A very long time ago I worked in the bindery of a printing company, whose main business was menus for local restaurants. So the content was not very interesting, especially since I had little money to eat out then, but the process of printing was fascinating.
I learned how to operate an industrial paper cutter, which could be programmed to make the right series of cuts to trim down the large sheets of paper that came off the press to the exact size of the final product. The layout department was responsible for figuring out how many could be printed on one sheet of paper, which was affected not only by the finished size but also by the grain of the paper (important for folding), photos or artwork which needed to bleed to the edge, the extra marks needed for alignment in four-color printing, and the necessary margin for the press and the paper cutter. When cut down, some of the trim would be turned into scratch pads or even used on a smaller press, but a lot of it would go into the large paper recycling carts.
I scavenged reams of paper during the year I worked there of various sizes, weights, and colors. For years this provided me with material to make my own greeting cards and stationery. I still have a surprising amount of paper left, partly because I stopped making my own cards and haven’t been writing as many letters as I once used to.
Recently I looked at my paper collection and thought about how else I could use it up. I realized that a couple stacks of approximately half-sheet size would make nice chapbook sized blank books if folded themselves in half and add a soft cloth cover to each. I made one as a prototype: Six sections of four sheets folded in half and sewed along the fold (by machine, to limit the amount of hand work I’m doing). I glued the sections together on the spine with a strip of cloth to help hold it together. The cloth cover is a pocket design, so I could insert a sheet of card stock to make it a little stiffer. This was glued again on the spine to the inner paper block.
I had my doubts that this glued binding would actually hold up with use, so I started writing in my prototype blank book and carried it around in my daypack for several days. The binding is totally solid thus far, so I was ready to make more that I could have as gifts.
At the same time I was going through my bookshelf, selecting ones to get rid of, and found my copy of the London A-Z map book from the mid-80’s. This seemed too out of date to be of use to anyone, so I happily tore off the binding when I saw that it could be cleanly disassembled. The sheets from the map book were slightly smaller than my blank sheets of paper and I felt that I could interleave a map sheet with each subsection of the book without having to do any additional trimming. So two of the three blank books that I made next were interspersed with random sections of maps from the greater London area. For some reason this detail makes me very happy.