When you are trying to read a book and you want it to lay flat, it can be frustrating. You can be gentle, and the book will close shut as soon as you unhand it. Or you can be rough with the book and bend the spine backwards. The book will lay flat, but a slight breeze might blow a lot of its pages into the atmosphere.
Like anything, there is a right way to do it.
Wesley Tanner, a woodworker, printer and designer of fine books, shared with me how he conditions a well-made book to be read so it will lie flat on a tabletop and stay in one piece.
As an example, I conditioned “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” – our latest book. Katy, my daughter, shot the video. Here’s how Wesley says it is done:
“The first thing I do when I get a book like this with sewn signatures is to ‘open it up.’ I remove the jacket off and lay the book on a table (admiring the lovely silver stamping). Looking at the top or bottom edge at the spine, I find the middle of the first section, and open the book with both hands gripping the outside edges of the pages, and gently ‘break’ the glue that has seeped through the sewing holes. I only open the book far enough to do this, about 80 percent of the way down to flat, as I don’t want to wreck the spine. After I’ve done two or three signatures I start from the back, as this will counter the natural twist the book’s spine will get after reading the book straight through. After that, the book should lay open on the table when I go get another cup of coffee.”
“Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” has eight signatures with 16 pages in each signature. That means you will need to do the operation described above eight times to make the book lie flat.
It really works. Just take care and don’t over-do it.
— Christopher Schwarz