Recently I visited the book bindery in Colonial Williamsburg. The bookbinder creates beautiful hand made books, both paperback and with leather covers. As an author who has self-published four of my own books, I appreciate an excellent product. As a leatherworker, I appreciate a properly bound leather book. Having said that, no one would ever pay me what I would have to charge for a copy of my novel hand bound in a tooled leather binding! It’s completely understandable why books were so expensive in colonial times–and they had the advantage of a printing press to create the actual written pages.
Granted, the bookbinder didn’t usually bind books he’d written. The printer would set the type, print multiple book pages on one sheet, then fold, sew and cut the pages to make each signature. The signatures are sewn together.
The front cover is actually tied to the back cover with rope. That is what gives leather bindings the corded look on the spine. Colonial covers were stamped with basic designs, but I’d have to tool designs into the leather. I am so excited by seeing this process first hand, I can hardly wait to create some leather-bound blank books!