Of the many techniques to be learned in fine bookbinding, gold tooling is one of the most challenging. Not only does the binder have to contend with the tools and materials themselves (gold leaf is so fine, small pieces will float away in a draft and will absorb upon contact with skin) but the process is so exact, and requires a number of smaller skills to properly execute, that rarely does an impression come off perfectly.
As Florian, head of Atelier Bindery, so often states, however, small imperfection is the mark of an authentically crafted book; complete perfection is something that only a machine can achieve. Imperfections are especially likely when, as at Atelier, one uses vintage brass tooling implements which have seen a century or more of use and are far from perfect in and of themselves. Especially on restoration bindings where a worn look is desired, vintage tools are always preferred to newly-minted ones.
For this re-binding of a volume of Tennyson’s The Princess, the book was first bound on raised cords in hand-dyed calfskin.