September’s project for the Handmade Book Club was called Whirlwind Binding, but it’s also known as Dragon Scale Binding. I was so excited to share this old Chinese book structure with club members!
The History of Whirlwind Binding
The origins of whirlwind books remain a mystery, but it’s likely they appeared during the late Tang dynasty. A manuscript called Kanmiu buque qieyun in the Gugong Museum gives a clue—it was copied and bound in AD 749. At that time, the Tang dynasty thrived culturally, with a particular focus on poetic composition, reflecting cultural refinement and governmental importance. Rhyming dictionaries and other reference books were in demand. As scrolls became cumbersome for referencing, a new style emerged, seen in all known whirlwind documents, which are mainly reference books.
Breaking from traditional bookbinding was no small feat. Chinese bookbinding techniques persisted through the Tang dynasty despite changing materials. Before paper, documents were written on wooden or bamboo strips, tied in parallel so the text lines were adjacent. This binding, along with storage, lasted for centuries. The paper scroll was an evolution of this, with sheets pasted in sequence. Whirlwind documents innovated by stacking sheets into leaves, resembling modern books for easier consultation.
See what the Club Members made!
As you can imagine, we had a ton of fun with this Whirlwind Binding project.
This is so very special! Thank you for providing the history and teaching us such an unusual technique! You surprise me every month with new ideas! – Christina L.
I’m in love with this project! Thank you so much! – Susanna R.
Thank you so much for the history! And for teaching this wonderful structure. So many ideas! My hair is on fire 😉 – Tina N.
What is the Handmade Book Club?
The Handmade Book Club grew out of my love for teaching and community. Having spent more than 10 years teaching in-person classes, I decided to reach a wider audience in 2019 and founded the online Handmade Book Club.
The Handmade Book Club is a community of bookmakers from around the world. Each month, I teach a new book binding project to the club members. In addition to making books, we love learning about ways to fill our handmade journals. That’s why we have guest artists and speakers join us every month!
Whether you’re an experienced bookmaker or a complete novice, the Handmade Book Club is a community for you. You can try out a free book project here.
We’d love to have you join us! Sign up for the waitlist!