Apothecary: books

Hi there, welcome to Magpie’s miniatures, in this series I’ll be making an 18th century(ish) apothecary shop and its furnishings. I’m not working with a precise scale as the doll I’m making the set for is seven and a quarter inches tall and the shop is made from an old wine box which is quite a small space for the doll, measuring 25x25x21cm. So, all the furniture has to fit in the set, but also not look ridiculously small next to the doll. I’ll include the measurements (pretty sketchy to be honest), but my focus is more strongly directed towards form and construction than to sticking to a precise scale.

In this post I’ll be exploring book-making. Let’s start with the basic construction of the cover and blank pages:

I cut two 2.5cm wide strips of A4 printer paper, then made about 15 or 16 folds at 1.8cm intervals. I did not mark where to make the folds at the start, because they never seem to align after I’ve made the first few folds. This is definitely one of the more time consuming stages I find.

As seen in 3, attach the two strips by glueing the end of one to the end of the other, if one tab is shorter than it should be glued below, so it is not visible. I glued the right over the left, so that the right tab’s edge aligned with the crease on the left tab. you should now have one long strip. Make sure each end of the new strip has an upward facing tab (like the one on the right in 3), you may need to cut a tab from one of the sides to achieve this.


Turning the strip over and pulling it flat, I used a glue stick to cover the back except for the last tabs on each end. I then refolded each pleat until I ended up with what can be seen in 4 and 5 above. It is important that each page is fully glued all the way to the spine end, as it will prevent the pages slipping out of alignment when fixing them to the cover. Step 6 is optional, but personally I like to glue on a seperate piece of paper as a soft cover because I find it helps to keep the pages in place. One can run the end of a fine paintbrush, or kebab skewer down the spine to give it a shallow inward curve which helps the pages turn more naturally.

For the cover, I used an old, amazon book-packaging envelope as the base. Each face measures 2×2.7cm (I only added two millimetres to cover width but for me it was too long, next time I would only add one millimetre for a slight overhang). The spine measures 0.6×2.7cm. I used a kebab skewer to give the spine a slight curve. To cover the cover, heh, I chose blue paper. here I didn’t do any fancy measurements, I just cut a rough rectangle, marked the corners, and the gaps between the spine and cover faces and cut them out to get what you see in 5. I could have left the corners and simply folded them (I did this for some of my books) but it will give the corners a bulkier aspect.


Applying PVA glue to the blue card, I put the cardboard pieces back in place, and folded everything flat. To eliminate any air bubbles, I ran a ruler over the cover, then used the pointy end of the kebab skewer to gently accentuate the indentations on either side of the spine (7).

***BEWARE: although I then immediately proceed to attach the pages to the cover, I should have decorated them SEPARATELY, so that if I ruined either of them, it would have been easier to remake the damaged part without starting all over again. I didn’t, and nothing went wrong, but you may wish to skip to the decoration before sticking on the cover.***

I used PVA to glue the two end tabs to the cover. Once in place I pushed the tabs towards the centre of the book as much as possible to maintain the curve of the spine, forming an ‘o’ shape between the curve of the cover spine and the curve of the pages spine. I find this makes turning and keeping the pages open easier. You could leave it here, but as I was going for quite an ornate style, I decided to give it fancy inner covers using marbled paper. Each inner cover was only glued on the side connected to the hardcover, with the other side loose between the cover and the pages.


The book is essentially finished at this point, but I find the books do not stay shut on their own (1), making it impossible to stack them together on a shelf. To work around this I used a metal paper fastener (1) as a closing. As you can see in 3, they can now stand neatly next to each other whether on a shelf or freestanding on a desk.


To decorate, I used gold paint on a toothpick to make the spine and cover design. I also gold edged the pages by painting them while holding them tight together. they dried all stuck, but I used a toothpick to part them.

As I already had my paints out I decided to redo one of the book covers I’d already done (this book previously had a green and black striped spine as shown in the montage directly above in 3). As seen in 2 and 3 below I painted the spine silver, let it dry, then went over it in black marker, leaving five wide silver bands. I used a fine marker to divide each of the stripes into two further bands. For the cover I used markers and silver paint to make a coiling snakes design.


Well…this post is much longer than I intended, and I still have more to say! So in the next post I’ll discuss different materials, their pros and cons, and of course some ideas on filling the books.

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