiple models I prepared for the workshop. I mention this in case anyone notices differences between images.

To Disbinding Bradel, Part 2: A walk through the German bookbinding literature, in which I will focus on the evolution of that which defines this structure – the spine piece and board attachment. 

Make endpapers:

Endpapers at this time were most often plain and very similar to the text paper. The most common construction was one of the "hooked" variants that were sewn along with the first and last signatures. 

Fritz Otto inspecting the hooked end sheet in this 1825 imprint.

Below, two endpaper constructions to choose from for this binding model. These were some of the more common at the time. I chose one of each.

These endpapers would have been "hooked" around the first and last signatures, then sewn.
From "Vorsätze im Buch", Archiv für Buchbinderei,
Vol 13, 1913. Pp 66-71. English translation at HathiTrust

From Blaser, Linda, "Development of Endpapers",
the Guild of Book Workers Journal, Vol 32, Nr. 1.
Also in AIC’s Wiki.

The end leaves can be left longer at the fore-edge, and trimmed back later. Common to these are the guards and/or waste sheets to the outside. After sewing and backing, the cover would be built up on these guards.


These books would have been sewn on sawed-in or untwisted cords. Later, tapes would also have been used. For our binding, we will untwist 3 sets of 4 or 6 "cord", one for each sewing station. The untwisted cords will be laid next to each other flat, the width used for punching holes as if sewing on 3 tapes. 

Make a template and pre-punch the sewing holes from the inside out using a sewing needle. A “sewing gauge” for spacing buttons makes this easy.

Using the "sewing gauge".

Alternatively, take a piece of paper the height of the text block, mark kettle stitches at ca 1 cm from ends, taking into consideration the final trim size, fold in half, then half agains. This evenly divides the spine into 3 sewing stations plus kettles without math. For our template, make marks to either side of the three "folds" in the middle (not the kettle stitches). 

Template for punching sewing holes.

We sewed on the untwisted cords rather than regular twisted cords due to a lack of sewing frames at the workshop venue. Sewing on untwisted cords allowed all to easily compact the signatures as with tapes. Transfer the marks from measuring to a folded piece of scrap paper or thin card like from file folders to make your template for pre-punching, or sawing-in as would have been done in the past.

After punching all your holes, make sure they all align and using a pencil, make some marks across the width of the spine at one end to serve as a visual guide, especially if alignment of the sewing holes is slightly off-center.


Begin sewing the first signature, leaving out the cords. When you get to the end, insert the cords under the threads, and tape the ends to the edge of your bench. This is in lieu of a sewing frame, and how I sew on tapes or vellum slips.

While sewing, ensure that this is even and taut. Use your folder to rub down sections as you go. This will help create a more solid text block.

Apply narrow bead of adhesive at fold of 2nd and 2nd to last (the “text” sections), but make sure not to go beyond that hooked guard. Then make sure all is aligned and the folds line up, and rub down. Trim end leaves at foredge using adjacent text section as guide.
Holding on to one end of the cords, pull on the other to ensure that there is no bunching up under the sewing.

Glue up spine between cords and at ends. Make sure text block is square and signatures line up. Let dry.

Sewn and glued up text block.
Note marks across spine at right side
to ensure signature orientation.

Round and back text block:

Round and back to ca 45 degrees, with the base of the shoulder ca. two board thicknesses from top of the shoulder. The thread should provide enough swell for this to happen organically, but gentle backing helps define the shoulder.


Shaping the spine with the Kashiereisen, also known as a grattoir/frottoir
For more, go to this postThe one used was made by Jeff Peachey..

Smoothing the spine with the other end. 

Height of shoulder relative to board thickness.

Fraying out the cords:

Next, we will fray out the cords and adhere to the guards. Tease apart the individual fibers of the cords using a needle. Then use an Aufschabeblech (fray shield) and a flat blade to thin the cords and work out knots… To view this tool being used go to. IF you don’t have a fray shield, lay a piece of smooth/hard cardstock or board under the cords to be frayed instead. Jeff Peachey sells a very nice fray shield. If sewn on tapes, adhere the tapes to the guards at this time.

The cords after fraying out with the fray shield.
After teasing the fibers of the cord apart, they are slipped into
the notch, and a bookbinders' knife is used to finish and make
them silky smooth.

Apply glue to guard, paste to cords, and fan out cords on guards, smoothing with folder as Fritz Otto demonstrates.

Fanning out the frayed-out cords on the guard.

The finished result. He Fritz Otto could have done a better job
on the one at left, but still better than not fraying at all...

This part very typical of German bindings. The same process can be used with Ramieband, and German-style sewing tapes, resulting in the sewing support being far less visible, if at all under the endpapers.

Endbands and spine lining:

Hand-sewn endbands would have been rare on bindings using this structure, so in lieu of weaving them, we will make very simple stuck-on ones out of cotton muslin. Glue/paste out the cord, twist tighter, and roll back and forth on wastepaper until smooth and round. Taking a piece of scrap board, make a cut on each side and stretch cord across, using the tight fit of the cuts to hold cord taut. Glue out fabric slip underneath, fold over, and pull taut around cord with folder.

The cord stretched and held taut with the fabric before and after.

Finally, line spine with robust paper.

The gebrochener Rücken:

The gebrochener Rücken is the essence of this binding style.

During the time of our model, this was constructed from a single piece of heavier card as above. Sixty+ years later, it began to be made from strong paper and a piece of card just the width of the spine as shown in the images below from Adam, Paul. Die praktischen Arbeiten des Buchbinders (1898) and Practical Bookbinding (1903).

"Gebrochener Pappbandrücken" (1898) at left,
translated as "spring back" (1903) at right.

To make our spine piece, cut a strip of heavy paper (e.g. Cave Paper heavy weight or Iowa PC4 if you can find some) that is taller than the text block and wider than the spine by 3 - 4 cm on each side. Measure the spine at the widest point (over cords) using a strip of paper. Transfer the marking for the width of the spine, centered to the top and bottom of the strip. 

Measuring the spine.

Next, Using a rule and sharp bone folder (or metal folder) crease from top to bottom, and fold. Next flip strip over and using same method crease two lines ca 4mm to outside of the first line and fold. Finally, round gently (to match round of text block) on edge of your bench or with a folder. 

Creased, folded and rounded to fit.

Then, edge pare the long sides so that the step under the pastedown will be less pronounced.

Paring the edge of the long sides.

Finally, round and attach the spine piece, aka the "gebrochener Rücken" to the text block. 

"Gebrochener Rücken" attached to the text block.

There are two methods of doing this.
  1. Adhesive is applied from the innermost crease outward so that the spine piece is connected to the text block from the fold at the top of the shoulder on.
  2. Adhesive is applied from the outermost crease outward so that the spine piece is connected to the text block from the base of the shoulder outwards.
Both methods are described in the literature, but the first is more common, especially in later manuals. 

As the structure evolved from a single piece to the modern version with a spine stiffener cut to the width of the spine that is adhered to a strong piece of paper the first became the rule.

On the left, the "ur-Bradel" one-piece spine, on the right the later
2-piece. The image at right is from the first book structure I learned,
and was bound during my 1984 internship in Nuremberg.

Adhering from the top of the should onwards provides for a better text block to cover connection and reduces what I would describe as premature shaken/loose hinges in the context of book repair. With the heavier paper used for this one-piece spine piece, openability will be a little stiffer, but when joints are set with modern bindings this is not an issue.


First, let's make the boards so that they have a chance to dry. Laminate 3 or more plys (to equal height of shoulder) each of a heavy water color paper like Khadi, Cave Paper, or similar to make the boards. For this model I used 640gsm "rough" Khadi. [Note: I usually make these as one of the first steps so they are dry, flat, and ready for use at this stage]

The board layers on the completed cut-away model.

Rough cut the sheets you'll be making the boards from so that they are oversized all around. We'll trim later. Glue out the outer layers and adhere to the inner layer to make sure the pull is even. Put in press, crank, take out after 1 minute, put between binders’ board/blotter, and under weight to dry. 

Next, attach the boards (still oversized) to the spine piece, aligning just to the outside of the crease at the base of the shoulder. Put in press and give good nip. Note, in addition to paper, this structure was also used for bindings in cloth, leather, and parchment. Depending on the thickness of the covering material adjust the placement of the board outwards. For leather, the material was generally not worked into the groove as it would be for paper, cloth, or parchment.
View of board attachment from inside with layers.

Both boards are attached.

Trimming boards and spine:

Next, trim the boards to the final size. To do this traditionally, the German binder would have used an edge-trimming rule that was made with raised “lips” (Kantenlineal) that came in various widths that represented the typical squares that would have been used.

Cutting the squares using a Kantenlineal.

An alternative is to tape/glue together strips of board so the thickness of the 2 layers equals the desired square. Place this flat against the edge of the text block to mark your squares, then use a regular straight-edge to trim.

Alternatively, mark the squares slightly taller than the endbands all around, and using a rule and sharp knife (box cutter recommended) trim the boards all around. Finally, use scissors to cut spine stiffener to height. A board shear would be cheating...


Open the book, spine down, on the bench and carefully slit the guard where it is attached to the spine at top and bottom (like a hollow) so that the turn-ins can be made. Also tear away any excess from the guard or waste sheet.

Slit for turn-ins on completed model.

Cut the covering paper to size so that there is 2 cm turn-in all around.

Glue/paste out the entire covering paper. Next, position the text block on the paper so that the turn-ins are even at top, bottom, and foredge.

Flip over at edge of table, smooth out and carefully work into groove (A clean piece of paper between covering paper and folder will help protect covering. Next rub down on spine, flip over again, work into groove and then smooth across other board.

Next, turn-in starting with top/bottom edges, then foredge. When dry, trim out so that the squares are even.

Turned-in and trimmed out.

Glue/paste out the doublure and put down. Insert thin cards between board and fly leaves and give nip in press, allow to dry under weight.

The completed model.
Note the cutaway in the center and the untrimmed board sections,
including at the tail of the book.

All the models bound during the workshop.
The day was filled with lots of "do as I say, not as I do" moments...
Fritz Otto for scale.

To Disbinding Bradel, Part 2: A walk through the German bookbinding literature, in which I will focus on the evolution of that which defines this structure – the spine piece and board attachment. 

Hands-on instructions for modern variants:

As always, I welcome questions, references to additional sources, and other thoughts via the comments. Just remember to cite those sources. Thank you