Secret Belgian Binding

I'm learning a new binding in a workshop at BookWorks: Secret Belgian binding. Book artist Hedi Kyle is credited with rediscoveing this historic binding, attributed to the Belgians. It uses an exposed sewing to bind the text block to cover boards and a separate spine, with the spine held in place only by the threads passing over and under it. In addition to its beauty, it's considered a very sturdy binding. Laurie Corral, who's teaching the class (she's also BookWorks' founder and director) has paced the class well -- three evenings over three weeks -- so that the students are not rushed and can both learn and enjoy the experience. (In my photo of Laurie, she's cutting paper on BookWorks' massive guillotine, about which I lust, wishing that I could build a room simply to house such a lovely and functional object.)

This week we sewed our text block using tapes (see photo). It was the first time I'd worked with tapes, and I can see the value. It's a lovely, simple stitch, and relaxing to sew, especially in a group. We were joined by Andy Farkas (writer, printmaker and book artist), who was working in the studio, in talking a bit about the definition of an "artist's book." The $64,000 question. (Here's Wikipedia's attempt).

For me, it's a book wherein the content and the form are so closely intertwined that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Naturally that begs the question of how you define the "book" part of the equation, since an artist's book need not have a traditional book form, so mine is at best a partial description. Andy's definition focused on the work being created in its entirety by the artist. He agreed that content needs to be referenced in a definition, if only to suggest the artist's choice of no content. This started me thinking about whether, in fact, an artist's book can have no content. Or, can a viewer ever look at an artist's book without ascribing content to it? Or to take it further, isn't an artist's intent to omit content itself the content? Better minds than mine are no doubt wrestling -- or ignoring -- questions such as these, so BookGirl will sit it out for now.

The rest of the pix are of a book Laurie made with the SB binding, of the first signature after being sewn onto the tapes (Tyvek strips affixed to the side of the work table with adhesive tape), and of a sewing card with alternate views of the outside and the inside of the binding. I can't wait to hold my finished book in my hands.


Carol said...

I know this post was nearly a year ago but I've just found it. I really like the Secret Belgian binding and I learned the method in New Zealand. I prefer to sew on tapes or cords and I think the more you do the more secure you will feel with them.

bijou research said...

Hi, im desperately trying to find someone in the area that can do a binding project for me--i dont know if u check this blog but, I really need to get started on this because the deadline is coming!!!
I wonder if you can contact me, maybe its something u could do? my name is margaret. 828-293-0709
or anyone out there in western NC who can help me! PS: biltmore press is useless i strongly DONT recommend them for anything other than a normal brochure...terrible

Tina said...

Could you explain how the text block is attached to the cover since you are sewing to tapes first? Other instructions I have found indicate the signatures should be sewn in, one at a time, after the cover is made.

Anonymous said...

Great post! and very informative too, also the tracks wasn't bad enough, It's a shame because I don't have time to come across this blog every day.
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Patti said...

Hey Bookgirl. I am trying to find someone who knows how to do the SBB so I can ask a few questions about it. I did it right, but there were a few things I wanted to find out about it. I saw you did your text block first, can I ask you about that.
my email is: patti.harden@gmail.com and also on blog spot at jackofart.blogspot.com
thank you

annamaria said...

buon giorno,
molto bella la cucitura, vorrei chiedere un miglior tutorial dei punti e come cucire i piatti di copertina grazie anna, angelobiondoa@libero.it