Bookbinding, and the Care of Books, by Douglas Cockerell

Chapter V

End Papers — Leather Joints — Pressing

End Papers

If an old book that has had much wear is examined, it will generally be found that the leaves at the beginning and the end have suffered more than the rest of the book. On this ground, and also to enable people who must write notes in books to do so with the least injury to the book, it is advisable to put a good number of blank papers at each end. As these papers are part of the binding, and have an important protective function to perform, they should be of good quality. At all times difficulty has been found in preventing the first and last section of the book, whether end papers or not, from dragging away when the cover is opened, and various devices have been tried to overcome this defect. In the fifteenth century strips of vellum (usually cut from manuscripts) were pasted on to the back of the book and on the inside of the boards, or in some cases were merely folded round the first and last section and pasted on to the covers. The modern, and far less efficient, practice is to “overcast” the first and last sections. This is objectionable, because it prevents the leaves from opening right to the back, and it fails in the object aimed at, by merely transferring the strain to the back of the overcast section.

In order to make provision for any strain there may be in opening the cover, it is better to adopt some such arrangement as shown in Fig. 19. In this end paper the zigzag opens slightly in response to any strain.

The way to make this end paper is to take a folded sheet of paper a little larger than the book. Then with dividers mark two points an eighth of an inch from the back for the fold, and paste your paste-down paper, B B, up to these points (see Fig. 19, II). When the paste is dry, fold back the sheet (A1) over the paste-down paper, and A2 the reverse way, leaving the form seen in Fig. 19, III. A folded sheet of paper similar to A is inserted at C (Fig. 19, V, H), and the sewing passes through this. When the book is pasted down the leaf A1 is torn off, and B1 pasted down on the board. If marbled paper is desired, the marble should be “made,” that is, pasted on to B1.

Fig. 19.

There are considerable disadvantages in using marbled papers, as if they are of thick enough paper to help the strength of the binding, the “made” sheet is very stiff, and in a small book is troublesome. On no account should any marble paper be used, unless it is tough and durable. The quality of the paper of which most marbled papers are made is so poor, that it is unsuitable for use as end papers. For most books a self-coloured paper of good quality answers well for the paste-down sheets.

It is a mistake to leave end papers to be pasted on after the book has been forwarded, as in that case they have little constructive value. Every leaf of such an end paper as is described above will open right to the back, and the zigzag allows play for the drag of the board.

Paper with a conventional pattern painted or printed on it may be used for end papers. If such a design is simple, such as a sprig repeated all over, or an arrangement of stars or dots, it may look very well; but over elaborate end papers, and especially those that aim at pictorial effect, are seldom successful.

Ends may be made of thin vellum. If so, unless the board is very heavy, it is best to have leather joints.

A single leaf of vellum (in the place of B1 and 2, II, Fig. 19) should have an edge turned up into the zigzag with the leather joint, and sewn through. Vellum ends must always be sewn, as it is not safe to rely upon paste to hold them. They look well, and may be enriched by tooling. The disadvantage of vellum is, that it has a tendency to curl up if subjected to heat, and when it contracts it unduly draws the boards of the book. For large manuscripts, or printed books on vellum, which are bound in wooden or other thick boards and are clasped, thicker vellum may be used for the ends; that with a slightly brown surface looks best. The part that will come into the joint should be scraped thin with a knife, and a zigzag made of Japanese paper.

Silk or other fine woven material may be used for ends. It is best used with a leather joint, and may be stuck on to the first paper of the end papers (B1, No. 2, Fig. 19), and cut with the book. The glaire of the edge gilding will help to stop the edges fraying out. In attaching silk to paper, thin glue is the best thing to use; the paper, not the silk, being glued. Some little practice is needed to get sufficient glue on the paper to make the silk stick all over, and yet not to soil it. When the silk has been glued to the paper, it should be left under a light weight to dry. If put in the press, the glue may be squeezed through and the silk soiled.

If the silk is very thin, or delicate in colour, or if it seems likely that it will fray out at the edges, it is better to turn the edges in over a piece of paper cut a little smaller than the page of the book and stick them down. This forms a pad, which may be attached to the first leaf of the end papers; a similar pad may be made for filling in the board.

Before using, the silk should be damped and ironed flat on the wrong side.

Silk ends give a book a rich finish, but seldom look altogether satisfactory. If the silk is merely stuck on to the first end paper, the edges will generally fray out if the book is much used. If the edges are turned in, an unpleasantly thick end is made.

Leather Joints

Leather joints are pieces of thin leather that are used to cover the joints on the inside (for paring, see page 154). They add very little strength to the book, but give a pleasant finish to the inside of the board.

If there are to be leather joints, the end papers are made up without A 1, and the edge of the leather pasted and inserted at D, with a piece of common paper as a protection (see Fig. 19, IV). When the paste is dry, the leather is folded over at E.

A piece of blotting-paper may be pasted on to the inside of the waste leaf, leaving enough of it loose to go between the leather joint and the first sheet of the end paper. This will avoid any chance of the leather joint staining or marking the ends while the book is being bound. The blotting-paper, of course, is taken out with the waste sheet before the joint is pasted down.

Joints may also be made of linen or cloth inserted in the same way. A cloth joint has greater strength than a leather one, as the latter has to be very thin in order that the board may shut properly.

With leather or cloth joints, the sewing should go through both E and F.


Fig. 20.
Fig. 20.

Fig. 21. — Standing Press
Fig. 21. — Standing Press

While the end papers are being made, the sections of the book should be pressed. To do this a pressing-board is taken which is a little larger than the book, and a tin, covered with common paper, placed on that, then a few sections of the book, then another tin covered with paper, and then more sections, and so on, taking care that the sections are exactly over one another (see Fig. 20). A second pressing-board having been placed on the last tin, the pile of sections, tins, and pressing-boards can be put into the standing-press and left under pressure till next day. Newly printed plates should be protected by thin tissue paper while being pressed. Any folded plates or maps, &c., or inserted letters, must either not be pressed, or have tins placed on each side of them to prevent them from indenting the adjoining leaves.

Fig. 22. — French Standing Press
Fig. 22. — French Standing Press

Hand-printed books, such as the publications of the Kelmscott Press, should have very little pressure, or the “impression” of the print and the surface of the paper may be injured. Books newly printed on vellum or heavily coloured illustrations should not be pressed at all, or the print may “set off.”

The protecting tissues on the plates of a book that has been printed for more than a year can generally be left out, unless the titles of the plates are printed on them, as they are a nuisance to readers and often get crumpled up and mark the book.

In order to make books solid, that is, to make the leaves lie evenly and closely to one another, it was formerly the custom to beat books on a “stone” with a heavy hammer. This process has been superseded by the rolling-press; but with the admirable presses that are now to be had, simple pressing will be found to be sufficient for the “extra” binder.

At Fig. 21 is shown an iron standing-press. This is screwed down first with a short bar, and finally with a long bar. This form of press is effective and simple, but needs a good deal of room for the long bar, and must have very firm supports, or it may be pulled over.

At Fig. 22 is shown a French standing-press, in which the pressure is applied by a weighted wheel, which will, in the first place, by being spun round, turn the screw until it is tight, and give additional pressure by a hammering action. This press I have found to answer for all ordinary purposes, and to give as great pressure as can be got by the iron standing-press, without any undue strain on supports or workmen.

There are many other forms of press by which great pressure can be applied, some working by various arrangements of cog-wheels, screws, and levers, others by hydraulic pressure.

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