Course Syllabus

Book Arts (CWPA 780), Spring 2016, University of Baltimore

Instructor: Meredith Purvis
Office hours: By appointment
Class Meeting Times: Section 185 is Tues., 5:30 -8:00 p.m., Section 186 is Thurs., 5:30-8:00 p.m.

View the weekly schedule for the course.

Course Objectives and Assessment

The Introduction to Book Arts course provides an overview of basic book arts and literary publication production. Throughout the semester, students will:

  • Learn about the tools and history of bookbinding
  • Create a variety of book forms in editions of one or several
  • Use book forms as constraint/inspiration for new types of writing
  • Analyze page designs and practice page layout in InDesign
  • Explore self publishing and sales venues

Students should check the blog weekly for assignments.

Student Learning Outcome: Design and produce print and/or electronic publications that enhance and support the writing.

Instructor’s Rationale
Given the digital age we live in, it is easy to dismiss handbound books as antiquated and unnecessary. And yet, in recent years, the book arts have experienced a resurgence. It is my belief that handbound books offer writers and publishers an interesting and unique avenue for producing and distributing the written word.  As the writer and publisher, you are free to completely explore your book and concept and to design a binding that makes the outside of your book as expressive as the inside, whether you choose to create an edition of 1 or of many. Working with a printer may limit your creative concepts due to cost or production limitations. Additionally, in no small part because of their rarity, handmade books or books which feature a handmade element may generate more interest in an indie-publishing venture than a mass-produced book. It also worth noting that handmade books can be designed to be a cheaper alternative to mass production. Through this course, you will not only learn to make books by hand, but you will be tasked with answering for yourself the question of why handbound books are worthwhile and how you as a writer and publisher can make use of this unique skillset.


Assignments and Grading
Students will complete weekly assignments, as well as a mid-semester and final book project. Attendance will count toward the class participation grade.

–  Class participation 15%
–  Homework Assignments 25%
–  Project 1  30%
–  Project 2 30%

Attendance Policy
Attendance is essential for student success. Therefore, students must adhere to the following rules:

  • A student enrolled in a class that meets once a week is permitted one absence. Following one absence, the student’s final grade will be lowered by half a letter grade for each absence. There is no difference between an excused and an unexcused absence; my concern is the number of classes missed, not the reasons for the absences. However, it is always wise to let me know ahead of time that you will be absent, if you are able to do so.
  • If you are absent, no matter the reason, you are responsible for obtaining information about the material covered and the assignments announced in class.  You must submit—on time—assignments announced while you are absent.

Late Work Policy
Late work will not be accepted unless you have made arrangements with me prior to the assignment’s due date (note: that does not mean 5 minutes before it’s due). If you plan on missing class, the assignment should be submitted beforehand.  Projects 1 & 2 (your midterm and final) are the only exception to this rule. If you submit the midterm or final after they are due, you will be docked 1 letter grade for each business day that they are late.

Book Arts Studio Rules
We are fortunate to have this wonderful book arts studio to work in, and since it is a shared space, there are a few rules of which  you should be aware:

  • Only cut on designated tables.
  • If you spill something, please clean it up.
  • Room is not ventilated, so no aerosols of any kind, especially spray mount! (It’s very dangerous.)
  • Only acrylic paints, no oils.
  • Please clean up after yourself.
  • Do not use the board shear if you have not been trained to do so or if you are alone in the studio.

Required Materials and Tools*
You will need these items throughout the duration of the class. You can also expect to purchase some additional materials on a per-project basis.

  • Self-healing cutting mat (No smaller than 12”x18”)
  • X-acto knives (at least a utility knife for cutting book board, but also nice to have a smaller blade)
  • A 9”x12” sketch pad (60-80lb. paper)
  • A 9”x12” pad of heavy-weight/card stock (90-125lb.)
  • Scissors
  • Pens/markers/etc.
  • Awl
  • Bone folder
  • A metal ruler with a cork back
  • PVA glue (for projects)
  • Linen thread (for projects) [Not hemp!]
  • Wide-eyed needle
  • 2-3 sponge brushes

*See a list of stores and websites that carry these supplies.

Suggested Texts

While this course does not have a required textbook, there are a great many books on bookbinding available. The following are just a few of the best that I have found. I would urge you to consider purchasing one or more of them, if you are able. They will prove helpful to you as guides and inspiration when you are working on your projects.


  • Alisa Golden. Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms. Lark Crafts, 2010. (ISBN: 978-1600595875)


  • Sue Doggett. Bookworks: Books, Memory and Photo Albums. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2005. (ISBN: 978-0823004911)
  • Beth Tondreau. Layout Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Using Grids. Rockport Publishers, Inc., 2009. (ISBN: 978-1592534722)
  • Josep Cambras.  Bookbinding: Techniques and Projects. Barron’s, 2007. (ISBN: 978-0764160844)