Hand Made Books
I belong to a local group of writers, and the last time we met, I
told them that they might consider giving friends and relatives
handmade books for Christmas.
“First off,” I started, “they’re freaking handmade
If you know me, you’ll know that my background consists of research
and writing, and when something grabs my attention, I go out and try
to find everything I can on the subject. (Knowing, of course, that
if it’s on the internet, it might be a bucket of crap.)
My first search was at AbeBooks dot com. I know of them because
Louis Pasteur, I required two somewhat rare books written in
So I did a search on “handmade” and listed out the results according
to price, highest to lowest. This is the one that was at the top of
Ulysses, by James Joyce. It was a first edition that had
been split into three printings. The first 100 were printed on Dutch
"handmade paper," numbered and signed by the master himself.
If you go there, you will find it has been sold. I had asked all my
friends to get me this for Christmas, and so when I saw it had been
purchased there was a twinge of hope that one of them bought it for
me, though reality quickly set in when I remembered that I don’t
have any friends who have over $300,000.00 to spare right now, so,
sadly, it’s gone to someone else.
Yes, rare books sell for that much and more.
My search online came across some handmade books from India that
have no text in them, but were made with beautiful materials as
works of art. They sold for $200.00 up to $600.00. Even blank books
for writing notes or with special paper for drawing or water color
sell for $30 to $70 because they're handmade. However, the more
creative the cover, depending on the art work, the more expensive
While I was in the Twin Cities, I went to a bookstore I’ve often
browsed but rarely have I bought anything because everything is so
damn expensive. I remember buying a gift of a first edition there
for a friend years ago. The shop owner sells his books around the
world and mainly to collectors. Many are sold on consignment from
one collector to another.
I have made up 20 copies of my book, Reprieve and Other Shorts,
each signed and dedicated (on the dedication page) to the person I
I brought in one for him to inspect. He was duly impressed. He
thought it was beautiful, sturdily made, and a real treasure.
We talked about handmade books and he said, he rarely gets them, but
he had a couple. His least expensive was $1,200.00. I asked him what
it was about and he said he didn’t know; it was written in French,
just prior to WWII.
I asked him what my book would be worth.
He said, “Well, they’re a one of a kind item, made out to a
different person in each book, signed, and made by the author.” He
looked up at me and said, “If someone you gave one to came to me in
January crazy enough to sell it, I’d give him two hundred bucks.”
“And then I’d turn around and sell it for anywhere from $300 to
“Authors don’t make their own books. This just doesn’t happen. This
is a first edition, unique, made by the author. Hell, in two years
it could be worth a thousand bucks. If Hemmingway had made a few
copies of any of his books, today they’d sell for millions.
“Authors just don’t make their own books. These are to be treasured.
And if you ever promote yourself, they’re definitely going to rise
in price. And if you drop dead they could quadruple overnight.”
“I’ll remember that.” (I’ve now decided that my friends are all
going to die broke because I plan on outliving them.)
We spent the next 15 minutes looking at the handmade books he did
have in stock. Most were art books, picture books. They were all
very beautiful and very much out of my price range.
Before I left, he warned me that, "just because a book is worth
$500.00 or $1,000.00 doesn't necessarily mean you can sell it for
that. It's only worth that much to a collector. You have to go out
and find that person."
I thanked him and left to deliver the copy I’d brought to the person
for whom it had been made.
Yes, everyone I’ve given them to so far was in shock when they
realized exactly what I'd given them. They just could not believe
I'd spent six months putting them all together. I started back in
June searching for a class, then I took the class, then I purchased
all the equipment and materials to make them, I’ve even invented a
tool that will be very useful (might even patent it), then I
purchased special paper, printed them on my printer, hand folded
each page, sat down to sew and glue, then took them to the Book Arts
Center in Minneapolis to cut them to size, where I also cut the
cover stock, and then took them all back home, and one by one put
covers on them.
I have finally finished, and all in all, I’ve brought a lot of
smiles to friends and family because they each own a very rare
Here are some photos of the books I’ve created.
This was my first (and last) all leather book. Working with leather
is insanely difficult.
These are drying, thus the wax paper to keep the pages from
wrinkling due to the moisture from the glue in the covers. I was
also experimenting with a thin and wide spine and decided the thin
spine to be much more aesthetically pleasing.
Two more drying. Over night we covered them with huge books to keep
the covers from curling from the moisture of the glue. This was one
of my favorite papers, the blue, but we soon discovered that the
aluminum hairs were not very well embedded and they all started to
fall off. We will continue using the blue, but will not be paying
extra for the aluminum hairs.
This turned out to be the favorite cover. The material was called
Crocodile and we've also found it in a deep reddish brown. We used
two colors for the spine, both a textured, fake leather (much easier
to work with): black and silver.
Just one of our choices for the paper inside the cover. This was the
most exotic. Most of the time, we kept it subdued.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A HANDMADE
(all proceeds go toward building our new foundation, FACT)
you may go to the following link:
Buy a Handmade Book