Gilding the edges of the book by hand was a luxury reserved only for finer quality of books and serves two purposes. Firstly as decoration, which always looks to me as giving the appearance of a fine leather binding bound around a solid block of gold....and secondly, more importantly, being a metal, the gold leaf protects the book from all environmental issues such as acidity, dust and damp.
This commission is a first English translation of The Torah or the 5 books of the Pentateuch.
As you can see from these pictures it is a harlequin set...or a marriage. The first 3 books are from an original set and the last 2 are from two other different sets, nevertheless they are all genuine 1st editions......Four of the books are gilt on all edges and one isn't, so the job in hand is to make them an "original" complete set.
The first thing to do after restoration and re-sewing is to make the "glare" as it will take an hour to settle. This is the "glue" made from egg albumen ( I use the white of a raw egg ) with a few additions.
So we need a book of 23 carat gold leaf, a French paring knife, a bowl for the egg, a horse hair brush, and gilders tips. You never trim the book for gilding, the pages need to be dry scraped and sanded down by hand to a perfect level. Next we mix and apply a thin mixture of Armenian bole and black lead, this is the reflective colour as we are matching the colour to the other books and hopefully they will all look the same. The glair is then applied and left to dry.
The gold leaf is applied by electifying a piece of handmade paper on my unshaven chin, lifting the gold and placing it in position by brushing it down with the horsehair brush. The gold leaf is then burnished in with the gilder's tip and finished with beeswax. The book block is then cracked and the surplus leaf removed. The book is then rounded and backed and placed back with the rest to be re-bound.
The leather is cut and pared, and the books are uniformly bound.
The book blocks are capped all round for colouring.
Then they are hand coloured and blind tooled in the Cambridge panelled calf design with hand tooled spines and hand lettered leather labels.
I call it "5 Steps to Heaven"
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