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.





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.


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


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


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.

On my Life-Giving Spring site I have written about a project that we have begun with a group of children who have been coming to Church in Robertson for some time. Like many South African children who are victims of social poverty and an often dysfunctional education system, they have serious learning challenges, but one of the things that we have identified as a viable project is to try and get them reading and to encourage a culture of literacy. You can find more information  about this via the link below, but we really need books and especially Afrikaans children’s books – although other books are also accepted as are financial contributions. If you are able to help us, please do so! And, please also remember this project in your prayers – the need is huge and it could develop into something bigger, but we need to take one step at a time.

An appeal for children’s books.

This is a mishmash of things, some of which I’ve been meaning to note for a while…

A Further Update on Life-Giving Spring
After neglecting it for far too long, I recently did another update on the Life-Giving Spring site. Things are proceeding slowly and life is not without challenges, but I am still here and there is also encouraging news to report.

Acquire the Holy Spirit Series
I’ve made a page for my recent posts in this series and put it on the Completed series page. I’ll hopefully also turn it into a PDF file, along with other things I want to make available … when I get to doing that, and also working out how best to arrange things online.

South African Religious Blogs
For those interested in South African religious or Christian blogging, Jenny Hillebrand of Carpenter’s Shoes has done us a real service by creating blog aggregator called Antioch Blog Community. It’s described as “South African Religious Thinkers” – as far as I can see they all seem to be Christian of one sort or another, and “thinkers” sounds rather grand for some of us, but there you are!

Some Worthwhile Podcasts
I’ve recently been trying to get into listening to podcasts while I work, at least a bit. There is a wealth of material online, but also lots of rubbish! It would probably be a good idea to create a page to compile an ongoing list of things to recommend, but for now let me note these, in case they’re of interest to anyone:

  • Worship in Spirit and Truth: Father Thomas Hopko’s series on the Liturgy is long and ongoing, but very well worth the time. I have been particularly struck by his discussion of worship in the Old Testament – it should be obvious really, but for me much of it was an eye-opener!
  • Nine Sessions with Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou. I’ve only listened to the first of these, but Archimandrite Zacharias of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Essex and a disciple of Father Sophrony, is a very important contemporary Orthodox teacher and it’s great to have these talks available.
  • Coffee with Sr Vassa is a recently begun weekly series of podcasts on the saints by Sister Vassa Larin, a liturgical scholar and ROCOR monastic,  that are both humorous and enlightening.
  •  Father Vassilios Papavassiliou has started posting links to his theology lectures and Bible studies on Matthew on his (highly recommended) blog. They’re on YouTube, but I can’t find a good way of linking to all of them without other things, so the best way is to probably go via his blog until someone produces an index. I’ve only listened to one of them, but it was excellent, as are his books which I really should say more on sometime!



bks all
In addition to the Bibles that I mentioned previously, I have just added a page to my bookbinding site where I am selling a variety of hand-bound notebooks and journals, most of them with quite creative covers. I’m presently exploring various options as earning a living from bookbinding is not proving that simple. There is work, but the situation is quite complex, and I either need to get it more streamlined or explore something else. In any case, I am exploring various options at present, including selling these sorts of books. I will probably move them all to another online shop before long, and the prices may also go up, but I am selling them on my own site for the time being. So, if you are interested, please have a look…


In case any readers of this blog are interested, I have just added a new page to my bookbinding site, with details of some hand-crafted leather bound Bibles that I am selling. Over the past couple of years I have collected some Bibles and rebound them and am now offering them – some are second-hand, of a lesser quality, or Bibles I’ve used to experiment with, and some are real bargains. They can be found here if you are interested…

I was going to do more blogging in the last couple of weeks, I really was. However, apart from the usual other excuses, life has been rather disrupted by the unexpected arrival of these two:

kittens 8

I’ve been hand-rearing them for the last two weeks after they were found in the bushes near the Church. They are quite gorgeous but rather time-consuming, and seem rather reluctant to want to be either weaned or toilet trained.

In any case, I hope that blogging will resume before too long!

pr all

It’s taken a couple of years, but I’m finally getting back into making and selling prayer ropes, and so I’ve added a Prayer ropes page to this blog again, where people can find information about ordering them. I’m mainly trying to support myself by bookbinding, but, while there is a demand for that, it is taking time to get established and earn enough to live on. Plus I would like to continue doing prayer ropes in order to make them – and possibly some other products – available in South Africa.

iconlgsI’ve been very tardy in putting this up – and in keeping in touch with people more generally – but I’ve finally put a bit of an update on the Life-Giving Spring site to give some idea of what I’m doing in Roberston. Things are developing slowly, and I need time to find my feet on various levels, but there are hopeful beginnings. I hope to also find time to put some new resource material on the site before too long.

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