Bookbinding, and the Care of Books, by Douglas Cockerell

Chapter XIII

Library Binding — Binding very Thin Books — Scrap-Books — Binding on Vellum — Books covered with Embroidery

Library Binding

Specifications III and IV

To produce cheaper bindings, as must be done in the case of large libraries, some alteration of design is necessary. Appearance must to some extent be sacrificed to strength and durability, and not, as is too often the case, strength and durability sacrificed to appearance. The essentials of any good binding are, that the sections should be sound in themselves, and that there should be no plates or odd sheets “pasted on,” or anything that would prevent any leaf from opening right to the back; the sewing must be thoroughly sound; the sewing materials of good quality; the slips firmly attached to the boards; and the leather fairly thick and of a durable kind, although for the sake of cheapness it may be necessary to use skins with flaws on the surface. Such flawed skins cost half, or less than half, the price of perfect skins, and surface flaws do not injure the strength of the leather. By sewing on tape, great flexibility of the back is obtained, and much time, and consequent expense, in covering is saved. By using a French joint much thicker leather than usual can be used, with corresponding gain in strength.

To bind an octavo or smaller book according to the specification given (III, page 307); first make all sections sound, and guard all plates or maps. Make end papers with zigzags. After the sections have been thoroughly pressed, the book will be ready for marking up and sewing. In marking up for sewing on tapes, two marks will be necessary for each tape. When there are several books of the same size to be sewn, they may be placed one above the other in the sewing press, and sewn on to the same tapes. It will be found that the volumes when sewn can easily be slid along the tapes, which must be long enough to provide sufficient for the slips of each. The split boards may be “made” of a thin black mill-board with a thicker straw-board. To “make” a pair of split boards the pieces of straw-and mill-board large enough to make the two are got out, and the straw-board well glued, except in the centre, which should previously be covered with a strip of thin mill-board or tin about four inches wide. The strip is then removed, and the thin black board laid on the glued straw-board and nipped in the press. When dry, the made board is cut down the centre, which will leave two boards glued together all over except for two inches on one side of each. The boards then are squared to the book in a mill-board machine. The back of the book is glued up, and in the ordinary way rounded and backed. The edges may be cut with a guillotine. The ends of the tapes are glued on the waste end paper, which should be cut off about an inch and a half from the back. The split boards are then opened and glued, and the waste end papers with slips attached are placed in them (see Fig. 72), and the book nipped in the press. To form a “French joint” the boards should be kept about an eighth of an inch from the back of the book. The book is then ready for covering. The leather must not be pared too thin, as the French joint will give plenty of play and allow the use of much thicker leather than usual. If time and money can be spared, headbands can be worked, but they are not absolutely necessary, and a piece of string may be inserted into the turning of the leather at head and tail in the place of them. When the book is covered, a piece of string should be tied round the joints, and the whole given a nip in the press. The corners of the boards should be protected by small tips of vellum or parchment. The sides may be covered with good paper, which will wear quite as well as cloth, look better, and cost less.

Fig. 72.
Fig. 72.

The lettering of library books is very important (see Chapter XV).

Binding Very Thin Books

Books consisting of only one section may be bound as follows:— A sheet of paper to match the book, and two coloured sheets for end papers, are folded round the section, and a “waste” paper put over all. A strip of linen is pasted to the back of the waste, and the whole sewn together by stitching through the fold. The waste may be cut off and inserted with the linen in a split board, as for library bindings. The back edges of the board should be filed thin, and should not be placed quite up to the back, to allow for a little play in the joints.

The leather is put on in the ordinary way, except that the linen at the head and tail must be slit a little to allow for the turn in. If waterproof sheets are first inserted, the ends may be pasted, the boards shut, and the book nipped in the press. By substituting a piece of thin leather for the outside coloured paper, a leather joint can be made.


Scrap-books, into which autograph letters, sketches, or other papers can be pasted, may be made as follows:— Enough paper of good quality is folded up to the size desired, and pieces of the same paper, of the same height, and about two inches wide, are folded down the centre and inserted between the backs of the larger sheets, as shown at Fig. 73. It is best not to insert these smaller pieces in the centre of the section, as they would be troublesome in sewing. If, after sewing, the book is filled up with waste paper laid between the leaves, it will make it manageable while being forwarded.

It is best to use a rather darkly-toned or coloured paper, as, if a quite white paper is used, any letters or papers that have become soiled, will look unduly dirty.

Fig. 73.
Fig. 73.

Autograph letters may be mounted in the following ways:— If the letter is written upon both sides of a single leaf, it may be either “inlaid,” or guarded, as shown at Fig. 74, A. A letter on a folded sheet of notepaper should have the folds strengthened with a guard of strong thin paper, and be attached by a guard made, as shown at Fig. 74, B; or if on very heavy paper, by a double guard, as shown at Fig. 74, C. Torn edges of letters may be strengthened with thin Japanese paper.

Fig. 74.
Fig. 74.

Thin paper, written or printed only on one side, may be mounted on a page of the book. It is better to attach these by their extreme edges only, as if pasted down all over they may cause the leaves to curl up.

Letters or any writing or drawing in lead pencil should be fixed with size before being inserted.

Silver prints of photographs are best mounted with some very quick-drying paste, such as that sold for the purpose by the photographic dealers. If the leaf on which they are mounted is slightly damped before the photograph is pasted down, it will be less likely to cockle. If this is done, waterproof sheets should be put on each side of the leaf while it dries. If photographs are attached by the edges only, they will not be so liable to draw the paper on which they are mounted; but sometimes they will not lie flat themselves.

In cases where very thick letters or papers have to be pasted in, a few more leaves of the book should be cut out, to make a corresponding thickness at the back.

Vellum Bindings

Vellum covers may be limp without boards, and merely held in place by the slips being laced through them, or they may be pasted down on boards in much the same way as leather.

If the edges of a book for limp vellum binding are to be trimmed or gilt, that should be done before sewing. For the ends a folded piece of thin vellum may replace the paste-down paper. The sewing should be on strips of vellum. The back is left square after glueing, and headbands are worked as for leather binding, or may be worked on strips of leather, with ends left long enough to lace into the vellum (see p. 151). The back and headbands are lined with leather, and the book is ready for the cover.

A piece of vellum should be cut out large enough to cover the book, and to leave a margin of an inch and a half all round. This is marked with a folder on the under side, as shown at Fig. 75, A. Spaces 1 and 2 are the size of the sides of the book with surrounding squares; space 3 is the width of the back, and space 4 the width for the overlaps on the fore-edge. The corners are cut, as shown at 5, and the edges are folded over, as at B. The overlap 4 is then turned over, and the back folded, as at C. The slips are now laced through slits made in the vellum.

Fig. 75.
Fig. 75.

A piece of loose, toned paper may be put inside the cover to prevent any marks on the book from showing through; and pieces of silk ribbon of good quality are laced in as shown, going through both cover and vellum ends, if there are any, and are left with ends long enough to tie (see Fig. 76).

Fig. 76.
Fig. 76.

If paper ends are used, the silk tape need only be laced through the cover, and the end paper pasted over it on the inside.

Another simple way of keeping a vellum book shut is shown at Fig. 77. A bead is attached to a piece of gut laced into the vellum, and a loop of catgut is laced in the other side, and looped over the bead as shown.

If the book is to have stiff boards, and the vellum is to be pasted to them, it is best to sew the sections on tapes or vellum slips, to back the book as for leather, and to insert the ends of the slips in a split board, leaving a French joint, as described for library bindings. Vellum is very stiff, and, if it is pasted directly to the back, the book would be hard to open. It is best in this case to use what is known as a hollow back.

Fig. 77.
Fig. 77.

To make a hollow back, a piece of stout paper is taken which measures once the length of the back and three times the width. This is folded in three. The centre portion is glued to the back and well rubbed down, and the overlapping edges turned back and glued one to the other (Fig. 78). This will leave a flat, hollow casing, formed by the single paper glued to the back of the book and the double paper to which the vellum may be attached. Or it is better to line up the back with leather, and to place a piece of thick paper the size of the back on to the pasted vellum where the back will be when the book is covered.

Fig. 78.
Fig. 78.

When the book is ready for covering, the vellum should be cut out and lined with paper. In lining vellum the paste must be free from lumps, and great care must be taken not to leave brush marks. To avoid this, when the lining paper has been pasted it can be laid, paste downwards, on a piece of waste paper and quickly pulled up again; this should remove surplus paste and get rid of any marks left by the brush. When the vellum has been lined with paper, it should be given a light nip in the press between blotting-paper, and while still damp it is pasted, the book covered, and the corners mitred. A piece of thin string is tied round the head-caps and pressed into the French joint.

Waterproof sheets are placed inside the covers, and the book then nipped in the press and left to dry under a light weight. If the vellum is very stiff and difficult to turn in, it may be moistened with a little warm water to soften it.

Books with raised bands have sometimes been covered with vellum, but the back becomes so stiff and hard, that this method, though it looks well enough, cannot be recommended. Vellum is a durable material, and can be had of good quality, but it is so easily influenced by changes of temperature, that it is rather an unsuitable material for most bindings.

Books Covered with Embroidery and Woven Material

To cover a book with embroidered material bind it with split boards, a French joint, and a hollow back, as described for vellum (see Fig. 78). Glue the back of the book with thin glue well worked up, and turning in the head and tail of the embroidery, put the book down on it so that the back will come exactly in the right place. Press down the embroidery with the hand to make sure that it sticks. When it is firmly attached to the back, first one board and then the other should be glued, and the embroidery laid down on it. Lastly, the edges are glued and stuck down on the inside of the board, and the corners mitred. Velvet or any other thick material can be put down in the same way. For very thin material that the glue would penetrate and soil, the cover should be left loose, and only attached where it turns in. A loose lining of good paper may be put between the book and the cover.

The inside corners where the cover has been cut should be neatly sewn up. The edges of the boards and head-caps may be protected all round with some edging worked in metal thread. It is well in embroidering book covers to arrange for some portion of the pattern to be of raised metal stitches, forming bosses that will protect the surface from wear.

Should any glue chance to get on the surface, the cover should be held in the steam of a kettle and the glue wiped off, and the cover again steamed.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52