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Walpurgisnacht - the handbook

JUNE 8, 2010

In May I created a prop book for a movie currently in production. There's a fantastic description of the book in the script. I can't share it, but the gist is that the book is 500 years old, oozes putrefaction and malevolence and is believed to be bound in .....human skin.

The interior is filled with collages of images and text from period books. Most of the text is German, taken from 15th century books. Many of the images are from the same period, for the sake of authenticity. But for the sake of what looks cool, there are images from other periods as well. The ones on this spread include 2 diagrams from Georg von Welling's 1735 Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum, a number puzzle designed by Ben Franklin, a Celtic knot, a diagram of a microbe and a heraldic device. One other pages, there are bits of electronic schematics, some diagrams and handwriting from George Washington's school notebook, and diagrams of crystals and fungi from a 19th century dictionary.

I also did a few dozen additional documents, inserted randomly in the pages. Letters in Old German script, diagrams, engravings from old anatomical texts, ancient Egyptian, Greek and Arabic mathematics scrolls, Sythio-Sarmatian inscriptions, tarot cards, and hoary scraps of every description. Doing the research for a project like this is easily half the work.
Here's a closeup of the clasps and lettering

I was all out of human skin, so goatskin had to suffice.
I made the clasps from thick copper heated and hammered to shape.
After the final shaping and oxidizing...
...I attached the clasps to the covers with brass pins, clinched on the back for strength.
The cover was treated with many thin layers of dyes, stains and waxes to give it the appropriate scrofulous air. The next step was to burn the lettering deeply into the leather.
After the cover was done, I bound the pages, aged and stained them, and then bound them into the cover.  The book is huge - about a foot wide, 17 inches tall and 5 inches thick. It's also heavy - just under 20 pounds, so the binding had to be bombproof to stand up to rough treatment on set and hold together.
© 2024 Ross MacDonald