Upcoming Workshop. Cloth Case Bindings: Their History and Repair. October 24-28, 2016. Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia


October 24-28, 2016

Instructor: Jeff Peachey

Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

For almost 200 years, the cloth case binding has been the standard way publishers issue books. Throughout the nineteenth century, and even into the twentieth, it was often derided by bibliophiles as a temporary structure, not a ‘real’ book. However, it has proved to be a remarkably durable structure, now commonly used by conservators when rebinding books, by fine small press publications, and in library binding.  Quite likely, there are more cloth cased books than any other rigid board book structure on earth. 

This 5-day workshop will investigate the history of the cloth case binding, concentrating on the early years, 1825-1850. We will parse historic texts that describe this structure, while paying close attention to the introduction of four key pieces of machinery: the rolling press, the board shear, the guillotine, and the stamping press. Boards bindings will be considered as an industrial precursor to the cloth case, and we will make a structural model following a technical description from Cowie’s 1828 The Bookbinder’s Manual. By focusing on historic techniques, this workshop will also serve as introduction or refresher to the essential bookbinding hand-skills. Additionally, we will explore options for conserving and repairing cloth cased books by working on actual books provided by participants. Treatment options presented will include recasing, cloth rebacking, tissue repairs, hinge repairs, and boxing. Basic paper repairs, techniques of toning tissue and cloth, spine lining considerations, and the lifting of fragile material will be addressed. Discussions will include treatment decision making in relationship to specific institutional needs or the desires of private clients.

This workshop is open to all levels of experience: pre-program students, technicians, and mid-career conservators who desire a full time week at the bench. Ideally, a variety of participant experience levels will result in an invigorating exchange of information on binding techniques, institutional protocols, and treatment approaches.  Students should bring 5-10 non-valuable cloth cased books that can be sacrificed or repaired, and basic bookbinding tools.

Students should submit a resume and a brief one paragraph application statement, reviewing their background in bookbinding, book conservation, or other crafts, and stating what they hope to learn.

Workshop Fee: $650 which includes materials.

Application deadline: July 15, 2016.

The application, or questions about the facilities/ housing options/ transportation (Morrow is close to Atlanta) should be sent to Kim Norman: Kim <dot> Norman <at> usg <dot> edu

Other questions about the class should be sent to me.

Historic Book Structures for Conservators Workshop, 2015

I’m really excited about this summers Historic Book Structures for Conservators, which will be held at The Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library. July 1-31, 2015. This is a fantastic opportunity for serious students and professional conservators who want to eat, drink, live and breath historic book structures for an uninterrupted month. The icing on the cake— no tuition!


This month long course is designed to refine basic bookbinding bench skills and to explore historic book structures in the context of the conservation of books as historic artifacts. It will be held at The Winterthur <http://www.winterthur.org&gt;, a museum, garden and library consisting of 1,000 acres of rolling meadows, gardens and woodlands. The focus will be on books bound in-boards from the 16th through 19th centuries. Readings in bookbinding history, researching book structures and creating models of historic structures are the basis of the course. Class presentations, several written essays and an independent project are required. This course is intended for pre-program through mid-career participants who are passionate about book conservation. Class size is limited.

Application requirements include a personal statement on the relavence of this class to your work and career, a portfolio of bookbinding or book conservation treatments that exhibits attention to detail, and a recommendation from a professional in the conservation or preservation field. Students will receive a full scholarship for tuition and can live on the the grounds of the Winterthur for nominal charge. International applications are encouraged. Students will have to supply their own hand tools, pay travel expenses, food, and a materials fee. Students will have 24/7 access to the workshop and a graduate level conservation library.

This class is intended to develop bookbinding skills, work on a portfolio for graduate school or job applications, or even for mid-carrear conservators wishing to recharge their batteries.


I will need four things from you.

1) A one page personal statement on your interest in book history/ book conservation and how this class will help you in your career.

2) Your resume or cv.

3) A portfolio of bookbindings and/ or book conservation treatments that exhibits hand skills and attention to detail. This can be submitted in person if you live near NYC, online or you can send me the images. They need to be at a high enough resolution to evaluate craft skills. You should submit three books, with one or two overall shots and one or two details of each. Please include a one paragraph description of the piece or treatment: when you did it, how it was made, materials, techniques, and other information you would like to include.

4) A letter of recommendation from a professional in the conservation or preservation field, or a teacher who is familiar with your work.

After reviewing the above material, finalists will be interviewed by telephone or Skype. Please contact me if you have any questions.

The deadline for application is March 15, 2015.

Decisions regarding acceptance will be made by April 1, 2015.

The class will be held July 1-31, 2015 at the The Wintertour, Delaware, USA.

Cobden-Sanderson’s Workshop

cobden sanderson workshop

Cobden-Sanderson’s Workshop, Illustrated London News, March 1890, p. 323. My Collection.

Updated 25 Nov. 2013. The above attribution was handwritten on the top of the page the image was on; unfortunately it is incorrect. If anyone knows where this is from please let me know.

The quality of Cobden-Sanderson’s work is perhaps only matched by the size of his ego. In true arts and crafts fashion, he raises handwork—especially his handwork— to almost godlike status. His quasi-religious writings are hard to swallow, but his bindings are really beautiful. I’ve had the opportunity to see many of them and to work on a couple of them as well. They are quite refreshing from much of the trade work of the day. Unfortunately, many of the materials he used are often poor quality. The books I’ve been able to see the structure of have common late nineteenth century structural weaknesses: very thin slips, tissue thin leather jointed endsheets, and overly pared covering leather. Ironically, in the article he wrote to accompany the above illustration, he derided “temporary” bindings, like the cloth case, which have often survived in better condition than his bound books.

The studio or workshop of a craftsman often tantalizing in the details of tools and equipment. Cobden-Sanderson and Anne, his wife (he also took her surname, unusual for the time) work in a domestic interior, an English parlor. There are not many tools or much equipment pictured, a chest of drawers on the left, perhaps for storage, a two-rod nipping press with typically English ball ends on the handle. I think this is sitting on a woodworking bench with a leg vice, not a lying press: only one wood screw handle is visible. Reportedly, Cobden-Sanderson was also quite interested in wood carving around this time. Anne sits in the corner next to the fireplace sewing on a frame that is resting on a small table. It appears a paste pot sits on a stool, next to some books stored on their fore edge (!) on a bookshelf. Other tools and tennis (or squash?) rackets hang on the wall. Cobden Sanderson sits on a high workbench, wearing a very long work apron. Just behind him is a freestanding gas finishing stove. On his right is another sewing frame, with a dedicated stool. The central placement of the finishing stove reflects his emphasis on tooling, which was considered the creative aspect of bookbinding at the time.

Cobden-Sanderson, and the arts and crafts movement in general, tried to wrestle bookbinding away from machines, and machine like hand-work as practiced by the large trade binderies of the day. His workshop suggests a smaller, more intimate surrounding is a way to accomplish this, a return to an idealized medieval past. In Cobden-Sanderson’s workshop, craft is integrated into the life of the craftsman, the workshop and the home united.


The  top illustration is after a photograph reproduced in Marianne Tidcombe The Bookbindings of T.J. Cobden-Sanderson: A Study of His Work, 1884-93, London: The British Library, 1984. In the case of this image, there is little doubt that it accurately describes his workplace.