Franklin Library Book Deconstructed – Taking a Peek inside the Cadillac of Book Bindings

Have you ever wondered just how a Franklin Library Book is put together?

Franklin Library, a division of the Franklin Mint, as many a book collector can attest,  was considered the equivalent of the Cadillac division of GM in the modern 20th Century book market.  They put out several series of gorgeous full leather-bound books, quarter leather-bound and leatherette-bound books that would have made a 16th Century european Renaissance patron stand up and take notice:

  • The 100 Greatest Books of All Time (100 books)
  • The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature (100 books)
  • The Collected Stories of the World’s Greatest Writers (100 books)
  • 60 Signed Limited Editions (60 books)
  • Pulitzer Prize Classics (53 books)
  • Franklin Mystery Masterpieces (51 books)
  • The First Edition Society (72 books)
  • Great Books of the Western World (96 books)
  • World’s Best-Loved Books (100 books)
  • Greatest Books of the 20th Century (50 books)

The actual book binding for the Franklin Library was contracted to a company known as Sloves Organization, Ltd. which worked exclusively in the high end leather book-binding trade.

The craft of leather book-binding is a dying art today as publishers shift their from the traditional book market to the digital book market.

Franklin Book Deconstruction:

I have always been a bit curious about how one of these fine leather bound editions is put together and the other day, going through a few of these books I have picked up over the years, I discovered one that had considerable water-damage to many of the pages which basically renders the book worthless and un-sellable as a rare book.  In its present condition the book is worth maybe $4-6 dollars as a reader’s copy.  The title of the book is Guy de Maupassant’s Stories, illustrated by Lily Harmon.

I therefore concluded that this exercise could serve two purposes; the first being to share a bit of unique insight into the binding of a well made book and then re-purpose much of the book after taking it apart and sell the parts in one form or another for more than I would receive for the book on Ebay.

From the archival paper that the book is printed on I should be able to make about 600 bookmarks which I intend to hand paint with watercolours.  Since this particular book has a set of very nice illustrations that can be used in decoupage projects and perhaps a mixed media collage or two, I removed these intact.  The actual leather binding will be used for binding together a hand-made journal later.  After cutting the strips of paper to make book marks, I will still be left with the actual printed block which I intend to cut into a smaller block and hand sew into my own private small edition of this very book.

The photos below show how the book was put together:

Water Damage

 

Illustrations

 

 

 

 

 

Another view of water damage.

This picture shows front cover after having removed the silk moire end paper and making a razor incision to separate the block from the cove

Illustrations removed from book.

 

After removing the block from the leather cover and pulling back the binding paper and tape, we see that the satin bookmark is glued in about two inches down. The block now nicely displays the Smythe binding process where 8 double pages are folded in half to make 16 page booklets which are then stitched together at about five different places up and down the spine to hold the pages together. Glue is then applied and a special binding tape strip is glued on along with the small fabric spine caps. Then the block is glued into the black paper which has been glued to the leather book cover. After this has dried, the silk moire endpapers were added to give strength and help hold the block in place.

After removing the block from the leather cover and pulling back the binding paper and tape, we see that the satin bookmark is glued in about two inches down. The block now nicely displays the Smythe binding process where 8 double pages are folded in half to make 16 page booklets which are then stitched together at about five different places up and down the spine to hold the pages together. Glue is then applied and a special binding tape strip is glued on along with the small fabric spine caps. Then the block is glued into the black paper which has been glued to the leather book cover. After this has dried, the silk moire endpapers were added to give strength and help hold the block in place.

For more information on the Smythe Sewn process, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home
Top of Pg.
Archives

Six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.

— Napoleon