Books On Books Collection – Cor Aerssens, “Anarchist of bookbinders”

Memories (2014)

Memories (2014)
Cor Aerssens
H190 x W200 mm

Punched holes used for pagination.

Aerssens and Hedi Kyle are long-time friends, whose correspondence has often consisted of an exchange of small models. Memories is an integrated variant of the Panorama Book structure, featuring as it does panels within panels, two 8-leaf booklets bound into front and back with paper hinges, and three pairs of mylar folders holding “found nature” items such as a feather, a grain stalk and whatever might have caught Aerssens’ eye.

Aerssen’s signature image of birds on his region’s wide, flat horizon.

Clamp (2016)

Clamp (2016)
Cor Aerssens
H298 x W214 mm

Aerssens loves cardboard as a material and created Clamp to illustrate its beauty. It illustrates, too, his constant search for elegant closures (whether with magnets, folds, pin/dowel or tabs and slots). As he put it in a conversation, “I’m a structure guy”.

The four tinted papers that hang like small abstract paintings in the framing pages speak to another of Aerssens’ comments about this leanings: “Presentation — display — has always interested me”.

Aerssens’s first employment was in bookbinding, but early on, he turned to carpentry and its engineering side before ultimately returning to bookbinding and containers of books and other objects. The experience of careful planning and a carpenter’s approach shines out of his every work. Look especially under Further Reading at his design work for Pierre Lecuire’s Dédale. Yet his quick answer when asked what other bookbinders probably have to say about him and his work? “The anarchist of bookbinders!”

A Visit to Cor Aerssens’ Studio, Warffum, The Netherlands (7 June 2018)

Remote as Warffum may seem from the armchair, it is easily accessible by train (Amsterdam-Groningen-Warffum). Artists from around the world book the small number of places in Aerssens’ workshops years in advance.

The large display objects and containers atop the bookshelf are finished in encaustic, another of the unusual features of Aerssens work.

Good luck spotting on his desk the Corfolder (a bonefolder for boxes). Sweden’s Monica Langwe can provide a Teflon one made to Aerssens’ design if you like.

Every work opens to reveal some element of ingenuity such as layered reveal-flaps, framed sheets of mica or double-hinged spines. One of Aerssens several innovations is the Groninger binding, which is generally a fully cardboard binding. Books with this binding open and lay perfectly flat.

The Groninger binding, designed by Cor Aerssens. Photo: Cor Aerssens site, row 18, no. 2.

Photo: Cor Aerssens site, row 18, no. 3.

A part of the book block is sewn with and integrated in the boards as is the spine, which obviates any need for endpapers or covering on the boards to keep book block and boards together. Other material can be used for a Groninger binding, such as kozo in the example below.

Photo: Cor Aerssens site, row 17, no. 2.

Further Reading

Hedi Kyle’s The Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures (2018)“, Bookmarking Book Art, 24 September 2018. A book review with illustrations.

Judy Goldhill“, Books On Books Collection, 29 June 2020.

Aerssens, Cor. Het dozen : activiteiten rond het begrip ‘dozen’ (Groningen: Cor Aerssens, 1998). Consists of two workbooks on creating boxes: part I ‘construction and covering of functional boxes’ and part II ‘step-by-step plan and objective boxes’. 

Aerssens, Cor. “‘Box’: A Monument to the Last Period of a Friendship.” New Bookbinder, vol. 32, July 2012, p. 23.

Aerssens, Cor. Ontwerp van Cor Aerssens voor Dédale van Pierre Lecuire. Met aantekeningen en schetsen (Warffum, 2003). The Koninklijke Bibliotheek commissioned Aerssens to create a display/binding for Lecuire’s artist’s book with André Lanskoy Dédale. In addition to the five boxes stacked in a pyramid (not pictured here), Aerssens delivered his detailed design notes and sketches (shown below), which demonstrate his carpentry background.

Goddijn, Peter. Westerse boekbindtechnieken van Middeleuwen tot heden: een handleiding voor het maken van boekmodellen (Amsterdam: De Buitenkant, 2001). Boekband. Met was behandeld bord in tinten goudbruin, en goudgeel (Warffum, 2002). The KB also commissioned this binding of Goddijn’s guidebook to making book models, based on his study of bookbinding techniques from the Middle Ages to the present. Note the encaustic finish of the cover and end papers. As the cover moves, the finish shimmers and changes colours across that spectrum of yellow-brown to yellow-gold in a way that the photos are hard-pressed to capture. In the preceding section, other works with an encaustic finish can been seen on the top shelf in the workshop photo. The binding itself takes a cue from the book’s content (see below), but it is in fact a Groninger binding (see section above).

My thanks to Paul van Capelleveen and the staff at the Dutch National Library in The Hague for their kind assistance.

Steere, Paula. “Materials and mechanics for book conservation: Part I. Engineering concepts for spine lining design“. The Book & Paper Gathering. Posted 9 June 2022 by Accessed 13 June 2022.

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