Bookbinding, and the Care of Books, by Douglas Cockerell

Chapter XVIII

Clasps and Ties — Metal on Bindings

Clasps and Ties

Some books need to be clasped to keep the leaves flat. All books written or printed on vellum should have clasps. Vellum unless kept flat is apt to cockle, and this in a book will force the leaves apart and admit dust. If a book is tightly wedged in a shelf the leaves will be kept flat, but as the chance removal of any other book from the row will remove the pressure, it is much better to provide clasps for vellum books.

Very thick books, and those with a great many folded plates, are better for having clasps to prevent the leaves from sagging. As nearly all books are now kept in bookshelves, and as any projection on the side of a book is likely to injure the neighbouring volume, a form of clasp should be used that has no raised parts on the boards.

Fig. 118.
Fig. 118.

At Fig. 118 is shown a simple clasp suitable for small books with mill-board sides, with details of the metal parts, made of thick silver wire below. Double boards must be “made,” and the flattened ends of the silver catch inserted between the two thicknesses, and glued in place. About one-eighth of an inch of the end should project. In covering, the leather must be pierced and carefully worked round the catch. To make the plait, three strips of thin leather are slipped through the ring, and the ends of each strip pasted together. The three doubled strips are then plaited and the end of the plait put through a hole in the lower board of the book about half an inch from the edge, and glued down inside. A groove may be cut in the mill-board from the hole to the edge before covering, to make a depression in which the plait will lie, and a depression may be scooped out of the inner surface of the board to receive the ends.

Fig. 119.
Fig. 119.

At Fig. 119 is a somewhat similar clasp with three plaits suitable for large books. The metal end and the method of inserting it into wooden boards are shown below. The turned-down end should go right through the board, and be riveted on the inside. When the three plaits are worked, a little band of silver may be riveted on just below the ring.

A very simple fastening that is sometimes useful is shown at Fig. 77. A very small bead is threaded on to a piece of catgut, and the two ends of the gut brought together and put through a larger bead. The ends of the gut with the beads on them are laced into the top board of the book, with the bead projecting over the edge, and a loop of gut is laced into the bottom board. If the loop can be made exactly the right length, this is a serviceable method.

Silk or leather ties may be used to keep books shut, but they are apt to be in the way when the book is read, and as hardly anybody troubles to tie them, they are generally of very little use.

Metal on Bindings

Metal corners and bosses are a great protection to bindings, but if the books are to go into shelves, the metal must be quite smooth and flat. A metal shoe on the lower edge of the boards is an excellent thing for preserving the binding of heavy books.

Bosses and other raised metal work should be restricted to books that will be used on lecterns or reading desks. The frontispiece is from a drawing of an early sixteenth-century book, bound in white pigskin, and ornamented with brass corners, centres, and clasps; and at page 323 is shown a fifteenth-century binding with plain protecting bosses. On this book there were originally five bosses on each board, but the centre ones have been lost.

Bindings may be entirely covered with metal, but the connection between the binding and the book is in that case seldom quite satisfactory. The most satisfactory metal-covered bindings that I have seen are those in which the metal is restricted to the boards. The book is bound in wooden boards, with thick leather at the back, and plaques of metal nailed to the wood. The metal may be set with jewels or decorated with enamel, and embossed or chased in various ways.

Jewels are sometimes set in invisible settings below the leather of bindings, giving them the appearance of being set in the leather. This gives them an insecure look, and it is better to frankly show the metal settings and make a decorative feature of them.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06