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Around 1600 AD, the only people that would read and write were the educated, wealthy and the clergy. Even though the printing press was around, many books were still hand written and they were very precious, so covers were elegantly decorated. Books were passed from hand to hand as people loaned and borrowed these treasures, since there were so few of them.

To make such a book, oil paint was floated on top of water and the colors were gently intermingled using a thin stick that was drawn through the paint like icing. Then the artist would carefully place fabric onto the water surface. The material would soak up the paint as it lay on the water, then the cloth was laid out to dry. When it was ready, glue was smeared on the outside of the boards (usually sheets of wood) and the material was wrapped around the outside and rubbed smooth, then the corners were reinforced to protect from wear and tear.

Each design was unique, and its owner could be identified by its cover even if someone who could not read saw the title, and so this decorative technique became quite popular.

  Supplies: Amount:
2 pcs Matt board,
2 pieces, 4" x 5"
Gaffer's or strapping tape
1 piece, approx. 5"
COF, Dale's
Colored masking tape
1 piece, 10" - for spine
Discount School Supplies
Colored masking tap 4 pieces, 4" for corners Discount School Supplies $1.95/roll
Roylco Marbled Paper
1 piece, 8" x 5"
Discount School Supplies
Wax paper
1 piece, !2" x 18"
Dollar Store
Rubber band
1 or 2, 2"
Dollar Store / Office Supply
Shelf paper
1 piece, 9" x 5"
Typing paper
several, 5.5" x 8.5"
RAFT / COF Storeroom
Glue stick
1 tube
COF / Office Max
1 pair
COF Storeroom
  Total (approx.)  
$10 will make over 90 books
1. Place designed side down. Position the 2 matt boards vertically, about " apart. (Drawing an outline to make the gluing easier.)
2. Lift matt board and rub stick glue underneath it - reposition and press. Repeat with 2nd matt board.
3. Cut off corners of shopping paper at a 45 close to each matt board. Rub stick glue on side, top & bottom flaps, then fold these paper flaps over onto the matt boards and press them into place.
4. Peel larger shelf paper and position over these raw edges to finish the inside of your journal.
5. Fold paper and put into the fold of your cover. Attach with the rubber band. When you feel your book is full, pages can be stapled or sewn into the spine using an awl & heavy needle & thread or cording (optional).


Fifth graders' Medieval book.
Alex Kent 2003