Printing my first book…

This spring I am going to attempt my first printing of a book. 20 to 30 pages. I will also try binding it myself and include a hardcover…

Any suggestions or past experiences? Websites or photos I should look at?

Thank you for any help!

Wish me luck! I’ll keep you updated…

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best of luck with first book, like anything else you do for the first time; it’s a wonderful experience.

i did a few books, not by letter-press, but with similar binding procedures. one turned out with the binding on the right-hand side of the book instead of the left; i said it was ordered by a left-handed person. :-)
one was 32 pages, many copies, another was about 300 pages about 3 copies.

other briar press people will give you advice, but may ask questions: size of page, size of press, kind of paper.

i had a problem finding archival grade paper, luckily found a paper seller who would sell me a ream 500 sheets off the shelf at about twice the price of ordinary paper; another supplier quoted many times that price, and would sell only 20 reams in a box; pays to ask, as you have done.

i went to a class on binding, found how to bind using thread by hand through holes, but that’s a bit slow for more than a few; also went to a working bee repairing hymn books for church, learned useful ideas. there is a tape like sellotape which lasts quite a long time.

i have problem finding staples that do not rust in our climate, some that look like brass turned out to be merely plated.

my suggestion is to go to public library, look at how the professionals bind books with various kinds of covers, how hard-covers are made, how they “hinge”.

also how covers are attached, many commercially-manufactured books lose covers easily, or are badly formed; i have seen books which have insufficient margin on the spine side of the page.

One classic mistake was a very erudite book on the evolution of counting and numbers (beyond my level of cognition) which had the page numbers on the spine side of the page, the only book i have ever seen that way.

there are traditional ways of typography, which make a book easy to read; try to learn the traditional ways, and understand; this is not to dissuade you from experimenting, but your undertaking, your “masterpiece” is your “progeny” for want of a better word.

a sample question: have you a good guillotine, or access?

if you do typesetting yourself, i suggest you get someone to proof-read it for you; i have probs with proof-reading my own work. suggest you google proofreading.

this is lots of advice, hope i have not exceeded my welcome.


P.S.: proof-reading, i left out of last sentence! A.


the P.S. in my comment should have read:
P.S.: proof-reading, i left out the word “not” of the last sentence. A.

There is so much that goes into making a book, my best advice is to plan it carefully. You don’t say what kind of press you plan to use, or whether you will use type or plates. The text, paper and planned style of binding will also have a lot of bearing on the finished project. For a number of years I herded students to typeset, print, and bind a three signature book in ten weeks (time spent was actually the equivalent of two 40 hour work weeks). I can offer some support, but you will have to offer more particulars.

Do planning before jumping.

At a party this past Dec everyone was giving a 160 book as a gift for coming.
The book was nice, but, you could tell right away it wasn’t done by a printer.

Make sure that every page lines up from page to page. Jumping up and down margins drives a read crazy.

Also, the section of the book had a black rule under the title of each section. The location of the title and rule was different from section to section.

So, letterpress, offset, laser or hand writing a book, design the look so that each page has the same look.

Select a typeface that is easy to read, and paper that doesn’t look as it came from the office supply.

Thanks for the comments!

Make a dummy! No amount of planning can replace a full scale mockup of your book with its pages numbered.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Daniel is soo right, my first book i printed i put the last page first and first page in the back, i’ve made a dummy on every book since.

Making a dummy in full scale with the actual paper you intend to use will tell you if your paper choice is too heavy, if the grain direction won’t work, if your signatures are too bulky, if your gutter is too tight, margins wrong, etc.

I’d suggest doing this even if you are printing a simple pamphlet!


read murphy’s law


I have made a few dummies and plan to make many more before I print.

I am practicing book (stitching) binding but still need to learn creating a good printable hardcover…


I have found that in making the cover it is very helpful to make a paper pattern that shows exactly where the boards and spine lay (assuming you are making a trade-style binding). I learned to bind using the book Bookbinding as a Handcraft, by Manly Banister, which I believe is out of print, but can be had inexpensively. I would suggest that a couple of classes with a real bookbinder would be worth your while. There are some little tricks that are easier to communicate in person.


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