Designing a Book

How to Design a Book, Granan style

I always enjoy the design phase of making a book.  The possibilities seem endless and I get to play with dozens of sheets of great paper. I can start from many places: a piece of leather for a spine, a engaging engraving, an idea that crosses my mind or even just a title.  Usually, however I start with the outside cover. Certain papers just demand to be used. The photo below shows my latest batch of candidates.

These were the five papers I was thinking about using for covers.  I have found that it is easiest to work on several books at once, so one day I am gluing or sewing or cutting.  I have done as many as six at a time, but the best number is four.  It divides  the work into blocks that are efficient, but never boringly repetitious.

From these papers I left off the flame-like pattern in the upper left as I had recently done some similar patterns. Next step is to find some complimentary paper for the endpapers.  I some times use the same paper, but not in any of these.

First up was the map that I had marbled.  I wanted to use more maps inside, but didn’t have more of the same piece.

The map I’ve chosen for the cover is in the center, surrounded by possible candidates for endpapers. Since you don’t see the endpapers and the cover of a book at the same time, it doesn’t have to be an exact match. I try to pick something that either echoes or picks up a contrast from the cover.

Here are the choices I was considering for the black palm pattern.  Again, the cover is in the center.

I had a lot of trouble with this selection as all these papers have very bold designs and seemed to fight with each other.  The next day, as I was choosing what paper to use for the textblock, I reconsidered and pulled out a new batch,

that aren’t hand marbled.  I was much happier with this selection.

I had forgotten about the papyrus I wanted to use, so I eliminated the second black marbled piece.  With the papyrus, I also had to go through two rounds.  The first were some Egyptian-themed papers, but I wasn’t happy with them.


   So I tried two other colorways   and liked them much better.












I did chose one, but I think I’ll do one of the others later.


The last cover was very easy.  I am using a piece of my marbling that I really love and the endpapers were made at the same time from some of the same colors.

The next step in the design process is to select the paper for the interior pages or textblock.  I frequently use Strathmore Drawing paper.  It is the white paper at upper left. It has a nice heft and has a lovely feel, but with this batch I used some other choices.  The gray and tan papers are Canson Pastel paper.  These are my selections for covers, endpapers and text paper.
The cover papers are on the right of each sector, endpapers on the left and the text on top.
Do you agree with my choices?  Which papers would you have picked?  Let me know in your comment.
After choosing the paper for the text block, I have to decide on the shape of the book.  If you look at my books, you can see that they are all different shapes and sizes. Some sizes are determined by the size of the papers.  I buy the Strathmore papers in 18″ x 24″ pads so they make good 6″ x 12″ sheets which means one page is 6″ x 6″.  I get tired of square books and frequently “waste” paper by making other sizes.  Sometimes I plan ahead and make one small book and one regular book  from the same paper.
Sometimes the shape is dictated by the pattern on the cover, for example, these butterflies needed a large format.
Two of the cover papers I’m working with this time were small pieces that are just large enough to cover a smaller book.  Once I know the size, I can start cutting the paper.  If there is a deckle edge, I tear that one sheet at a time.  Straight cuts I make with a straight edge and a snap knife.  I used to always use a scalpel but have been converted to the snap knife because of their low cost and the ease of getting a new cutting edge. They dull quickly, especially when cutting paper with any metallic paint, but a new edge is just a snap away.
Creating a deckle edge on the paper.
Ready to cut the sheet into pages.
This is almost the end of the design phase, just the titles and frontispieces to go.  I’ve added them to my page on that topic, so please go here to continue the saga.

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