I really am going to work at maintaining this blog.
My problem is that I never much like my work and even more rarely think I have anything of import or interest to say.
Blame that on Soetsu Yanagi whose The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty taught me not to sign my work and should have added not to talk about it. But here we are.
So let’s get back to glaire, kick the tires, and try to get this junker off and running again.
By glaire I simply mean the adhesive used to attach a color, usually in the form of a metal leaf, to a book. For example in gilding an edge by adhering gold leaf. The word of course comes from Latin via French and means “white of egg” which reflects the ages old use of egg glaire though the earliest gilding on book bindings appears to have been small gold dots executed on Arabic bindings using a peculiar glue (made from snails) to adhere the gold. Our own hide glue (or at least the gelatin it is), in various forms, continues to have a role along with shellac and other adhesives as glaire in modern binding.
But egg glaire still has pride of place I think and in the West the methods for gilding books developed using it.
I remember that Carolyn Horton in her shop never used foils for tooling, even for the titles on cloth boxes, and used what I believe was a Renaissance recipe for glaire along with gold leaf. Her glaire was made using the white of an egg beaten to froth with a teaspoon of water, a scant pinch of sugar, and a pinch of salt. After settling overnight it was strained and then ready for use.
The water thins the egg white enough to flow smoothly while the salt acts as a preservative and the sugar acts to retain the bit of moisture necessary to good tooling. I’ve used it and it works beautifully.
Nonetheless anyone familiar with bookbinding literature knows that there are seemingly innumerable formulas for egg glaire which require everything from vinegar and oil to putrefied egg white.
The truth is that a perfectly good egg glaire for tooling most non-waterproof materials only needs the white of an egg beaten to peaks and then strained after being allowed to settle for 12 to 24 hours with the addition of just enough water to let the glaire flow smoothly from your brush or pen or sponge. Of course for laying leaf on book edges you add considerably more water. But that’s it.