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    Handbound Book - Friendship is Optimal

    Heya folks,

    Wanted to share a project I've recently finished up. This is a copy of Friendship is Optimal that I typeset using Xelatex and then printed and bound. Final results first then a quick write up showing the process will come after.

    Completed Book:


    Title Page:

    Read More

    6 comments · 1,242 views

Handbound Book - Friendship is Optimal · 7:46pm Mar 1st, 2018

Heya folks,

Wanted to share a project I've recently finished up. This is a copy of Friendship is Optimal that I typeset using Xelatex and then printed and bound. Final results first then a quick write up showing the process will come after.

Completed Book:


Title Page:

Inside the book:

The text was typeset using Xelatex and the Memoir class. Final dimensions were 12x17x1.1 cm. With the covers the whole book is 12.9x17.9x2.3 cm. The book itself is composed of multiple signatures with 4 sheets each (16 pages) that are sewn together on linen tape. The covers were then attached to the tape and then the cover art and endpapers glued on.

I choose Friendship is Optimal as this is the first actual book I've bound and wanted a story that I enjoyed but that was also reasonably short. As most of putting this together was learning everything it was best to keep the scope of the actual work down. Clocking in at a little less than 40K words Friendship is Optimal was exactly what was needed for a starter project. Turns out typesetting a book is actually a ton of work, way more than had been initially anticipated. I'll include a link at the bottom to the final .tex files if anyone wants to take a look.

So, let's walk through how this book was constructed.

Firstly is the typesetting. This is the process of taking the source text, laying it out and apply formatting. To start I used Fimf2XeTex (thanks to vs49688 for writing that) which is a script that pulls a story from fimfiction and preserves a good deal of the formatting. After this I modified the document with a template I made to resize the text, place headers/footers and chapter titles. The chapter headers also have some simple somewhat pixelated numbers which fit nicely with the book. Though this was the largest chunk of work there isn't much to say about it.

Once the book was typeset the pages had to be prepped for printing. As mentioned earlier the pages are grouped into 4 sheet signatures. A signature is just a small booklet of pages. Each sheet of paper will have four pages on it. Two front and two back. Also the pages are not placed one after another but instead need to be alternated to ensure they wind up in the proper positions after the sheets are grouped up. So page 1 and 16 and printed side by side. Then 2 and 15, 3 and 14. You get the picture. Fortunately this is easy to do with a Latex package called pdfpages.

\usepackage[paperwidth=11in, paperheight=8in]{geometry}
\includepdf[pages=-,signature*=16, landscape, angle=90, noautoscale=true, frame=false]{friendship_is_optimal.pdf}

That's it! With that I now had a pdf that was ready for printing.

The book itself was printed on Mohawk White 24lb paper. This paper was a little more expensive than standard copy paper but is really smooth and isn't quite the stark white of most printer paper. Feels great to handle and took the ink pretty well.

Once printed the sheets were folded in half and grouped. Next up is cutting the holes for sewing. The text block is placed in a vice and then I used a small saw with very fine teeth to cut holes where the thread will go.

Here you can see the text block ready for sewing:

The sewing is a fairly straightforward process. First three linen tapes are fastened in place perpendicular to the spine. Start in one signature and bring the thread in and out of each hole going overtop of the linen tape. Each time the thread goes over the tape it is looped through the thread from the lower signature. This ensures that the thread for each signature is wrapped around the thread for both the signature above and below. At the ends where there is no tape a kettle stitch is used. This just means the thread is looped around the lower thread before moving up into the next signature.

Partway through the sewing in the little jig I have rigged up:

The final sewn text block:

Those tapes are left long as they'll be used to attach the covers. However, before that the textblock needs to be trimmed as the edges are rather ragged and the pages were printed on sheets that were too large. Traditionally books are trimmed using a book plough. As I don't have one of those I improvised using a very sharp chisel and a vice. With the textblock in the vice the chisel is held flat and dragged along the edge of the book. This removes one or two pages per pass. While time consuming the results are a near perfect smooth edge.

The partially trimmed book:

At this point the textblock could be considered complete and the covers could be attached. However, for this project I decided to include some endbands. Endbands are the little bits of cloth at the top and bottom of some books. Often they are purely decorative and simply glued on. Endbands can also be structural and provide support for the book when pulling it off a shelf. When we pull a book off a shelf we'll often grab the book by the top edge with our finger and pull. This puts stress on the cover. If there is a structural endband it can instead catch your finger and transfer the force directly into the spine of the textblock.

For this book the endbands are woven from three threads over a linen core with the bead on the edge. This is a pretty simple endband. I used silk thread and tried to get colours that would match Celestia's mane. While not quite a perfect match they are still quite pretty.

Here it is from the back when partially done:

And here it is from the front when completed:

As it is sewn into every signature the endband also conforms to the shape of the book quite nicely:

With those attached the ribbon needs to be glued on and then we are ready to attach the boards:

Next up the boards are attached. As the book was a bit small I decided to double up and use two sheets of thin book board for each cover. This resulted in a cover that is perhaps a bit too thick but I really like how it has a nice bit of weight. The covers are attached simply by sandwiching the linen tape between the two boards that are glued together.

The attached boards:

For the spine I decided to do a hollow back. This means that there is a gap between the cover and the spine of the text block. This leaves room for the textblock to bend when the book is open. What's really nice about this is that the book can lay almost flat when open. You know how a lot of cheap paperbacks just snap shut when you let go? I hate that. Makes it harder to hold and read the book. This way the book can open easily.

To do a hollow back first a piece of linen is cut to the height of the textblock and a little more than double the width. The linen is then sewn into a little tube and this is glued to the back of the text block. After that I put a very thin piece of chipboard over the linen tube to create a tougher spine. It just feels a bit nicer to handle this way.

The constructed book:

At the point the book is completely functional but not particularly pretty. The last steps are to attach the cover art and endpapers. The cover art is a vector I did up in inkscape:

The endpapers are decorative papers that are attached inside the cover of the book:

Fortunately I have a wide format printer that can handle some pretty large sheets of paper so I could print the cover off myself. It measured 30.8x 20.3 cm. Just a bit larger than what a standard printer can handle. Once the prints were done I coated them with 2 layers of this matte archival varnish. Unfortunately this left the paper with a somewhat tacky feel but it's not too noticeable and more importantly the ink is well protected.

The last steps are both simple and nerve wracking. The cover art has to be glued to the covers. But any mistakes at this point are very hard to undo and would ruin all the work up until this point. Nonetheless it turned out near perfect.

Inside after cover has been glued to the outside but not yet wrapped around:

To cover the gap between the cover and the textblock I had attached some cardstock to either end of the bookblock back during sewing. Now I take that piece of cardstock and cut a tab and fold that onto the cover as well as wrapping the cover art around the board. The nice thing about attaching this little tab between the cover and text block is that opening the cover actually pulls a bit on the text block and helps pull it open. That wasn't my intention but the end result is a pleasant surprise.

Before endpapers have been attached:

Lastly the endpaper are glued to the inside of the cover:

And that's it! The book is now assembled and ready to read.

Here's one more look at the finished book:

All the files for this project can be found here on gitlab. That includes the svgs I made for the cover art and endpapers as well as the .tex files and the generated pdfs.

Well, that's book number 1 down. Time to get started on the next one!

Report CopperGear · 1,242 views ·
Comments ( 6 )

That's rad.

Noble Artisan
"Yes, I realize the irony of rewarding you for taking something digital and making it physical."
+1000 Bits

Whohoo! Gotta badge! Now to figure out where to spend digital bits.

You should also link this on the Optimalverse forum. People would be impressed.

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