Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Making Embossed Cover Designs

Historically, the vast majority of hand bound books featured plain, unadorned covers. Ornate designs were something reserved for truly special works where the considerable cost of decorative styling reflected the owner's appreciation for the contents. It was a way of saying "This book is special and precious."

Decades of artistic depictions of fantasy grimoires and tomes have reinforced the idea that their covers should reflect the unique nature of the contents. After all, what could be more precious than a book filled with the mystical secrets of the universe? The prototypical book of dark knowledge is decorated with arcane symbols and eldritch figures that set it apart from more mundane works.

Anyone interested in crafting such a tome will find this tutorial from Karleigh Jae invaluable. The two part video shows her technique for creating embossed designs on a leather cover. It's aimed at users with some moderate bookbinding experience, but even a novice will find her directions easy to understand.


GB Steve said...

It seems expensive to use a whole sheet of leather to form the embossing, wouldn't some thick card do instead?

CoastConFan said...

Keep in mind the primary reason for stout boards and banding books was to keep the leaves compressed to stop warping and keep humidity out. The secondary reason would be to provide a latch clasp, which might contain a lock to keep out intruders. A locked book always invites curiosity as to why a tome would be restricted. In some medieval and renaissance libraries books were even chained to their shelf to reduce theft; the chain being long enough to let the book be laid down on the reading platform of the shelf. I’d like to see some of the excellent prop makers out there make a medieval scriptorium chained book. Imagine a small shelf with a dozen rare forbidden tomes, all chained, bound and locked, so dire the lore they contain and set within a portable bookcase that also functions as a book trunk or cabinet.

Stella Anderson said...


That would indeed be awesome. I've tucked that idea away in my brain to look into at some time in the future.

Unknown said...

GB Steve: Yes, I have used bookboard, wood and hemp cord under the leather to create my designs. You can see more of them at badgerandchirp on Etsy. We make a ton of books (thousands a year) so we have hoards of leather scraps and none ever go to waste. :)

And thanks to Propnomicon for featuring our tutorial. We have a series of blog posts for beginners if anyone is interested in learning more about bookbinding.