The book is finished! I’ll need to come back here and update it to include a DIY text, but for now, here’s the final product!
Part VI – Designing the Cover
This part is very important. In fact, I started to design the cover on February 26, 2019, just after I finished the editing of the Necronomicon! I knew the first design was not to be the final one, but I had to play with different approaches, just for the fun of it. My first concept was very similar to the Necronomicon from the movie H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon (aka Necronomicon: Book of the Dead) directed by Christophe Gans, Shûsuke Kaneko and Brian Yuzna in 1993. This movie is not the best Lovecraftian movie, but it is one of my favorite, and I love the book design! Anyway, I quickly decided to depart from that design, as I wanted something unique. I also never envisaged a cover based on Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. Many fans choose a screaming face to represent the Necronomicon because of it, but Raimi’s “Kandorian Necronomicon” has absolutely nothing to do with the Lovecraftian Necronomicon. On a similar note, I have no references to Raimi’s Necronomicon, designed by Tom Sullivan in my version. One day, I’ll make my own replica of that version of the Necronomicon, but that’s another project.
One thing was clear in my mind: I had to add the 1977 Simon’s Necronomicon “Sigil of the Gateway” or “Necronomicon Seal” on the front cover. This sigil is a pure invention by Simon (Peter Levenda), designed by artist Khem Caigan and combine the sigils of ARRA (Human Being), AGGA (the Elder Gods) and BANDAR (The watcher) — all fictional sigils — but the symbol is not only aesthetic, but it’s largely recognized by Lovecraft’s fans or occult practitioners around the world. I even have a tattoo of that sigil on my right arm, so I can’t say enough how much I love the look of it!
I placed the sigil off-center, to add chaos on the cover. To me, a symmetrical cover doesn’t give justice to the dreaded Necronomicon. I started to add lines, and circles, and then this design (design 14 to be precise) came very naturally. My girlfriend hated the tentacles, but at the time, it looked right for me (I guess). At the end, I removed “Necronomicon” from the cover, to keep it simple, but that was it:
Fast forward to May 23, 2019 (3 months later –which is exactly the day before I start doing the book binding), I decided to remove the border of tentacles. After reflection, it looked way too childish for me, and my girlfriend was right (as always). Instead of the tentacles, I added a straight border without putting any serious thoughts into it, and to be sincere, I still don’t know how it will look! I’ll play with texture tools and try to add atmosphere to it. For that design, I also decided to re-add the name of the book on the cover, but instead of “Necronomicon”, I went with “Al Azif”. “Necronomicon” is the Greek title by Theodorus Philetas for the 950 A.D. version, but I wanted to give back the original title from Abdul Alhazred book.
So, I have the “Sigil of the Gateway”, the “Al Azif” title, and some pattern that looks like sigils or constellations, and I added an Arabian-styled calligraphy, which is totally random and doesn’t follow any language or font. It look mystical and occult, and that is what I wanted! For the spine, I also included the sigil and the title, but added “ALHAZRED”. On the back, I kept it simple, but I added the “original” Elder Sign, as designed by H.P. Lovecraft himself, but redesigned by a fan with the inclusion of the names of the Old Ones. The Elder Sign is an icon in the Cthulhu Mythos, whose stories describe it as a form of protection against evil forces. The Necronomicon is known to have invocation and exorcism for the Cthulhu Mythos entities, and I think this is a nice touch to have the symbol acting as a repellent on the back of the book. If something turns wrong, grab the book and use it as a crucifix against the Lovecraftian monsters!
Here’s the final design:
Tomorrow, I will start the working on the leather cover!
Part V – Binding Finishing
After the pages have been glued and put in the book press for at least 12 hours, remove the textblock. This is the time to examine if the glue adhered to all the pages. If you have loose pages, that’s unfortunate, and only gluing them to the pages coming before and after could minimize the damage. Luckily enough, my textblock came out perfectly bound. It seems that the times I spend on research and my patience during the actual crafting process have been rewarded! I couldn’t help myself and I started to flip through it. It is exciting! Holding in my hands on what will become my own version of the Necronomicon felt amazing!
This step is fairly easy, compared to the actual page binding. For sure, it is way less stressful! Gather your ribbon(s) for the bookmark(s) and your headband/endband (tailband). I decided to have two bookmarks, one red, and one black. For the headband, I had ordered a Brown/Yellow pattern. By the way, if ribbons are easy to find in store where I live, there is no store that sells headband! On online store, they are cheap, but the shipping cost was more than four times the price of the item… Anyway, I wanted them, so I bought it.
First, cut the extra borders of the crash/mull/super (cheesecloth) and only keep the part glued on the spine. Add glue to the spine of the textblock where the bookmark(s) are to be fixed. I kept a generous length for the ribbons and glued them starting from the middle of the spine. The more you glue on the book, the less likely they’ll ever fall of in the future.
When the ribbons are glued, glue the head and the tail of the spine, and add the tail bands. Let dry for few hours before the next step.
When the tail bands and the ribbons are dried, you can add the end papers. While you can add both endpapers at the same time, I decided to be patient on this process and I added them separately. For the endpapers, I bought two black textured cardstock. To be precise, they are Fabriano Murillo 50×70 cm 360 g/m² (which is 133 lbs) cardstock. From the company website: “Fabriano Murillo, 360 gsm is a hefty card stock with neutral pH and acid free. Mouldmade in Italy of 15% cotton, 85% sulphite, neutral pH, internally and externally sized. This fine cardboard paper is produced with 100% ECF cellulose, according to ISO 9706 “Long Life” regulation. It is acid free to guarantee long permanence over time. The particular grain of the surface and the highly lightfast colours are the principal characteristics of this paper, which is ideal for de-luxe editions, art prints, leaflets, book art as well as printmaking”.
If you are making a book in a US Letter-size (8.5 x 11″), you’ll need to cut two 8.5 x 22″ rectangles. If you can, make sure the direction of the grain is in the vertical. When it’s done, each rectangle need to be folded in two, along the direction of the grain, which gives us the US Letter-size.
Add glue along the textblock, only near the spine, and add the first bookend.
Place the textblock back in the book press and let dry at least one hour. When it’s dry, do the same for the other bookend, and then, put the textblock back in the book press for few hours.
The very last step for the binding is to add the backing material or “liner”, a piece of paper/cardstock on the spine. First, cut clean all the remaining extra from the cheesecloth and the tailbands. Then, cut a piece of cardboard large enough for the width of the spine, and parts of the front and back of the textblock.
Add glue on the surface of this new piece, and then, glue along the spine and the endpages. But the textblock back in the book press, and wait few hours.
The next step will be the leather cover!
The cover will be made in few days/weeks as I’m still waiting for tools that I ordered to be delivered. Anyway, after Steps 1-5, I need a little rest! 🙂
Part IV – Book Binding
Now things begin to be interesting, or rather challenging! Today was the D-Day for the binding of the book. Because my book is printed on 8.5 x 11 inches paper sheets (US Letter-size), the binding is technically more complicated. Traditional book pages are made by sheets folded in two, and then you group them by stitching them in the spine, making the signatures. For many years now, when I need to do something I never done before, YouTube is my friend! So, I searched some months ago on how to bind a book composed of loose US Letter-sized sheets, and I found out about the Double Fan Technique. Here are my favorite videos describing the techniques:
Double Fan Binding Melhorias
Encadernação Double Fan Binding
Double Fan Binding for Single Sheets
Binding loose leaf sheets using the double fan method
The first step is also the tricky part as the pack of loose sheets must be the most aligned possible. I used a plastic mallet. Tap on the borders and when you think the pages are aligned, put the text block in the book press, and secure their position by screwing the book press on them. The pages should be 50% in the book press and 50% outside, to be able to do the double fan binding.
Make sure the side on the outside is indeed the side that will be the spine! Then, get a ruler and every 2 cm, draw a line. These lines will be cut and a kitchen twine will be inserted, securing the pages even more. My US Letter-sized books will get 13 twines, interesting number for the Necronomicon!
I started using a small saw for model making, however, it took me forever for cutting only one line, and it was too thin for my liking. So, I switched to my dremel tool! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the 13 lines finished (shame on me), but they were about 3 mm in depth.
When it’s done, this is the time to add the glue for the double fan technique. Some uses regular white glue for wood, but I wanted to do it the best way possible, and I used Neutral PH Adhesive. This type of glue is specially designed for book binding, and it has the flexibility needed for the double fan technique.
This part is not really what I could call it a fun time. Adding glue to the pages of a book that took years in the making is stressful, and I couldn’t really take pictures during the process. You don’t have to rush the process, but you cannot take too much time either. You must flip the pages once, apply the glue in large quantity, flip it over on the other side, add more glue, and then straightened it. Push the text block further down in the book press, only leaving the top of the “spine” border outside.
Next step is to insert 13 kitchen twines in the lines that were previously cut by the saw or the dremel. Once they have been inserted, add more Neutral PH glue on them.
Now, the last part of the process is to add what is called the “crash”, the “mull” or the “super”. This fabric holds everything together. It’s not cheap, and I decided to use cheesecloth instead. To be fair, it is almost the same thing! Then, add even more glue on top of it, and let dry for few hours. Be patient! I let mine dry for almost 24 hours.
The next step will be the binding finishing!
Part III – Book Press
Today I made the book press that I’ll use to make the binding of my Necronomicon, and surely other book making project in the future. Professional Steel Bookbinding Press fitting US Letter-size can be found online for $120-180 USD, but I love doing my own things and I’m just grateful to be able to save some money — after all, the printer I bought yesterday was not that cheap…
Last month I had prepared myself by watching videos on YouTube. Two videos were the basis of my concept for the book press. First, the original video by Sea Lemon, titled How to Make a Book Press, posted in September 2012. The second video that retained my attention is an updated version by Mike Deakin, titled DIY Book Press on the Cheap!, posted in April 2018. This one is larger, and uses 4 pressure points distributed on the surface. I suggest you to watch these videos, as they’ll probably be more effective than my short summary here!
What is needed is rather simple, and will cost you less than $20, assuming you already own the drill:
First, make sure the wooden cutting boards you choose are bigger than the size of the page of the book you are making. You’ll need space around for the carriage screws. Use your ruler or the circle template to determine the position of the four carriage screws.
Then, drill the holes on the first wooden board. When this is done, place the second board underneath, and simply drill again using the first drilled board as template.
Now, each board will be customized. For the bottom board, I drilled a small overture larger than the hole, so that I can push the carriage screw head in it.
For the board on top, I decided to drill again, but with a larger tip this time. Having larger holes for the board on top will ease the movement of the board when you need to readjust the height. When these modifications are done, you are almost done! Use the sand paper to finish the boards and add the four carriage screws in the holes, add the washers and then the wing nuts, and that’s it!
You have your own book press!
This book press will be essential for the next step, the book binding.
Part II – Printing
On May 19, 2019, I nervously walked in a print shop with a USB key, holding a digital copy of my version of the Necronomicon. I was nervous, because most everything I do in my life is ultimately over complicated. It’s a curse, nothing can be simple when I’m doing a project, and I kind of knew the same would happen, again. Maybe I am the one bringing the curse on me, but whatever! I had made sure that my Microsoft Word document was saved with embedded font in the file. In this case, the file is larger but it assure that the many unique fonts used for the book (Windlass, Blackmoor LET, OldNewspaperTypes and Stingray, and some other weird characters) are visible by every other computers, even if they are not installed on them. The thing is, the computer used by the printing store doesn’t accept embedded fonts, as a restriction installed on their system (probably to limit chances of being contaminated by a virus?). Anyway, the young clerk was clueless on how fix that and didn’t want to install the actual font in their system (probably with good reasons, after all) but then I knew it was hopeless. It was a slow-down for my project, but not the end. But I found a way, my way to fix that issue.
The printing service would have cost me $82.77 CAD ($61.65 USD), for the 500 sheets and the ink for 1000 pages. Well, I ended up buying a new laser printer that can print on both sides. I bought 2 packs of 500 paper sheets in Ivory Pastel color. I needed only 500 sheets, but I wanted more to be able to correct possible mistakes during the printing process. Also, it’s nice to own more sheets of that color for future projects. I also added a toner, because the one coming with the printer is never filled-out fully. It ended up costing me $428.35 CAD ($319.04 USD). Hey, it’s for the Necronomicon after all, and now I’ll be completely independent and autonomous, not to mention that the printer will be a nice upgrade to my simpler printer and old scanner.
A quick note on my choice of color page: my goal will be to bind the book myself in hardcover, with a cover made in genuine leather. I want to give the book an ancient look from the outside and having bright white pages feel way off. On another side, I don’t plan to age all the 1000 pages. I could do that, I did that many times, but aging 1000 pages is too much work, and I’m not sure I want my book to be stained. So, by using an Ivory Pastel color sheet, I give it a nice aged look for now, and I still can decide to stain the borders in the future if I ever change my mind. At least, it’s not white, or too yellow.
Back home, I unboxed the printer and installed it. That was simpler than I expected. After the printer was ready to print, I did a 6-page print test on regular white paper. That worked as a charm! Now came the actual printing of the Necronomicon, a dream come true! At the same moment I clicked to print the first 50 pages, a storm grounded in the sky and rain started to fall off. That was an awesome atmosphere to print the Necronomicon, but I hoped to not lose power. I was lucky!
I went for several printing sessions. This way, I could monitor the printing process and make sure everything was ok, and fill out the paper tray when needed. The first 100 pages were cut in 2 portions, and then I went for hundreds of page at the time. The storm raged during almost all the printing process, and when the last page was printed, I was absolutely thrilled! I made no mistake and used only one package of paper. Seeing the whole book in printed format is amazing! It already give an idea on how massive the book will be at the end.
The next step will be to bind the pages together, but first, I’ll need to make my own book press! See you soon!
Part I – Content & Editing
I’m a fan of H.P. Lovecraft since 1994, just after having discovered that Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy (The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992)) based his Book of the Dead (aka Naturom Demonto; or Necronomicon ex Mortis) on Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. I was a fan of the movies and then I learned about the Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos. I was amazed and I wanted one thing going forward: to own my own copy of the Necronomicon! On the Internet, I devoured any ‘articles’ I could find on the book, and found that some copies were… available in bookstores?
Obviously, I learned quite quickly that the Necronomicon was a fictional invention from Lovecraft himself. I stumbled on various letters that indicates that it was included in his writings to add a connection between the stories, and also to have some fun. Even before his death, Lovecraft was amused that readers would believe that the Necronomicon was a real thing and he often declared that it was an invention, nothing more. Also, the best indication that the Necronomicon is pure invention by Lovecraft is probably the fact that before 1924, the year he introduced his Necronomicon in the short story titled “The Hound”, there is no mention of the book. The short story was written by H. P. Lovecraft in September 1922 and published in the February 1924 issue of Weird Tales. If “The Hound” marks the first appearance of the Necronomicon, Lovecraft had mentioned its author (Abdul Al-Hazred) a year earlier, in “The Nameless City” (1921), but for the first time, Lovecraft named the book. So, the Necronomicon never existed before 1922, case closed!
However, I wanted a prop copy of it, just for fun. I then bought almost all the fictional renditions of the book by various authors in bookstores, but instead of owning a voluminous antique tome, I had various modern looking trade paperbacks. In between 2002 and 2006, I was working on a compilation of these works, by scanning and copy-pasting the core texts of the various Necronomicons than can be bought in store. The task was huge, and I finished the compilation. However, I knew the book was not finished to my standards and dropped the project before printing it. It was on hold for many years, but I knew that I wanted to finish it someday.
It is now 2019, and I finally decided to finish that project. I spend much time of the last months to revise what I had done previously years ago. I re-edited the entire page layout, changed all the fonts and the styles of the headings. But then, the document was still too small for me at 600-something pages, and I knew it was missing lots of information. I wanted specific pages to fit what we knew from the major Cthulhu Mythos stories, and I wanted to include a bestiary. For the content to add, I had taken numerous notes from my readings and re-readings of the Cthulhu Mythos. But I found a webpage (https://lovecraft.fandom.com/wiki/Necronomicon) that even lists content of the Necronomicon from other authors (that I haven’t read, I must admit). From the many mentions and notes, three jumps right away:
So there we go, I would need more than 984 pages to make it ‘right’. I decided to end the book at page 999 for two reasons. With 999 pages, I obtain the number ‘666’ reversed, the number of the beast — even if the Catholic Devil doesn’t have any connection with the Necronomicon, I think it’s a funny trivia! On a practical note, if you request a printing order of 1000 pages in my local print shop, you get a sale rate. Printing 1000 pages ends up costing less than 999 pages, but I can trick the page count of 1000 by leaving the 1000th page blank, which means that I really ‘print’ 1000 pages but the end the book is truly at page 999! A note worth mention is that Lovecraft and others refers to the Necronomicon not as one unique book, but by various copies, versions and different translations hidden around the world. Not all the books have the same content and the same number of pages. My version of the Necronomicon would be in English, and contain absolutely everything known to exist in any of the books ‘existing’ in the stories. Let’s call it the Complete Necronomicon! For that reason, I wanted my pages 224, 751 and 984 to fit what was known form the stories, even if originally, they are pages picked from diverse editions. Only a hardcore fan would know that anyway!
Here a basic summary (the table of content is 10 pages long!) of what I have in my version of the Necronomicon:
It was a lot of work, but it was fun seeing the book finally being made as I always intended it to be. As mentioned earlier, I made sure my pages 224, 751 and 984 were exactly what they are supposed to be. I also added numerous drawings and sigils found on the web. A lot of thinking went into the final concept and layout, but it was worth it! The main fonts used are Windlass, Blackmoor LET, OldNewspaperTypes and Stingray. In the end, my book is exactly 999 pages, with the 1000th page left blank. Everything has been revised countless of times and I’m now ready to print the beast!
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