Rebinding a 1518 edition of Ovid

Jim D sez, "Last week I worked on rebinding a 1518 printing of Ovid's "Metamorphoses". Since the client wanted to have it done in a limp vellum binding -- which I don't get to do that often -- and the book itself is significant, I thought I would take some photos of the process and write the whole thing up, and that this might be of interest to BB readers."

Rebinding a 1518 copy of Ovid. (Thanks, Jim!)


  1. Looks like an amazing project! Congrats on the cool commission.

    (I can’t get the the page right now, though, apparently boingboing’d.)

  2. I don’t know if I’d like to be in charge of that, just the thought of screwing it up…

  3. Hey, I’ve done this binding before! Beautiful work. So cool that the client wanted it in Limp Vellum.

  4. There isn’t anywhere to comment on the original link… I wish I could find more detail of the process. All the pics are from the spine of the book, but, as a noob, I can’t figure out how it’s actually bound. Detailed pics of open pages and process details would be greatly appreciated.

    1. I had a roommate back in the 80s who installed exhibitions at the DeYoung in San Francisco. Me: “How was work?” Him: “I handled DaVinci’s sketchbooks.” Then we’d giggle for ten minutes.

  5. Nice.

    Just shows you how crappy the paper used in publishing often is now though. I look after even my paperbacks, but there’s no way the actual pages look half as good as that on even books that are 15 years old!

  6. Given how much I love medieval calligraphy and books, this is fantastic.

    Thank you for the link!

  7. #11 – It’s bound together using something called a Herringbone stitch. If you’re looking for a tutorial I’m afraid I can’t really find one. I do have one that’s been sitting on my dining room table for a month now. Maybe I’ll try to finish it up and take some pictures.

  8. @#15- Paper today is so crappy because it’s made from wood pulp. Until the mid-1800s, paper was made from cotton or linen rags, so the older stuff has often held up better than material from, say, 1890 or so.

    I handle old books all day, and you can really feel the difference in the paper whether it’s made from wood pulp or rag. The paper in this book would still feel soft and pliable, a little like cloth. Paper made from wood pulp becomes brittle with age.

  9. Yeah, I have an old printing of “The Metamorphosis,” but that’s insane. I can’t imagine the pressure of fixing that. Would the owner read it? Does it lose value by rebinding? Perhaps I should shut up and read the article.

  10. NB Back in those days, books were often sold unbound, and the purchaser would take the pages to his preferred bookbinder who would bind them to match the rest of the buyers library. So there probably was no “original binding” in the modern sense.

    And yes, most modern paper is not very permanant, and there’s little that you can do to prevent deterioration. At one point I was working with newspapers from around 1812, and they were in better shape now than last weeks papers.

  11. #11: The signatures are sewn over alum-tawed leather thongs, which are then laced into the vellum (i.e. parchment) case. In other words, there is no glue connecting the case (the outside) of the book to the textblock (all the pages). If you wanted to, you could just slip the thongs out of the slits in the parchment case, and pull the textblock out without any damage to it.

    Some pictures of a limp vellum that I did:

  12. I’d have been too chicken to do anything to a book that old. I get nervous rebinding the ones that are a fraction of that age. X_x

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