So I was reading this post from Hudson Valley Skettches, and Jamie talks about breaking in a Stillman and Birn Alpha artbook by bending the covers backwards until they touched. I tweeted the post, and also ended up on the phone with Michael Kallman of Stillman and Birn, and he reminded me of something: We used to do this to books all the time.
Remember when most of the books we bought or used in school were hardbound? It was common to see someone open the book and immediately bend the covers backwards to get it to lay open. I remember doing this a lot, and I’m not exactly sure when I stopped.
It must have been about the time that everything started to be perfect bound. You bend a perfect bound book backwards and you’ll likely as not end up with two books.
But a properly made book, where the signatures are sewn and sewn together, can take it and it actually makes the book more pleasant to use. As Michael mentioned, the book breaks in during normal use, which explains why old journals lay flatter than new ones. I’ve gone through my Stillmand and Birn books, as well as the Leuchtturm book I’m using, and it’s made all of them nicer to use.
So if you’re using a sewn book and it’s not laying quite flat enough to suit you, try breaking it in.