The Bookshelf

It‘s a stitch-up: a visit to Dublin’s oldest book bindery

Kate reading book with bookbinder expert

Some of the bespoke books I’ve made have been hand bound by Duffy Bookbinders of North Strand, in business since 1970. This type of binding means the book can open out flat, which is perfect for large photos spanning two pages. It’s also a very durable binding, and one that has been used since the invention of printing itself. This is Tom Duffy and me discussing the binding on Human Mist.

closeup of pages, spine and headband of handmade book
Close-up detail of the spine of a hardback book

These close-ups show the difference between hand sewing and glue binding. The top book ‘so far…’  has over 200 large pages, which is too many for a glue binding (there is a risk the pages may come apart from the spine). The lower book is ‘Mermaid of the Moon’, a birthday book for an Italian friend which is quite a bit smaller, with only about 20 pages. Glue binding is a good option to keep cost down, and when the photos tend not to span a double page spread.

Very old-looking machinery for sewing book pages together in bookbinding

This rather wonderful bit of machinery is a Brehmer Leipzig stitcher. Duffy’s workshop has some equipment that would not look out of place at the turn of the century.

Man gluing cover to page block in bookbinding shop

After the book ‘block’ is sewn, Tom glues on the ‘case’ – a stiff cardboard cover. The cover is then itself covered, either in printed paper, linen or even leather.

Stacks of colourful hand-bound notebooks

Stacks of Duffy’s colour ‘Five Lamps’ hand-bound notebooks await delivery to bookshops and gift shops around the city.