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This is just a quick update to publicise a new venture that I’ve become involved with. As some will know, I’ve been helping to produce a weekly bulletin for our Archbishopric for the last few years. This has now been expanded to include a daily reflection on the Gospel of the day (revised Julian calendar), which is available electronically on the website, Facebook page, or by email (see the website) or Twitter. If you are interested in knowing more, please follow the link below.

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Just to note that I have re-launched my bookbinding shop on Etsy, where I am selling some rather uniquely-bound Bibles. I hope to standardise both the Bibles and Kindle covers available in the near future once I’ve got more leather, but in the meantime I really need to sell these, so please feel free to share if you know anyone interested…

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After a break of some years, I have decided to try and start selling prayer ropes again, and have opened a shop on Etsy. My life is still rather in transition, but I need to find ways of supporting myself (and the work of the mission) and I find making prayer ropes more conducive to a life of prayer than editing theses! I’m also planning to reopen my bookbinding shop (which has been closed since moving) in the near future.

This blog has continued to be neglected, but I hope to get on a more even keel before too long. In the meantime, if you know of people who are looking for prayer ropes, please direct them to my shop! (I’ve also put a link in the side bar).

P.S. On the topic of prayer ropes, I have discovered that there are very helpful resources on the Jesus Prayer here. (Actually, the whole site is very good).

 

This post is much overdue, and I am afraid that I have not been very good at keeping in touch with all sorts of people, much less doing much on this blog. There are various reasons for this, which I won’t go into here, but it may be good to give a brief update on where I am now.

Just before Christmas last year, His Eminence Archbishop Sergios asked me to consider moving to Pietermaritzburg to take responsibility for Saint Mark’s Orthodox Mission in Edendale. This was totally unexpected to me (we had been discussing a possible move, but Pietermaritzburg had not crossed my mind), but the more I considered it, the more I couldn’t shake off the feeling that this was what God asking me, despite being aware that it would be quite a challenging situation.

This is an old photo from the Archbishopric website - I still need to take some good current photos...

This is an old photo of the mission from the Archbishopric website – I still need to take some good current photos…

I moved here at the beginning of May, and it has indeed proved rather challenging, but also hopeful. The original plan was that I should live at the mission, where there is a church and a house. However, that turned out to not really be viable and instead I have found a hermitage at the bottom of someone’s garden that overlooks a forest and is quite idyllic! I am continuing to support myself and hope to continue selling books (and possibly other things) on Etsy once I am more settled. And I have gradually been making contacts with people in the area. Lots of things are going to have to develop slowly, but there are hopeful signs and I have met some wonderful people. I’ll post more news about some developments in due course.

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I am planning to do a website that will give more information about the mission, provide a contact point for people around here who search for information about Orthodoxy, and also enable people to support us if they would like to do so. I am also seriously hoping to revive this blog, and possibly do some other things online, so watch this space. But I would also value your prayers for the whole situation – it is challenging, but it also has much potential.

This blog has been horribly neglected – what’s new? – and all my good intentions of writing have of yet come to nothing. But, despite feeling decidedly uncomfortable about self-promotion, I need to share some of my recent bookbinding work that I have just put up on my Etsy shop, not least because some of it is geared at a rather niche market that I need to find ways of reaching. And it’s possible that some of this blog’s readers – if it still has any readers! – may be interested in it.

Some time last year I finally betrayed Luddites worldwide and acquired a Kindle – but nevertheless decided that I wanted a Kindle cover that looks like a real book. One thing led to another and I started making them to sell on Etsy. Here are some examples – if you click on the photo, you will see more details and photos of the inside.

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But my most recent work involves the addition of specially rebound Bibles that I have just added to the shop, and there will be more to come. This one, in particular, is a project that I have been wanting to do for some time. It is a copy of the St Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest book that exists in its original binding, which was found in St Cuthbert’s tomb and dates from the seventh century.

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Here is the back cover, which in some ways I prefer to the front cover:

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And there is also a nice little New Jerusalem Bible pocket edition, as well as a variety of journals and notebooks.

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I realise that this blog is sadly neglected, and I had hoped that I would have written something serious by now, but I’m afraid that life has been pressured. I hope that that happens soon, but, in the meantime, I wanted to mention – and this is one of the reasons things have been pressured – that I have just set up a shop on Etsy selling hand-bound journals and notebooks online. I started exploring selling such things last year, but it became apparent that selling to gift shops in South Africa was not really viable and the online shop that I started with was also not such a good idea. However, I’ve been researching things recently and it seems that Etsy is the place to be. There are other bookbinders there and it seems that they do sell books, and at prices that could make it worth my while. However, it will take quite a bit of work promoting it – and I am really not in to self-promotion! But if you know of anyone who may be interested in these books, please pass it on.

I’m also trying to revive my Langeberg Bookbinding Facebook Page, so if you’d like to “like” it that would be greatly appreciated!

I really do intend resuming blogging, hopefully soon. But in the meantime, this is something that I have published on my bookbinding site and which may also be of interest to readers of this blog.

Posting this here may seem like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted – after all, many of the people who visit this site do so because their Bibles are in various states of disrepair. But, having seen some of the Bibles that have come for repair recently, I have been thinking that it may be worth giving some advice on things to consider when buying a new Bible. Although it may appear that bookbinders can work miracles in making an old book look like new, there are some things that even we can’t make right.

Whatever Else You Do, Buy a Sewn Bible
This is really the most important point. From a binding perspective, there are two basic categories of mass-produced contemporary books, the glued and the sewn. Glued books consist of single pages that are glued together along the spine. (This is also known as perfect binding). They are only held together by glue, albeit a very strong hot glue. But when they come apart, while one can re-glue individual pages, re-gluing the whole Bible is not going to produce a satisfactory result – partly because one is unlikely to have much margin to work with, and partly because the cold glue that most bookbinders work with today is not as strong as the original hot glue that was used in the factory.

This is a clear example of what a sewn book looks like, although the signatures are sometimes finer and less clear.

This is a clear example of what a sewn book looks like, although the signatures are sometimes finer and less clear.

Sewn books, on the other hand, are held together by both stitching and glue. They are printed in such a way that the book consists of a series of booklets called signatures. Each signature is folded over and is usually stitched through the fold. (This is sometimes called Smyth sewn). If you look at the top or bottom of the Bible, you should be able to see if it is made up of signatures (which vary in thickness) that indicate that it is sewn. (Leonard’s Books has some more advice on this here).

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of buying a stitched Bible rather than a glued one. Not only are stitched books far more durable that glued ones, but they also open far better and can lie flat, something that a glued book will not easily do. A glued book is all very well for a thesis or a whodunit that is not likely to be read again, but is totally unsuitable for a book that will be constantly re-read and cherished.

Bonded Leather is Not Leather
I have been horrified to see the prices that are asked for Bibles bound in bonded leather. It needs to be stated very clearly that bonded leather is not leather, but is rather recycled leather fibres that are held together by a substantial amount of a gluey substance. To call bonded leather leather is like calling chipboard wood – and using chipboard in place of wood is probably a better option than using bonded leather in place of leather, because wood does not need to be supple as leather does, and bonded leather is definitely not supple, nor does it last well.

The grey underside is a sure indication that this was bonded leather, despite the "Genuine Leather" stamp.

The grey underside is a sure indication that this was bonded leather, despite the “Genuine Leather” stamp.

Even more horrifying is the fact that it appears that some Bible manufacturers are passing bonded leather off as genuine leather. I recently had a Bible in for repair that I thought looked more like bonded leather than genuine leather, although it was stamped “Genuine Leather” on the back. I thought that I must be mistaken, but, when I opened it up, there was no mistaking the grey nylon underside of the bonded leather.

Consider Rebinding a New Bible
Instead of buying a glued Bible bound in bonded leather for a hefty price, you would be far better off buying a well-stitched book block with a cheap binding. Even a stitched paperback is preferable to a glued Bible, although a hard cover is preferable as it is likely to round more easily. You could then have it rebound in leather, either immediately, or when you can afford to do so. This option will also allow you to personalise the binding as you consider what sort of cover you want. While the leather available in this country is limited (and I don’t import leather as it would drive the prices up exponentially), it is nevertheless genuine leather, lasts well, and will protect your Bible for many years to come.

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