Hazel McHaffie

human skin bookcover


If you’re a follower of my blog, you’re almost certainly a lover of good books.

But have you ever held a book in your hands, and felt awed by the design and craftsmanship that went into its creation and physical assembly? I’m thinking of … The Night Circus, maybe – the original hardback version. Every detail exquisitely reflecting the value of the product, the mystery and magic of the story. Red ribbon book marker, pertinent graphics, echoing colours throughout, beautifully co-ordinated. A joy to handle and to savour. Beautifully created with love and sympathy for the written word.


It was my PhD thesis that really made me pay attention to how a hardback book is actually constructed.

One bookbinder turned out a shoddy end product – ragged pages, loose stitching – fit only as a lending-out copy, getting more and more uneven the more it was used. The second bookbinder took time and trouble and created a sleek, even, secure version, worthy of respect.

So I was thrilled to have the opportunity this week to actually create a book myself, thanks to an event arranged by my daughter. It took best part of a day, but renewed my appreciation of the skill involved. Hand sewn pages, hand cut edges, hand glued layered covers, precision measuring, attention to every detail. A book can indeed be a thing of beauty in itself.

Oh, and did you know that books have been bound in a huge number of different kinds of skin – kangaroo, sting ray, shark, ostrich, skunk, boa constrictor, elephant – even human!! How would you like to hold that in your hand?!


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