Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself

Welcome to the first of my Japanese bookbinding book reviews!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m reviewing these books from the perspective of someone who does not know Japanese, but has enough bookbinding experience to be able to learn through images and diagrams.

Luckily, I am blessed with not only a friend who can read Japanese, but also loves bookbinding. She translated the book titles for me – apparently this is a subjective process. There are nuances to deciphering intent and emotion, so the language can be translated in different ways.

I decided that I’m okay with the Jill way – thanks Jill!

Btw, I’d like to apologize in advance for quality of the scans – I’m still trying to figure out the settings on my scanner.

And now, on to the review!

Miniature Books You Can Make YourselfTitle: Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself
Author: Yoshie Tanaka
ISBN: 4579208080
Publisher: Bunka Publishing Bureau
Year published: 2002
Paperback: 80 pages

Something I learned is that Japanese books can read left-to-right or right-to-left. If the characters run horizontally on the page, then the book reads left-to-right. If the characters run vertically on the page, then the book reads from right-to-left. This book reads left-to-right.

I was able to find a bit of information about the author. Yoshie Tanaka graduated from Musashino Art University. She started making miniature books while she was a junior in high school. Later in life, she worked in publishing as a book designer.

To learn more about Yoshie, you can visit her website. She has some videos where you can watch her miniature books in action. Note: This website is obviously in Japanese.

Pages 6-35 of the book are dedicated to images of handmade miniature books. Book measurements are given in millimeters. The books are really sweet (click on the images to enlarge):

Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself - pg 12

Page 12

Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself - pg 14

Page 14

Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself - pg 20

Page 20

Pages 36-37 cover basic bookbinding tools and materials. Pages 38-48 include step-by-step instructions on how to create some of the books featured in the front of the book:

Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself - page 38

Page 38


Pages 49-51 cover things such as the parts of a book, paper grain, and how to punch holes in signatures. Looking at the diagrams on the left of page 51, I believe that there are directions on how to construct a slipcase:

Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself - page 51

Page 51


Pages 52-72 are a bit of a mystery to me. They focus on each of the handmade books, but not with directions. Photos and sketches seem to offer specifics on different parts of each book. If you read Japanese and can shed some light here, please do!

Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself - page 52

Page 52


The last few pages of the book include pre-printed pages you can cut out and use to create your own handmade book.

Overall impressions: The instructional pages offer great photos of bookbinding technique – you could easily pick up some tips by checking them out. Although I couldn’t read the materials list for each project, I could easily figure out what was used based on the photos. Since the book offers specific project measurements in millimeters, you can use an online conversion calculator to get the non-metric equivalents.

Not all of the miniature books featured in the front of the book have accompanying project directions. That didn’t really bother me because I can never see too many examples of handmade books. In general, I’m pretty happy with my purchase.

If you’re interested in buying your own copy, you can get it from the following online shops:

4 Responses to “Miniature Books You Can Make Yourself

By JollyBrain - 8 October 2010 Reply

Hello from Tokyo!
I just followed a retweet to your site and am very impressed!
Enjoyed browsing your site and am looking forward to more.

Little assistance with the Japanese 🙂
The right of Page 51 explains how to make the “hanagire” (endbands); some tips on making the title label; and some tips on preparing the bookboards (like shaving the edges and using sponge paddings for a soft touch).

Page 52 (to 72; I presume) are excerpts from Tanaka’s binding journal for those who are interested in what she used and how she used it to make her works in the photos.

By Elissa - 9 October 2010 Reply

Taroh –

Thanks so much for the translation! I never would have figured that out on my own.

I love that she adds headbands to her miniature books – so cute.


By richard norman - 9 October 2010 Reply

Sadly I can offer no assistance with the Japanese translation. Ime a semi retired bookbinder and I really like the look of some of those little bindings, reminds me of another Japanese art, origami.


By Elissa - 9 October 2010 Reply


Yoshie’s book included a lot of accordion book variations, so your connection to origami is spot on.


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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