March 18, 2008

How to Measure a Book for a Clamshell Box

Sophia Siobhan Wolohan Bogle
Ashland, Oregon

Measuring a book properly is what really makes the difference between a professional job and a box that doesn’t fit the book. I was taught this method by David Weinstein who is an honors graduate of the London College of Printing and a master book restorer. I first wrote the instructions down so that a client could get a box made without having to send me the book. I let the client know ahead of time that I would only guarantee a perfect fit if I had the book, but that this method, done properly, should work satisfactorily.

To Begin:
Get a stiff metal ruler that starts with zero at the edge of one end. There can’t be a gap on the ruler before the measuring starts because you need to measure the books standing up on a table from the bottom up. I will be measuring in inches, but if you prefer metric the conversion should be simple. My board shear is in inches so I have to stick with that.

Height: Stand the book up on a flat surface with the front cover facing you and the spine perpendicular to the surface of the table. Set the ruler up behind it with the zero on the table. (This goes for every measurement.) Physically get down so your eye is level with the top of the book. Slide the ruler slowly from the fore-edge to the spine so that you determine the very highest point of the book. Usually it is at the joint or near the spine. Write down the measurement to the nearest 16th of an inch that is fully visible over the top of the book. Do not round down to a number below the edge of the book.

Width: Stand the book up on its fore-edge now with the tail of the book towards you and the head of the book away from you. Use weights to prop it in place. Place the ruler behind it so that you are looking down the spine towards the head of the book. Get that measurement. Do the same towards the tail end of the book and compare measurements. Be sure to check there isn’t some anomaly in the middle by sliding the ruler slowly from one side to the other looking all along the spine with the book parallel to you. Be sure to write down the biggest number.
If there are any obvious discrepancies on the spine that make a taller point somewhere in the middle of the spine (like raised bands) then use the ruler along the side of the spine and get a triangle that has a 90 degree angle to find the highest point setting the triangle on each raised band and looking at that measurement.

Thickness: Place the book flat on the table and put a small weight (about 2 pounds) in the center of the cover. The point is to mimic the compression of the box. So a big weight or a small weight will skew the measurement. Get your eye level down to the top of the book. Use the same ruler method and look all around the book for the highest point. It is usually at the spine area.

It is better to have more space than not enough space, therefore add a measurement just for space to these measurements to be sure it will be big enough, just an additional 1/16th or 3/32nds. If someone else has done the measurements and you do not have the book in your possession then add another 1/16th space to each measurement.

To Finish:
Double check all of the measurements after you have completed one round of measuring!
What we want is for the book to fit exactly so that it doesn’t move around when you shake the box. If the book does shake in the box for any reason you can easily add some acid-free felt or paper to fit beneath the book as an extra liner. It is impossible to make the box bigger or the book smaller once it is done.

Next time I will address figuring out the measurements for the trays based on materials used.

Sophia Siobhan Wolohan Bogle
Red Branch Book Restoration

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