The Otter Bookbinding Curriculum

For those who are not specifically seeking a City and Guilds qualification we offer our own syllabus based on Marysa's training. This covers all aspects of the bookbinders art and craft, from simple binding techniques to book conservation to restoration and repair. You are free to come to sessions on a drop in basis and build up your skills and experience in your own time and at your own pace. 

This syllabus has carefully developed to take you through the process from the beginning and to learn the various aspects in a logical and practical way.  The Levels will be assessed by an external assessor and you will receive a certificate on completion of each Level. The flexibility of this course allows you also to achieve a level if you have completed assignments elsewhere and can prove it.  Those who would like to combine the City and Guilds with this may choose to do so and would then benefit from both a City and Guilds qualification as well as an Otter Education endorsement of competence.

"The training course offered at Otter Education is carefully structured into Levels to enable the beginner to progress on a logical learning path  Those with some training can slot in at the Level which suits them  However those returning to the craft after a period of time would do well to treat Level 1 as a ‘refresher’ time.        I have no hesitation in recommending Marysa de Veer and her staff as able and enthusiastic tutors."

Maureen Duke B.E.M

The Otter Bookbinding Curriculum

Level 1 - Class 1


  • An overview of tools, materials, equipment and bookbinding vocabulary and a recommended reference book list.

  • Health and safety considerations.

  • An explanation of the various strands to bookbinding  which will be part of the training and include but are not limited to:

    • case binding, 

    • non-adhesive, 

    • account book style, 

    • photo albums and scrap books, 

    • traditional flexible style bookbinding

    • printing and binding, conservation, 

    • restoration and repair of old books, 

    • repair of paper, cloth and leather, 

    • Box making and portfolio making

    • gold finishing, 

    • edge gilding and edge decoration. Single section note book quarter bound in cloth

You will make a:

  • Flat back case binding on paper back books.  Please bring in your own new paperbacks.

  • Sew and bind a multi section case bound book in quarter cloth

  • Non Adhesive exposed link stitch sewn book in full leather.

  • 10 minute card slip case

  • Make Paste papers that can be used on future projects on the course.


Level 1 - Class 2

You will make a:

  • Victorian Style photo album

  • Cloth hinged contemporary twist on the Victorian style photo album 

  • A scrap book with compensating guards

  • Japanese style stab stitched book using silk thread 

  • Japanese portfolio to fit Japanese style book

  • A slip case


Level 2 - Binding with attached boards.

On this level you will learn how to sew books using four different methods, how and when to use a plough to trim and all aspects of forwarding.

You will

  • Make up endpapers in three different styles ready for four books.

  • Use a plough to trim the edges of books.

  • Round and back

  • Sprinkle edges after sewing

  • Attach boards

  • Sew simple headbands

  • Use paring knives and spokeshaves for thinning leather where appropriate in preparation for  covering.

  • Learn how to sharpen your knives


This will result in you completing the following four books:

  • Library Style binding with split boards in buckram

  • Flexible style on raised cords in full leather

  • Laced in tapes in quarter leather

  • Flexible style on sunken cords in half leather


Level 3 - Book decoration

On this level you will learn how to letter and decorate your books using the following methods:

  • brass handle letters, 

  • type holders and 

  • decorative tools

  • Rolls, Fillets, Pallets and Gouges

  • Blocking machine

  • Use of carbon, foils and gold leaf.

  • Blind tooling

  • Decorative techniques for case bindings 

  • Use of inlays and onlays


Level 4 - Box making

On this level you will learn how to make:

  • Slip case

  • Box with a lid

  • Single wall drop back box

  • Double walled drop back box

  • Slip case with a chemise

  • The integration of pockets into books

  • Portfolio making


Level 5 - Creativity, structure and innovation

This is an opportunity to bring what you have learnt from the previous books you have bound to create a book style of your own choosing. Whacky and crazy ideas are welcome in this category along with thoughtful, diligent and solution based thinking to bookish dilemmas.

The thickness of the paper along with that of the sections require decisions to be made on sewing thread thickness and the structure. For example a book with two very thick sections will need more imaginative thought than the traditional approach in order for it to open adequately. 

Feel free to bring second hand volumes such as cookery books, children’s books etc,  home printed material, letterpress edition in loose or fixed pages, paperbacks or blank books of any description.

This module explores many of the less traditional options but also gives you the freedom to learn and apply new skills such as rough edge gilding, solid edge gilding, different sorts of headbands, non adhesive coptic stitching, thrown out guards, spring back style, wooden book, post binding, etc.

This level has an emphasis of student led further learning building on what you have already learnt.  Three books to be completed.

Level 6 - Antiquarian books.

This level  is all about the Antiquarian book and the many different solutions that are available in their treatment. This is not a book conservation course yet provides an overview of the skills, tools and solvents that are used in the every day repair of books that have broken boards, torn pages and or head caps that are loose or missing and other issues.  For more intensive treatments, it is advisable to approach a fully qualified paper and book conservator.  Please bring in one cloth book, a leather book and any other book of your choice for this level.


Level 7

This is an academic overview with prototypes and samples of a line of study related to bookbinding and books that you’d like to produce a written body of work on comprising of 8000-12000 words.  This can cover any element of bookbinding that you are interested in.


Classes and individual tuition are usually held at Otter Bookbinding in Midhurst 


Otter Bookbinding


Ashfield Road


GU29 9JS

Contact Us

Contact us on O1730 352042 or send us an email using the contact form here.