Do pdfs count as books?

My father, Morrie and his sister Florence both wrote memoirs about their lives in Austro-Galicia and their early years in Chicago. I digitized both manuscripts, scanned relevant pictures, and created 2 pdfs. Along with my Charnabook, all are available in the menu on the left under Family Stories. I never printed out the two memoirs and created actual books. Although I have a list of 15 possible topics to pursue, with one urgently calling to me, I’ve decided to make those two books first. Should be simple, no?

Aside from the novelty structures I enjoy, there are two basic ways to bind a book: folded signatures or single page. The pdfs are single page; after all, they aren’t usually bound. Single page binding, like Japanese stab bindings, can be beautiful but they don’t open flat. I’ve used this binding several times, and I’m never entirely happy.

Folded signatures allow for several types of bindings, most of which will open flat. However, they are half a page. The largest signature book I’ve done is 8.5 inches by 7 inches, half of a legal size (8.5″ x 14″) sheet. Until recently that was the largest sheet I could print. I now have a larger printer that takes a 13″ x 19″ sheet.

My first task is to decide on my page size, then decide on the binding. The pdfs are 8.5″ x 11″ with several pictures covering an entire page. Half of an 11″ X17″ sheet gives me four 8.5″ x 11″ pages, and all sheets have to be considered as four pages. Morrie’s memoir has 114 pages, Aunt Flo’s has 45 pages. So Morrie’s book would be expanded to 116 or 120 pages; Aunt Flo’s to 48 pages. Some of that is easy; a blank page at the front and back and maybe on the reverse of the title page. Next question is how many pages or sheets in a signature? Placement of the content depends on the number of pages in each signature. For me, keeping the pages straight is the most difficult part of the whole job.


Drawn to the Light

Inspired by another workshop, this time taught by Sandy Webster in 2006, this book is bound with tapes and beads, decorated with more beads and contains translucent vellum section pages, handwritten pages, printed photos, maple seeds  and one of my rare drawings.


The book is about the view from my bedroom window in the back of the apartment I occupied for several years here in Pittsburgh. I called it “Drawn to the Light” because light from the window woke me in the morning and constantly called me to photograph as it changed.


Unfortunately I really didn’t understand how to bind a book. Most of the work on the book was done after the workshop was finished so I didn’t have the benefit of Sandy’s guidance. img_2845.jpgMy pages were single sheet so I created a small book block with fourteen folded signatures then glued each of the sheets to the inside of each side of the signature. I made tapes out of book cloth to affix the covers and sewed each of the signatures around the tapes. I did not use good thread and probably not very good glue. Here you can see the glued on maple seeds, many of which have fallen off, and how the book is coming apart. Someday I may rebind it.

img_2847.jpgMaple seeds are printed on this page, probably before I wrote the text. On the left is an accordion-fold pull out with many of the pictures I couldn’t fit into the regular pages. Paper for the signatures was created in the workshop using some kind of rust mixture. Sandy was very big on rust at that time.

This page is a drawing of the driveway. I’m not sure why I did it. I guess I just wanted to make a very personal statement.



Mama’s Kugel

img_2664This book, a kind of tribute to my mother who had recently died, was the only other book made in the printing/copy shop. Designed and printed in 1994, it is 4″ x 5″, 26 single sheets bound with a machine we had in the shop, and an edition of 400 copies. I included a portrait of my mother as a young woman, her wedding picture (top), her parents at the wedding of her oldest brother (below) and a picture of my grandmother and her three sisters when they arrived in the US. The story is about our search for a special apple kugel recipe Mama kept experimenting with and we thought was lost, some historical material about that particular kind of kugel also known as a shalet and a few really good recipes. I gave the books to my customers as a Christmas present and I’m still giving them away to friends and relatives.

weddingRochel and Abraham Katz

Early Book and Later Variation

img_2666In 1990 Richard and I bought a printing/copy franchise. The business seemed to consume my life, but it also gave me some opportunities: first to learn to use the computer; then to make a book. This book, titled Alas Art Aches Awesomely, was made entirely on the computer or a copier. I don’t remember all of the details of its creation or the number of copies I finished. Possibly I made the entire book on the computer and printer using only the shop cutter and stapler for binding. It has a transparent cover, text weight paper, folded, and is bound with a single staple. Size is approximately 4″x 3½”. I used CorelDraw, the only program I knew at that time.

img_2667Recently (2016), I decided to redo the book. I now use a more powerful computer,  a much more sophisticated program, Adobe Indesign, an  archival printer and carefully selected papers. Much of the original book is a kind of plaintive rant. I modified the new book to reflect my more relaxed attitude.

img_2694This book has proven very popular with friends. I made five copies and gave away two of them. The one above was the first one I made. The translucent paper I used doesn’t show up well in the photo; it’s really beautiful. Unfortunately I don’t know where to get more. This copy is a tabbed accordion, 4″ x 5″, printed on Talas unbuffered bond with Epson Claria inks.


Not entirely satisfied with this binding I tried again, this time a 5″ x 7″ single sheet block using something similar to a ‘perfect’ binding. This was not satisfactory; book doesn’t open flat and I just didn’t like it.

img_2697 My last attempt is 5″ x 8″, single sheet stab binding. I like the way it looks but the book doesn’t open easily.

img_2698Using a single sheet format limits options for binding. Folded signatures provide many more choices.  I have been struggling with this since I began seriously making books.