Bookbinding, and the Care of Books, by Douglas Cockerell

Chapter XVI

Designing for Gold-Tooled Decoration

Designing Tools

For gold tooling, such tools as gouges, dots, pieces of straight line, and fillets are to be had ready-made at most dealers. Other tools are best designed and cut to order. At first only a few simple forms will be needed, such as one or two flowers of different sizes, and one or two sets of leaves (see Fig. 100).

Fig. 100 (reduced)
Fig. 100 (reduced)

In designing tools, it must be borne in mind that they may appear on the book many times repeated, and so must be simple in outline and much conventionalised. A more or less naturalistic drawing of a flower, showing the natural irregularities, may look charming, but if a tool is cut from it, any marked irregularity becomes extremely annoying when repeated several times on a cover. So with leaves, unless they are perfectly symmetrical, there should be three of each shape cut, two curving in different directions, and the third quite straight (see Fig. 101). To have only one leaf, and to have that curved, produces very restless patterns. The essence of gold-tool design, is that patterns are made up of repeats of impressions of tools, and that being so, the tools must be so designed that they will repeat pleasantly, and in practice it will be found that any but simple forms will become aggressive in repetition.

Fig. 101.
Fig. 101.

Designs for tools should be made out with Indian ink on white paper, and they may be larger than the size of the required tool. The tool-cutter will reduce any drawing to any desired size, and will, from one drawing, cut any number of tools of different sizes. Thus, if a set of five leaves of the same shape is wanted, it will only be necessary to draw one, and to indicate the sizes the others are to be in some such way as shown at Fig. 102.

It is not suggested that special tools should be cut for each pattern, but the need of new tools will naturally arise from time to time, and so the stock be gradually increased. It is better to begin with a very few, and add a tool or two as occasion arises, than to try to design a complete set when starting.

Fig. 102.
Fig. 102.

Tools may be solid or in outline. If in outline they may be used as “inlay” tools, and in ordering them the tool-cutter should be asked to provide steel punches for cutting the inlays.

Combining Tools to Form Patterns

It is well for the student to begin with patterns arranged on some very simple plan, making slight changes in each succeeding pattern. In this way an individual style may be established. The usual plan of studying the perfected styles of the old binders, and trying to begin where they left off, in practice only leads to the production of exact imitations, or poor lifeless parodies, of the old designs. Whereas a pattern developed by the student by slow degrees, through a series of designs, each slightly different from the one before it, will, if eccentricities are avoided, probably have life and individual interest.

Perhaps the easiest way to decorate a binding is to cover it with some small repeating pattern. A simple form of diaper as a beginning is shown at Fig. 104. To make such a pattern cut a piece of good, thin paper to the size of the board of a book, and with a pencil rule a line about an eighth of an inch inside the margin all round. Then with the point of a fine folder that will indent, but not cut the paper, mark up as shown in Fig. 103. The position of the lines A A and B B are found by simply folding the paper, first side to side, and then head to tail. The other lines can be put in without any measurement by simply joining all points where lines cross. By continual re-crossing, the spaces into which the paper is divided can be reduced to any desired size. If the construction lines are accurately put in, the spaces will all be of the same size and shape. It is then evident that a repeating design to fill any one of the spaces can be made to cover the whole surface.

Fig. 103.
Fig. 103.

In Fig. 104, it is the diagonal lines only that are utilised for the pattern. To avoid confusion, the cross lines that helped to determine the position of the diagonals are not shown.

Fig. 104 (reduced)
Fig. 104 (reduced)

The advantage of using the point of a folder to mark up the constructional lines of a pattern instead of a pencil, is that the lines so made are much finer, do not rub out, and do not cause confusion by interfering with the pattern. Any lines that will appear on the book, such as the marginal lines, may be put in with a pencil to distinguish them.

Having marked up the paper, select a flower tool and impress it at the points where the diagonal lines cross, holding it in the smoke of a candle between every two or three impressions. When the flower has been impressed all over, select a small piece of straight line, and put a stalk in below each flower; then a leaf put in on each side of the straight line will complete the pattern.

Fig. 105 (reduced)
Fig. 105 (reduced)

A development of the same principle is shown at Fig. 105, in which some gouges are introduced. Any number of other combinations will occur to any one using the tools. Frequently questions will arise as to whether a tool is to be put this way or that way, and whether a line is to curve up or down. Whenever there is such an alternative open, there is the germ of another pattern. All-over diaper patterns may be varied in any number of ways. One way is to vary the design in alternate spaces. If this is done one of the designs should be such that it will divide down the centre both ways and so finish off the pattern comfortably at the edges. The pattern may be based on the upright and the cross-lines of the marking up, or the marking up may be on a different principle altogether. The designer, after a little practice, will be bewildered by the infinite number of combinations that occur to him.

Fig. 106 (reduced)
Fig. 106 (reduced)

The diaper is selected for a beginning, because it is the easiest form of pattern to make, as there is no question of getting round corners, and very little of studying proportion. It is selected also because it teaches the student the decorative value of simple forms repeated on some orderly system. When he has grasped this, he has grasped the underlying principle of nearly all successful tooled ornament. Diapers are good practice, because in a close, all-over pattern the tools must be put down in definite places, or an appalling muddle will result. In tooling; a repeat of the same few tools, is the best possible practice, giving as it does the same work over and over again under precisely the same conditions, and concentrating, on one book cover, the practice that might be spread over several backs and sides more sparingly decorated, when variety of conditions would confuse the student.

Fig. 107.
Fig. 107.

When the principles of the diaper have been mastered, and the student has become familiar with the limitations of his tools, other schemes of decoration may be attempted, such as borders, centres, or panels.

A form of border connected with cross-lines is shown at Fig. 106. This is made up of a repeat of the spray built up of three tools and four gouges shown at Fig. 107, with slight modification at the corners. Other schemes for borders are those in which flowers grow inwards from the edge of the boards, or outwards from a panel at the centre, or on both sides of a line about half an inch from the edge. A pattern may also be made to grow all round the centre panel. Borders will be found more difficult to manage than simple diapers, and at first, are best built up on the same principle — the repeat of some simple element.

Fig. 108 (reduced)
Fig. 108 (reduced)

The decoration may be concentrated on parts of the cover, such as the centre or corners. A design for a centre is shown at Fig. 108, and below is shown the way to construct it. A piece of paper is folded, as shown by the dotted lines, and an eighth of the pattern drawn with a soft pencil and folded over on the line A, and transferred by being rubbed at the back with a folder. This is lined in with a pencil, and folded over on the line B and rubbed off. This is lined in and folded over on A and C, rubbed off as before, and the whole lined in. The overs and unders of the lines are then marked, and gouges selected to fit. Of course it will take several trials before the lines will interlace pleasantly, and the tools fit in. Another centre, in which a spray is repeated three times, is shown at Fig. 109, and any number of others will occur to the student after a little practice. A change of tools, or the slight alteration of a line, will give an entirely new aspect to a pattern. At page 334 is shown an all-over pattern growing from the bottom centre of the board. In this design the leather was dark green, with a lighter green panel in the centre. The berries were inlaid in bright red. Although at first glance it seems an intricate design, it is made up like the others of repetitions of simple forms.

Fig. 109 (reduced)
Fig. 109 (reduced)

When the student has become proficient in the arrangement of tools in combination with lines, a design consisting entirely, or almost entirely, of lines may be tried. This is more difficult, because the limitations are not so obvious; but here again the principle of repetition, and even distribution, should be followed. At Fig. 110 is shown a design almost entirely composed of lines, built up on the same principle as the centre at Fig. 108.

Fig. 110 (reduced)
Fig. 110 (reduced)

The ends of the bands form a very pleasant starting-place for patterns. At pp. 330, 332-6 are shown ways of utilising this method. To look right, a pattern must be consistent throughout. The tools and their arrangement must have about the same amount of convention. Gold tooling, dealing, as it does, with flat forms in silhouette only, necessitates very considerable formality in the design of the tools and of their arrangement on the cover. Modern finishers have become so skilful, that they are able to produce in gold tooling almost any design that can be drawn in lines with a pencil, and some truly marvellous results are obtained by the use of inlays, and specially cut gouges. As a rule, such patterns simply serve to show the skill of the finisher, and to make one wonder who could have been foolish enough to select so limited and laborious a method as gold tooling for carrying them out.

Generally speaking, successful gold-tooled patterns show evidence of having been designed with the tools; of being, in fact, mere arrangements of the tools, and not of having been first designed with a pencil, and then worked with tools cut to fit the drawing. This does not of course apply to patterns composed entirely of lines, or to patterns composed of lines of dots.

If artists wish to design for gold tooling without first mastering the details, probably the safest way will be for them to design in lines of gold dots. Some successful patterns carried out in this way were shown at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition some years ago.

Designs for gold-tooled binding should always be constructed on some geometrical plan, and whatever pattern there is, symmetrically distributed over the cover.

If lettering can be introduced, it will be found to be most useful when arranging a pattern. It gives dignity and purpose to a design, and is also highly decorative. Lettering may be arranged in panels, as at page 332, or in a border round the edge of the board, and in many other ways. It may either consist of the title of the book, or some line or verse from it or connected with it, or may refer to its history, or to the owner. Anything that gives a personal interest to a book, such as the arms of the owner, the initials or name of the giver or receiver of a present, with perhaps the date of the gift, is of value.

The use of the small fillet makes it possible to employ long, slightly-curved lines. Gold-tooled lines have in themselves such great beauty, that designers are often tempted to make them meander about the cover in a weak and aimless way. As the limitations enforced by the use of gouges tend to keep the curves strong and small, and as the use of the small fillet tends to the production of long, weak curves, students are advised at first to restrict the curved lines in their patterns to such as can be readily worked with gouges.

Fig. 111.
Fig. 111.

It must be remembered that a gouge or fillet line is very thin, and will look weak if it goes far without support. For this reason interlaced lines are advocated.

Gouge lines are easier to work, and look better, if a small space is left where the gouges end. This is especially the case where lines bearing leaves or flowers branch from the main stem (see Fig. 111).

Gouges and fillets need not always be of the same thickness of line, and two or three sets of different gauges may be kept. A finisher can always alter the thickness of a gouge with emery paper.

One method of arranging gold-tooled lines is to treat them in design as if they were wires in tension, and knot and twist them together. Provided the idea is consistently adhered to throughout, such a pattern is often very successful.

Fig. 112.
Fig. 112.

A simple arrangement of straight lines will be sufficient ornamentation for most books. Three schemes for such ornamentation are shown. In Fig. 112 the “tie-downs” may be in “blind” and the lines in gold. The arrangement shown at Fig. 113 leaves a panel at the top which may be utilised for lettering.

Fig. 113.
Fig. 113.

Fig. 114.
Fig. 114.

Fig. 115. Fig. 115.
Fig. 115.

Designing for Backs

The decoration of the back of a book is difficult owing to the very small space usually available in the panels. The first consideration must be the lettering, and when that has been arranged, as described in Chapter XV, a second paper is got out for the pattern. The back panel should generally be treated in the same style and, if possible, with the same tools as the sides, if they are decorated. It will often be found far easier to design a full-gilt side than a satisfactory back.

A design may be made to fit one panel of the book and repeated on all those not required for lettering (see pages 332-34), or it may be made to grow up from panel to panel (see Fig. 115). In the case of sets of books in which the volumes vary very much in thickness, some pattern must be made that can be contracted and expanded without altering the general look of the back (see Fig. 115).

Designing for Inside of Boards

The inside margins of the board permit of a little delicate decoration. At Fig. 116 are shown two ways of treating this part of the binding. The inside of the board is sometimes covered all over with leather, and tooled as elaborately, or more elaborately, than the outside. If there are vellum ends, they may be enriched with a little tooling.

Fig. 116.
Fig. 116.

The edges of the boards may have a gold line run on them, and the head-cap may be decorated with a few dots.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06