The History Behind These Bindings

The first time I watched a Harry Potter movie and saw the Hogwarts LIbrary, I wanted my Harry Potter books to look like the books in the Hogwarts Library. Old, worn, and dark with arcane marks and titles; books that looked a thousand years old, full of mystery and magic.   So I began my quest to make my Harry Potter books look like this.  I took bookbinding lessons, and as a result of that I started a book restoration business in Philadelphia,   I bought every Harry Potter book I could find at flea markets and book stores and took them apart and rebound them, but I learned Harry Potter books do not lend themselves well to being rebound.  There are some deep rooted problems with how the latter books, Azkaban onward are made that make it nearly impossible to put on new bindings that will last.  But for the first two books I was able to put aged leather bindings on them, but then I ran into that brick wall with the third book. 

The leather bindings  I made for Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets were really awesome, but the cost to make these put them well out of the reach of all but some very rich people.  Then I found the other  problem.   Starting with Prisoner of Askaban, Scholastic Press went to a new cheaper style of binding.  The first two books were bound using sewn signatures sections, the way books have been produced for more than 300 years, but Prisoner of Azakban and the later books have a glued binding,  which is where a slab of glue is applied to the page edges and the spine cloth is stuck on.    It's how paperbacks are made. It's cheap, it's fast, and it's now the way most hardback books are made.  The bad news is that the glue dries out,  and the occasional knocks or bumps of using the book will cause the glue to break and the pages to fall out.  I thought this would be a great reason to have these books rebound, except they are nearly impossible to rebind.   I can reglue them, but that is about all you can do and the same problem will occur in another 10-20 years or so.  I tried various methods of sewing the pages together, but it just doesn't work, becuase the sewing threads always prevent the book from being fully opened, so it becomes hard to read the words near the inner margins.  So I was left with the nearly insurmountable problem that the later Harry Potter books cannot be rebound.   

Next I tried making clam shell cases for the books.  A few of these came out awesome too, and they will be put up for sale shortly as one of a kind  protoypes,  but the amount of labor and material costs needed made the project cost prohibitive.   I was stuck at a brick wall for many years while I searched for alternatives.  A few years ago I purchased an old book that came with a slip case and chemise cover and I thought, "Why Not?"  It's easier than making a clamshell box, and uses less material, but properly designed, it affords near the same level of protection. 

I tried making full leather covers, and some of those look amazing, but again, the labor to make them put them well above the $500 price level.   I made slip cases with traditional book cloth covers, then some with special art paper covers, but none had "the look".    So I was at another brick wall. 

This year I had an occasion to order hand made paper for my book restoration business from two artists who make it in their own studio.   By accident, and it's amazing how these accidents occur, I spilled a little bit of dark dye onto a scrap of the paper.  Voila, it looked like old leather!  I hurriedly dyed a whole sheet and let it dry overnight.  The next day I make a slip case and covered with the dyed paper.  I knew it was a winner.  The case looked old, it looked like aged leather and  it looked like I could do it at a reasonable price point, though to be honest, the cost per square foot of the paper is higher than the cost of bookbinding leather, but the paper is easier to work with, and I can utilize almost all the material, where as with leather there is a lot of drop offs.     Next, I worked on the chemise cover.  Most chemise covers are plain bookcloth. I wanted something a little more relevant.    

Through trial and error, eventually a process was developed where the chemise cover material could be hand painted and uniquely decorated, in a somewhat efficient manner.    I then made seven prototypes for the seven books to insure I could make each one for each book  a little different.  Once that was settled, it became a final issue of how to reduce labor costs to make the custom covers affordable and I finally decided the only way was to form some sort of limited mass production process.   Cut all the binder board at once, assembled the boxes with a jig, dye all the cover materials at the same time so there was only one clean up period and so forth.   So now when we start up we can make ten cases at a time if we do all the same book title.  That is why we are offering one edition case at a time, though I do have all seven prototypes finished as you can probably deduce from some of the web site photos.  We now make ten at a time and hope to make future cases even faster.   

We are offering the Sorcerer's Stone edition right now and it looks awesome.  Just last week I had a restoration customer come in to pick up his restored books and he bought his 12 year old son.  I asked what  he liked to read and he said, "Harry Potter."  Of course, so I took him over and showed him the row of custom slip cases.  

"Whoa!"   That was it, his sole reaction,  then just staring.   We like to think you will have the same reaction when you get your first case, and hopefully,over time,  the  balance of the set.  

If you buy Sorcerer's Stone, we will register your email and guarantee you the other six cases will be available to you for the next three years at the same initial offering price.   I like to think our cases will be to the book world what Apple is to phones.  So well designed, so well built and so completely awesome everybody will want one.  

One last word about designs and using the Harry Potter logo.  I really wanted to use the Harry Potter initials and lightening bolt on the spine, and perhaps some custom artwork on the front and rear covers.  I have one full leather case I did with an engraved image of Erised's mirror,  but obtaining copyrights has proved impossible.   Warner's Brother's never answered any of my emails and regular queries, so if you know somebody at Warner Brothers or perhaps J.K. Rowling, let them know I am willing to pay for the rights to make these boxes even more awesome.   But even without the official symbols I still think this is an awesome looking and totally functional protective case. 

Thanks, and I hope you buy and love our product which has taken many years and near tears to produce, but it was worth it.  

David Donahue, October 2015.