Bound in Ottoman Covers

Apologies for those who thought from the title of this post that I would be describing racier adventures. This post is actually about bookbinding and using old Ottoman book covers to do so. Binding a sketchbook is a project that's been in the works for months for Gabby, Melody, and I. Led by Gabby, who already had experience in binding, we used the trumpetvine website as inspiration and for direction. The entire process, from finding the antique covers with which to bind our books, the watercolor paper, large needles for the sewing, and the wine-laced evenings where we attempted to stay focused long enough to move along in the process, was loads of fun and eventually, very satisfying. It combined my love for craft with the chance find of the flea market, along with spending quality time with good friends.

To find our antique covers, we headed to a book pazar near Galatasaray Lisesi called Aslıhan Pasajı that Gabby knew about. Its doorway, near the Avrupa Pasajı, is unremarkable and easily overlooked. Once you step inside, however, any book lover will experience a quickening of the pulse. The hallway is lined with small bookshops and covered nearly from floor to ceiling with books- mostly used and some antique- in a variety of languages (although, as is to be expected, most are Turkish). The pasaj also includes sewing shops, where Gabby found a good-sized thread to use, and shops that sell old postcards, photographs, and reproductions of old prints. The shop owners were laid-back and accommodating, letting us browse their shelves and make piles here and there as we looked for old covers we could use.

The shop I ended up finding a cover in and eventually going back to in search of another one was my favorite- a virtual cave made from books. They were piled high on tables outside and when you squeezed through the tiny doorway, you were greeted by the owner, sitting behind his desk- an opening in a turret of books. I asked to look at the Ottoman books- older tomes with beautiful worn and embossed covers. They were, of course, at the bottom of a pile of other books. The shop owner didn't flinch, however, as he removed the top layers of a tower in his bound paper kingdom, to reveal the start of the one for Ottoman books. There I parked myself, pulling out each book one at a time- old dictionaries, school exercise notebooks, philosophy texts, trying to maintain the tower in balance as I pulled each new book out, unsteadying the enormous Jenga puzzle. I squeezed the nearby pile of books that was starting to wobble and tremble from both sides, attempting to pacify the stirring giant. Over the course of a few visits to the book shop, I decided on two covers- one larger with embossed decorations, and a second smaller one with the sultan's seal on one side and a more floral decoration on the other.

Once we each had our book covers and paper (found at an art store in Beşiktaş), we were ready to begin and gathered at Gabby's house for wine, pizza, and our first session. Gutting the book was the most difficult part, as it somehow felt like a violation of the old book. I kept the old pages, not sure what to do with them, but not wanting to throw them away. We then followed the steps outlined on the Trumpetvine blog, cutting the paper, making the signatures... but didn't get very far, distracted by good conversation, wine, and the late hour. It took a few separate sessions and some work at home, but I finally bound my pages successfully. The directions on Trumpetvine were clear and easy to follow, and it was a great way to both have a new sketchbook and a souvenir from my time here in Istanbul.


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