I am looking for information on the time it took for the construction and binding of books in particular, not the writing or copying of them.

So, considering that the material is ready to be bound, and that the book to be made is fairly plain and functional (e.g. as wiki says "bound in plain white vellum over boards, and had a brief title hand-written on the spine"):

How long would this process take for someone who was skilled at it (i.e. it was their job) per book?

How much longer would a luxury book (decorated cover, metal furniture, etc) take compared with this plain book?

If more than one book was needing to be constructed, could time be saved (either in preparation of the materials or the binding process itself) by grouping tasks, or would they need to be bound one by one?

  • 2
    I suspect that the total number of books bound in the 13th century is low; 'economies of scale' will be somewhat misleading. I suspect the time is largely about waiting for glue to dry; if nobody else gives an answer, the [bookbinder at Colonial Williamsburg(history.org/almanack/life/trades/tradepri.cfm) might know - I doubt the technology changed significantly, and they are generally willing to answer questions.
    – MCW
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 12:03
  • Books from that era were luxury items, not in mass production, so their cost (and time spent) would be proportional to the patron's budget. Maybe you can identify particular books or libraries to narrow this down? Commented May 17, 2018 at 17:04
  • I'm not really looking for answers pertaining to a large scale operation, more like an independent bookseller, or one who was hired to bind books for private collections, for example. I've edited for clarity
    – celkie
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 7:21
  • Was there any such thing as a "luxury book" in the 13th century? Commented May 18, 2018 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


My grandfather was a antiquarian book store owner in 1920s, in Kiev (Ukraine), and he bound books (I possess some books bound by him). With all ingredients ready he was able to bind 2-3 books per day, alone, with no helper. This is based on what my father told me (sometimes my father helped). But he was not binding them full time: he had to attend the store.

I suppose the process was not very different from what was done in 13th century. I do not see any substantial progress in book binding between 13th century and an early 20th century workman who worked alone and had no expensive tools. Perhaps his knife was made of better steel but this hardly changes the time required.

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