The fabrication team was in charge of the design/fabrication of the manuscript’s paper, cover, and binding. We wanted to represent medieval style while also maintaining a simplistic and modern design. This lead to us deciding that we wanted to have a leather hard cover detailed with gold and possibly some metal accents. We also wanted to sew the pages together in the commonly used Coptic style for authenticity. The use of hand-made paper was also something that we believed would add an antique feel to the manuscript while complimenting the printed pages and so we wanted to incorporate that into the fabrication.
Making the Paper
In order to try and make our book look as authentic as possible, we decided that we wanted to try and make our own paper for the transcription team to write the poems on. With the help of the people at the Georgia Tech Paper Museum, we were able to acquire both the materials and the space that we needed to make our paper. After talking about a few options, such as trying to add tea fibers or other types of material to the paper for some variation, we decided to just use the normal cotton fibers that the people at the Paper Museum would provide for us. Sarah then made deckles and frames for the paper-making, although we never ended up using them in the end because they hadn’t been prepared for use with the water in the papermaking process. Instead, Juan gave us a few spare deckles to work with and we set out to make paper for the book. Thinking we needed about twenty or so sheets of paper to have enough, we started the process by submerging the frames in the bin full of cotton fiber and water, and after pulling them out we then used a vacuum to pull most of the water out of the cotton layer through the mesh screen. Following this, we would carefully pull the thin layer of cotton fiber off of the mesh screen and place it on sheets for drying. For drying, we ironed our pieces of paper with them pressed in-between two drying sheets, for a few minutes each until they were all dry. After this, the only step that was left in the process was to place our newly-made paper into the press and let it sit there under pressure, so that the edges didn’t curl. After that, our paper was ready for use.
Painting the map
When making the map we took into account what types of artistic materials were available in Chaucer’s time. Oil paints didn’t come into wide use until the 1400s and acrylic paints are a fairly modern invention. In the medieval ages a type of paint called Gouache was the standard. Gouache is very similar to watercolor so in order to achieve an authentic medieval look we used tube watercolor paints. When we made the paper Juan had put special chemicals into the paper mixture so that the paper wouldn’t bleed when we wrote on it. This step was actually critical as well for being able to paint on the paper since watercolor paints use copious amounts of water.
Sewing the Book Together
Once we got all the pages to sew together, we realized we would have issues properly binding the book the way that was taught in the workshop. Since the handwritten and printed out pages were a mixture between folded and single pages, we could not necessarily create perfect signatures, a gathering of folded pages, and then sew them together. Once we organized the pages into the right order and into the best signatures we could, we had to prick holes in the paper where we wanted to sew using a owl. This takes some time but is relatively simple. Ideally when putting a book together you sew one signature to the next and so on, but since we couldn’t sew through the crease of each gathering we were unable to do that and had to sew the entire book together. We had to improvise and even glue some pages in. This was strenuous and took a very long time but in the end it was still a very tightly bound book. The last touches were just erasing some of the pencil lines left on the pages and then it was handed over to another part of our team to be bound to the leather cover.
Binding the Book
In order to do the final fabrication of the manuscript, a few materials had to be acquired. These materials included an awl, book binding thread, dull-point book binding sewing needles, thread wax, book-tape, neutral pH glue, thin wood for the cover, leather for the cover, and accent/detail pieces. The first thing that was done was after these materials were acquired was the cutting of the wood and leather so that they could be fit together to hold the pages. Since the pages were not done yet, we had to wait to get the measurements right so it was decided to cut the leather in half, mount it to the wood, sew it back together after the right width was measured, and then cover the seam with another piece of leather. This actually worked out better than expected and provided a contrast between the cover and the spine of the book.
The color of the leather was chosen and customized by the man who gave it to us. We let him know what we were working on and asked for some scrap if he had it, and when he figured out that he did, he took the golden tan scrap and dyed it a dark brown. The color was perfect. Once the leather was mounted onto the wood, we wanted to distress it a little. So, it was sanded lightly along the edges, corners, and on some of the surface just to remove some of the shine.
It took some time, but after the pages were acquired, we realized that some of them were left intact and could be sewn together in the way that we wanted but that others were loose and needed to be glued so that they could be sewn in the same way. This process was tedious and took an entire weekend to finish, but once it was completed the pages were passed off between us to be sewn together. After the pages were sewn, they were almost ready to be placed inside of the cover. However, book-tape had to be added so that there was something for the spine to actually attach to.
Once all of the signatures of the pages were aligned and glued, they were placed onto the wooden spine using a two-part instant epoxy. After this was done, all of the detail work was ready to be done in order to complete to fabrication process. A decorative sheet was added to hide the leather seams and wood on the inside of the book; it was green with a gold swirled pattern. This paper was chosen because gold was often used for decorative details in medieval books and we wanted to stick to that style. We also added an acknowledgements page at the end of the introduction. After the inside of the book was done, focus was put to details of the outside of the cover. More gold detailing was added to the spine and small metal accents were added to the corners of the back and front covers. Finally, the manuscript was complete.
Reflection on Learning Outcomes
This course is intended to get us thinking about the remnants of Chaucer and medieval culture in contemporary society. This project allowed us to further develop our knowledge of how media and technology affect the production of cultural/historical artifacts. A lot of this project focused on collaboration as well as the mixing of modern and medieval design. We often asked the question: How can we make this relevant? As a class, it was expressed that we wanted this manuscript to be something that incorporated modern designs and accents so that we could make it relevant for other contemporary scholars. This project allowed us to work with each other in order to come up with ways to make this manuscript capture the art form of medieval book making as well as the simplicity of modern design. In looking into the art of medieval bookmaking, we learned a lot of techniques that were used back then that can still be used today. For example, making paper. We decided to incorporate some hand-made paper to give a more antique feel to the manuscript and stay true to medieval designs that may have been used in a book like this back then.