Are you using responsible supply channels for materials?

It has remained important to Bibliotheca to have close relationships with all our vendors and manufacturers contributing to the project. We have chosen to enter into each business relationship based on environmental responsibility and policies, good business practices, and even how employees are treated.

Although we have constantly sacrificed the our bottom line in trade for working with ethical companies, we are happy that each stitch and thread is something that we can all be proud of. 

Details we have written about a few of our manufacturers:

On Book Cloth

Our book cloth manufacturer is Van Heek Textiles, located in the Twente region of the Netherlands. Founded in 1859, they are unique in that they are the only textile manufacturer in the world that does every step of the process in-house, from joining the thread and rolling the looms to weaving, dyeing, and finishing the fabric. They are a global textile provider, crossing into many industries, but above all they have an excellent reputation for quality book cloth. They, like Salzer and Kösel, conduct their business with an impressive commitment to environmental responsibility.

Our contact at Van Heek, Michel, has assisted us in developing a book cloth just for Bibliotheca. We are starting with a 100 percent natural, uncoated and unbleached cotton base cloth for the New Testament. This same 100 percent natural cotton material will then be dyed four custom colors for the other volumes of the set, making the gradient from dark to light.

What’s special about cotton book cloth? The vast majority of modern book cloths are made of rayon, a semi-synthetic material derived from purified cellulose (plant fiber) that is forced through tiny holes to make thread (picture spaghetti). The resulting material is perfectly uniform in texture and color, and thus, in my opinion, lacks character while also being noticeably synthetic to the touch and shiny to the eye.

So cotton it is. Its naturally formed filaments produce a thread that varies in thickness and color, it’s soft and familiar to the touch, and it contains visible fibers and imperfections from the cotton plant—all of which contribute to the cloth’s character.

Last thing about the cloth: Normally, book cloth is bleached before it is dyed because this ensures perfectly consistent absorption of the dye. Since the variations of the natural material are desirable for us, Van Heek has agreed to wash the cloth with soap instead of bleaching it, which will allow the character of the cloth to show through. This also means there will be no bleach involved in the process (another benefit to using wood-free paper, which we discussed in the last update). The making of both paper and cloth typically involve a lot of bleach (especially in the quantities we are making), but we’ve gladly managed to avoid it altogether.

We’ve had dozens of samples made to get the perfect succession from dark to light. I have the final samples hanging next to me in the studio.


On Paper

As mentioned in December's video update, we'll be using a premium wood-free paper for the books. Salzer Paper is the leading European producer of wood-free bulky papers, with a long legacy of papermaking. The mill, founded in 1578 in St. Pölten, Lower Austria, was acquired by the Salzer family in 1798 and is still an independent, family-owned company.

We have chosen to use EOS Titan wood-free paper, which Salzer considers its finest product. In the December video update I mentioned that it was made of mineral components—it’s literally made of stone (not unlike a certain pair of tablets). The primary filler is calcium carbonate, known on the street as “chalk,” which Salzer gets from a nearby quarry. The secondary filler is titanium dioxide, commonly used as white pigment in paints and dyes. In our case its main function is to reflect light, resulting in the high opacity (low transparency) of this paper.

For its thickness and opacity, this paper is exceptionally tactile, soft to the touch, matte to the eye, and pliable—unlike anything I’ve seen in a wood-containing paper. (It’s usually a trade-off: Soft, tactile paper at this thickness is typically much more transparent, and opaque paper of this thickness is often stiff and dense, lacking texture.) It is also age-proof and will not yellow or become brittle over time, even when exposed to sunlight. 

I’ve been impressed with Salzer’s high environmental and ethical standards, and their transparency regarding their raw materials and suppliers. They are a responsible company with a commitment to sustainability. We are proud to participate in this well-respected tradition of papermaking.

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