Bookbinding, and the Care of Books - A handbook for Amateurs, Bookbinders & Librarians
by Douglas Cockerell
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In issuing this volume of a series of Handbooks on the Artistic Crafts, it will be well to state what are our general aims.

In the first place, we wish to provide trustworthy text-books of workshop practice, from the points of view of experts who have critically examined the methods current in the shops, and putting aside vain survivals, are prepared to say what is good workmanship, and to set up a standard of quality in the crafts which are more especially associated with design. Secondly, in doing this, we hope to treat design itself as an essential part of good workmanship. During the last century most of the arts, save painting and sculpture of an academic kind, were little considered, and there was a tendency to look on "design" as a mere matter of appearance. Such "ornamentation" as there was was usually obtained by following in a mechanical way a drawing provided by an artist who often knew little of the technical processes involved in production. With the critical attention given to the crafts by Ruskin and Morris, it came to be seen that it was impossible to detach design from craft in this way, and that, in the widest sense, true design is an inseparable element of good quality, involving as it does the selection of good and suitable material, contrivance for special purpose, expert workmanship, proper finish and so on, far more than mere ornament, and indeed, that ornamentation itself was rather an exuberance of fine workmanship than a matter of merely abstract lines. Workmanship when separated by too wide a gulf from fresh thought—that is, from design—inevitably decays, and, on the other hand, ornamentation, divorced from workmanship, is necessarily unreal, and quickly falls into affectation. Proper ornamentation may be defined as a language addressed to the eye; it is pleasant thought expressed in the speech of the tool.

In the third place, we would have this series put artistic craftsmanship before people as furnishing reasonable occupation for those who would gain a livelihood. Although within the bounds of academic art, the competition, of its kind, is so acute that only a very few per cent. can fairly hope to succeed as painters and sculptors; yet, as artistic craftsmen, there is every probability that nearly every one who would pass through a sufficient period of apprenticeship to workmanship and design would reach a measure of success.

In the blending of handwork and thought in such arts as we propose to deal with, happy careers may be found as far removed from the dreary routine of hack labour, as from the terrible uncertainty of academic art. It is desirable in every way that men of good education should be brought back into the productive crafts: there are more than enough of us "in the city," and it is probable that more consideration will be given in this century than in the last to Design and Workmanship.



It is hoped that this book will help bookbinders and librarians to select sound methods of binding books.

It is intended to supplement and not to supplant workshop training for bookbinders. No one can become a skilled workman by reading text-books, but to a man who has acquired skill and practical experience, a text-book, giving perhaps different methods from those to which he has been accustomed, may be helpful.

My thanks are due to many friends, including the workmen in my workshop, for useful suggestions and other help, and to the Society of Arts for permission to quote from the report of their Special Committee on leather for bookbinding.

I should also like to express my indebtedness to my master, Mr. T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, for it was in his workshop that I learned my craft, and anything that may be of value in this book is due to his influence.

D. C.

November 1901.





Editor's Preface 7

Author's Note 11


Introduction 17


Entering—Books in Sheets—Folding—Collating—Pulling to Pieces—Refolding—Knocking out Joints 33


Guarding—Throwing Out—Paring Paper—Soaking off India Proofs—Mounting very Thin Paper—Splitting Paper—Inlaying—Flattening Vellum 53


Sizing—Washing—Mending 67


End Papers—Leather Joints—Pressing 80


Trimming Edges before Sewing—Edge Gilding 92


Marking up—Sewing—Materials for Sewing 98


Fraying out Slips—Glueing up—Rounding and Backing 114


Cutting and Attaching Boards—Cleaning off Back—Pressing 124


Cutting in Boards—Gilding and Colouring Edges 139


Headbanding 147


Preparing for Covering—Paring Leather—Covering—Mitring Corners—Filling-in Boards 152


Library Binding—Binding very Thin Books—Scrap-Books—Binding in Vellum—Books covered with Embroidery 173


Decoration—Tools—Finishing—Tooling on Vellum—Inlaying on Leather 188


Lettering—Blind Tooling—Heraldic Ornament 215


Designing for Gold-Tooled Decoration 230


Pasting down End Papers—Opening Books 254


Clasps and Ties—Metal on Bindings 259


Leather 263


Paper—Pastes—Glue 280




Injurious Influences to which Books are Subjected 291


To Preserve Old Bindings—Re-backing 302









The reasons for binding the leaves of a book are to keep them together in their proper order, and to protect them. That bindings can be made, that will adequately protect books, can be seen from the large number of fifteenth and sixteenth century bindings now existing on books still in excellent condition. That bindings are made, that fail to protect books, may be seen by visiting any large library, when it will be found that many bindings have their boards loose and the leather crumbling to dust. Nearly all librarians complain, that they have to be continually rebinding books, and this not after four hundred, but after only five or ten years.

It is no exaggeration to say that ninety per cent. of the books bound in leather during the last thirty years will need rebinding during the next thirty. The immense expense involved must be a very serious drag on the usefulness of libraries; and as rebinding is always to some extent damaging to the leaves of a book, it is not only on account of the expense that the necessity for it is to be regretted.

The reasons that have led to the production in modern times of bindings that fail to last for a reasonable time, are twofold. The materials are badly selected or prepared, and the method of binding is faulty. Another factor in the decay of bindings, both old and new, is the bad conditions under which they are often kept.

The object of this text-book is to describe the best methods of bookbinding, and of keeping books when bound, taking into account the present-day conditions. No attempt has been made to describe all possible methods, but only such as appear to have answered best on old books. The methods described are for binding that can be done by hand with the aid of simple appliances. Large editions of books are now bound, or rather cased, at an almost incredible speed by the aid of machinery, but all work that needs personal care and thought on each book, is still done, and probably always will be done, by hand. Elaborate machinery can only be economically employed when very large numbers of books have to be turned out exactly alike.

The ordinary cloth "binding" of the trade, is better described as casing. The methods being different, it is convenient to distinguish between casing and binding. In binding, the slips are firmly attached to the boards before covering; in casing, the boards are covered separately, and afterwards glued on to the book. Very great efforts have been made in the decoration of cloth covers, and it is a pity that the methods of construction have not been equally considered. If cloth cases are to be looked upon as a temporary binding, then it seems a pity to waste so much trouble on their decoration; and if they are to be looked upon as permanent binding, it is a pity the construction is not better.

For books of only temporary interest, the usual cloth cases answer well enough; but for books expected to have permanent value, some change is desirable.

Valuable books should either be issued in bindings that are obviously temporary, or else in bindings that are strong enough to be considered permanent. The usual cloth case fails as a temporary binding, because the methods employed result in serious damage to the sections of the book, often unfitting them for rebinding, and it fails as a permanent binding on account of the absence of sound construction.

In a temporary publisher's binding, nothing should be done to the sections of a book that would injure them. Plates should be guarded, the sewing should be on tapes, without splitting the head and tail, or "sawing in" the backs, of the sections; the backs should be glued up square without backing. The case may be attached, as is now usual. For a permanent publisher's binding, something like that recommended for libraries (page 173) is suggested, with either leather or cloth on the back.

At the end of the book four specifications are given (page 307). The first is suggested for binding books of special interest or value, where no restriction as to price is made. A binding under this specification may be decorated to any extent that the nature of the book justifies. The second is for good binding, for books of reference and other heavy books that may have a great deal of wear. All the features of the first that make for the strength of the binding are retained, while those less essential, that only add to the appearance, are omitted. Although the binding under this specification would be much cheaper than that carried out under the first, it would still be too expensive for the majority of books in most libraries; and as it would seem to be impossible to further modify this form of binding, without materially reducing its strength, for cheaper work, a somewhat different system is recommended. The third specification is recommended for the binding of the general run of small books in most libraries. The fourth is a modification of this for pamphlets and other books of little value, that need to be kept together tidily for occasional reference.

Thanks, in a great measure, to the work of Mr. Cobden-Sanderson, there is in England the germ of a sound tradition for the best binding. The Report of the Committee appointed by the Society of Arts to investigate the cause of the decay of modern leather bindings, should tend to establish a sound tradition for cheaper work. The third specification at the end of this book is practically the same as that given in their Report, and was arrived at by selection, after many libraries had been examined, and many forms of binding compared.

Up to the end of the eighteenth century the traditional methods of binding books had altered very little during three hundred years. Books were generally sewn round five cords, the ends of all of these laced into the boards, and the leather attached directly to the back. At the end of the eighteenth century it became customary to pare down leather until it was as thin as paper, and soon afterwards the use of hollow backs and false bands became general, and these two things together mark the beginning of the modern degradation of binding, so far as its utility as a protection is concerned.

The Society of Arts Committee report that the bookbinders must share with the leather manufacturers and librarians the blame for the premature decay of modern bindings, because—

"1. Books are sewn on too few, and too thin cords, and the slips are pared down unduly (for the sake of neatness), and are not in all cases firmly laced into the boards. This renders the attachment of the boards to the book almost entirely dependent on the strength of the leather.

"2. The use of hollow backs throws all the strain of opening and shutting on the joints, and renders the back liable to come right off if the book is much used.

"3. The leather of the back is apt to become torn through the use of insufficiently strong headbands, which are unable to stand the strain of the book being taken from the shelf.

"4. It is a common practice to use far too thin leather; especially to use large thick skins very much pared down for small books.

"5. The leather is often made very wet and stretched a great deal in covering, with the result that on drying it is further strained, almost to breaking point, by contraction, leaving a very small margin of strength to meet the accidents of use."

The history of the general introduction of hollow backs is probably somewhat as follows: Leather was doubtless first chosen for covering the backs of books because of its toughness and flexibility; because, while protecting the back, it would bend when the book was opened and allow the back to "throw up" (see fig. 1, A). When gold tooling became common, and the backs of books were elaborately decorated, it was found that the creasing of the leather injured the brightness or the gold and caused it to crack. To avoid this the binders lined up the back until it was as stiff as a block of wood. The back would then not "throw up" as the book was opened, the leather would not be creased, and the gold would remain uninjured (see fig. 1, B). This was all very well for the gold, but a book so treated does not open fully, and indeed, if the paper is stiff, can hardly be got to open at all. To overcome both difficulties the hollow back was introduced, and as projecting bands would have been in the way, the sewing cord was sunk in saw cuts made across the back of the book.

The use of hollow backs was a very ingenious way out of the difficulty, as with them the backs could be made to "throw up," and at the same time the leather was not disturbed (see fig. 1, C). The method of "sawing in" bands was known for a long time before the general use of hollow backs. It has been used to avoid the raised bands on books covered with embroidered material.

If a book is sewn on tapes, and the back lined with leather, there is no serious objection to a carefully-made hollow back without bands. The vellum binders use hollow backs made in this way for great account books that stand an immense amount of wear. They make the "hollow" very stiff, so that it acts as a spring to throw the back up.

But although, if carefully done, satisfactory bindings may be made with hollow backs, their use has resulted in the production of worthless bindings with little strength, and yet with the appearance of better work.

The public having been accustomed to raised bands on the backs of books, and the real bands being sunk in the back, the binders put false ones over the "hollow." To save money or trouble, the bands being out of sight, the book would be sewn on only three or sometimes only two cords, the usual five false ones still showing at the back. Often only two out of the three bands would be laced into the board, and sometimes the slips would not be laced in at all. Again, false headbands worked by the yard by machinery would be stuck on at the head and tail, and a "hollow" made with brown paper. Then leather so thin as to have but little strength, but used because it is easy to work and needs no paring, would be stuck on. The back would often be full gilt and lettered, and the sides sprinkled or marbled, thus further damaging the leather.

In every large library hundreds of books bound somewhat on these lines may be seen. When they are received from the binder they have the appearance of being well bound, they look smart on the shelf, but in a few years, whether they are used or not, the leather will have perished and the boards become detached, and they will have to be rebound.

As long as librarians expect the appearance of a guinea binding for two or three shillings, such shams will be produced. The librarian generally gets his money's worth, for it would be impossible for the binder to do better work at the price usually paid without materially altering the appearance of the binding. The polished calf and imitation crushed morocco must go, and in its place a rougher, thicker leather must be employed. The full-gilt backs must go, the coloured lettering panel must go, the hollow backs must go, but in the place of these we may have the books sewn on tapes with the ends securely fastened into split boards, and the thick leather attached directly to the backs of the sections. (See specification III. page 307.)

Such a binding would look well and not be more expensive than the usual library binding. It should allow the book to open flat, and if the materials are well selected, be very durable, and specially strong in the joints, the weak place in most bindings. The lettering on the back may be damaged in time if the book is much used, but if so it can easily be renewed at a fraction of the cost of rebinding, and without injury to the book.

While the majority of books in most libraries must be bound at a small cost, at most not exceeding a few shillings a volume, there is a large demand for good plain bindings, and a limited, but growing, demand for more or less decorated bindings for special books.

Any decoration but the simplest should be restricted to books bound as well as the binder can do them. The presence of decoration should be evidence that the binder, after doing his best with the "forwarding," has had time in which to try to make his work a beautiful, as well as a serviceable, production.

Many books, although well bound, are better left plain, or with only a little decoration. But occasionally there are books that the binder can decorate as lavishly as he is able. As an instance of bindings that cannot be over-decorated, those books which are used in important ceremonies, such as Altar Books, may be mentioned. Such books may be decorated with gold and colour until they seem to be covered in a golden material. They will be but spots of gorgeousness in a great church or cathedral, and they cannot be said to be over-decorated as long as the decoration is good.

So, occasionally some one may have a book to which he is for some reason greatly attached, and wishing to enshrine it, give the binder a free hand to do his best with it. The binder may wish to make a delicate pattern with nicely-balanced spots of ornament, leaving the leather for the most part bare, or he may wish to cover the outside with some close gold-tooled pattern, giving a richness of texture hardly to be got by other means. If he decides on the latter, many people will say that the cover is over-decorated. But as a book cover can never be seen absolutely alone, it should not be judged as an isolated thing covered with ornament without relief, but as a spot of brightness and interest among its surroundings. If a room and everything in it is covered with elaborate pattern, then anything with a plain surface would be welcome as a relief; but in a room which is reasonably free from ornament, a spot of rich decoration should be welcome.

It is not contended that the only, or necessarily the best, method of decorating book covers is by elaborate all-over gold-tooled pattern; but it is contended that this is a legitimate method of decoration for exceptional books, and that by its use it is possible to get a beautiful effect well worth the trouble and expense involved.

Good leather has a beautiful surface, and may sometimes be got of a fine colour. The binder may often wish to show this surface and colour, and to restrict his decoration to small portions of the cover, and this quite rightly, he aiming at, and getting, a totally different effect than that got by all-over patterns. Both methods are right if well done, and both methods can equally be vulgarised if badly done.

A much debated question is, how far the decoration of a binding should be influenced by the contents of the book? A certain appropriateness there should be, but as a general thing, if the binder aims at making the cover beautiful, that is the best he can do. The hints given for designing are not intended to stop the development of the student's own ideas, but only to encourage their development on right lines.

There should be a certain similarity of treatment between the general get-up of a book and its binding. It is a great pity that printers and binders have drifted so far apart; they are, or should be, working for one end, the production of a book, and some unity of aim should be evident in the work of the two.

The binding of manuscripts and early printed books should be strong and simple. It should be as strong and durable as the original old bindings, and, like them, last with reasonable care for four hundred years or more. To this end the old bindings, with their stout sewing cord, wooden boards, and clasps, may be taken as models.

The question is constantly asked, especially by women, if a living can be made by setting up as bookbinders. Cheap binding can most economically be done in large workshops, but probably the best bindings can be done more satisfactorily by binders working alone, or in very small workshops.

If any one intends to set up as a bookbinder, doing all the work without help, it is necessary to charge very high prices to get any adequate return after the working expenses have been paid. In order to get high prices, the standard of work must be very high; and in order to attain a high enough standard of work, a very thorough training is necessary. It is desirable that any one hoping to make money at the craft should have at least a year's training in a workshop where good work is done, and after that, some time will be spent before quite satisfactory work can be turned out rapidly enough to pay, supposing that orders can be obtained or the books bound can be sold.

There are some successful binders who have had less than a year's training, but they are exceptional. Those who have not been accustomed to manual work have usually, in addition to the necessary skill, to acquire the habit of continuous work. Bookbinding seems to offer an opening for well-educated youths who are willing to serve an apprenticeship in a good shop, and who have some small amount of capital at their command.

In addition to the production of decorated bindings, there is much to be done by specialising in certain kinds of work requiring special knowledge. Repairing and binding early printed books and manuscripts, or the restoration of Parish Registers and Accounts, may be suggested.


Entering—Books in Sheets—Folding—Collating—Pulling to Pieces—Refolding—Knocking out Joints


On receiving a book for binding, its title should be entered in a book kept for that purpose, with the date of entry, and customer's name and address, and any instructions he may have given, written out in full underneath, leaving room below to enter the time taken on the various operations and cost of the materials used. It is well to number the entry, and to give a corresponding number to the book. It should be at once collated, and any special features noted, such as pages that need washing or mending. If the book should prove to be imperfect, or to have any serious defect, the owner should be communicated with, before it is pulled to pieces. This is very important, as imperfect books that have been "pulled" are not returnable to the bookseller. Should defects only be discovered after the book has been taken to pieces, the bookbinder is liable to be blamed for the loss of any missing leaves.


The sheets of a newly printed book are arranged in piles in the printer's warehouse, each pile being made up of repetitions of the same sheet or "signature." Plates or maps are in piles by themselves To make a complete book one sheet is gathered from each pile, beginning at the last sheet and working backwards to signature A. When a book is ordered from a publisher in sheets, it is such a "gathered" copy that the binder receives. Some books are printed "double," that is, the type is set up twice, two copies are printed at once at different ends of a sheet of paper, and the sheets have to be divided down the middle before the copies can be separated. Sometimes the title and introduction, or perhaps only the last sheet, will be printed in this way. Publishers usually decline to supply in sheets fewer than two copies of such double-printed books.

If a book is received unfolded, it is generally advisable at once to fold up the sheets and put them in their proper order, with half-title, title, introduction, &c., and, if there are plates, to compare them with the printed list.

Should there be in a recently published book defects of any kind, such as soiled sheets, the publisher will usually replace them on application, although they sometimes take a long time to do so. Such sheets are called "imperfections," and the printers usually keep a number of "overs" in order to make good such imperfections as may occur.


Books received in sheets must be folded. Folding requires care, or the margins of different leaves will be unequal, and the lines of printing not at right angles to the back.

Books of various sizes are known as "folio," "quarto," "octavo," "duodecimo," &c. These names signify the number of folds, and consequently the number of leaves the paper has been folded into. Thus, a folio is made up of sheets of paper folded once down the centre, forming two leaves and four pages. The sheets of a quarto have a second fold, making four leaves and eight pages, and in an octavo the sheet has a third fold, forming eight leaves and sixteen pages (see fig. 2), and so on. Each sheet of paper when folded constitutes a section, except in the case of folios, where it is usual to make up the sections by inserting two or more sheets, one within the other.

Paper is made in several named sizes, such as "imperial," "royal," "demy," "crown," "foolscap," &c. (see p. 283), so that the terms "imperial folio" or "crown octavo" imply that a sheet of a definite size has been folded a definite number of times.

Besides the traditional sizes, paper is now made of almost any length and width, resulting in books of odd shape, and the names folio, quarto, &c., are rather losing their true meaning, and are often used loosely to signify pages of certain sizes, irrespective of the number that go to a sheet.

On receipt, for instance, of an octavo book for folding, the pile of sheets is laid flat on the table, and collated by the letter or signature of each sheet. The first sheet of the book proper will probably be signature B, as signature A usually consists of the half-title, title, introduction, &c., and often has to be folded up rather differently.

The "outer" sides, known by the signature letters B, C, D, &c., should be downwards, and the inner sides facing upwards with the second signatures, if there are any, B2, C2, D2, &c., at the right-hand bottom corner.

The pages of an octave book, commencing at page 1, are shown at fig. 3. A folder is taken in the right hand, and held at the bottom of the sheet at about the centre, and the sheet taken by the left hand at the top right-hand corner and bent over until pages 3 and 6 come exactly over pages 2 and 7; and when it is seen that the headlines and figures exactly match, the paper, while being held in that position, is creased down the centre with the folder, and the fold cut up a little more than half-way. Pages 4, 13, 5, 12 will now be uppermost; pages 12 and 5 are now folded over to exactly match pages 13 and 4, and the fold creased and cut up a little more than half-way, as before. Pages 8 and 9 will now be uppermost, and will merely require folding together to make the pages of the section follow in their proper order. If the folding has been done carefully, and the "register" of the printing is good, the headlines should be exactly even throughout.

The object of cutting past the centre at each fold is to avoid the unsightly creasing that results from folding two or more thicknesses of paper when joined at the top edge.

A "duodecimo" sheet has the pages arranged as at fig. 4.

The "inset" pages, 10, 15, 14, 11, must be cut off, and the rest of the section folded as for an octavo sheet. The inset is folded separately and inserted into the centre of the octavo portion.

Other sizes are folded in much the same way, and the principle of folding one sheet having been mastered, no difficulty will be found in folding any other.

Plates often require trimming, and this must be done with judgment. The plates should be trimmed to correspond as far as possible with the printing on the opposite page, but if this cannot be done, it is desirable that something approaching the proportion of margin shown at fig. 2 (folio) should be aimed at. That is to say, the back margin should be the smallest, the head margin the next, the fore-edge a little wider, and the tail widest of all. When a plate consists of a small portrait or diagram in the centre of the page, it looks better if it is put a little higher and a little nearer the back than the actual centre.

Plates that have no numbers on them must be put in order by the list of printed plates, or "instructions to the binder." The half-title, title, dedication, &c., will often be found to be printed on odd sheets that have to be made up into section A. This preliminary matter is usually placed in the following order: Half-title, title, dedication, preface, contents, list of illustrations or other lists. If there is an index, it should be put at the end of the book.

All plates should be "guarded," and any "quarter sections," that is, sections consisting of two leaves, should have their backs strengthened by a "guard," or they may very easily be torn in the sewing. Odd, single leaves may be guarded round sections in the same way as plates.

When a book has been folded, it should be pressed (see p. 87).

There will sometimes be pages marked by the printer with a star. These have some error in them, and are intended to be cut out. The printer should supply corrected pages to replace them.


In addition to the pagination each sheet or section of a printed book is lettered or numbered. Each letter or number is called the "sheet's signature." Printers usually leave out J W and V in lettering sheets. If there are more sections than there are letters in the alphabet, the printer doubles the letters, signing the sections A A, B B, and so on, after the single letters are exhausted. Some printers use an Arabic numeral before the section number to denote the second alphabet, as 2A, 2B, &c., and others change the character of the letters, perhaps using capitals for the first alphabet and italics for the second. If the sheets are numbered, the numbers will of course follow consecutively. In books of more than one volume, the number of the volume is sometimes added in Roman numerals before the signature, as II A, II B.

The main pagination of the book usually commences with Chapter I., and all before that is independently paged in Roman numerals. It is unusual to have actual numbers on the title or half-title, but if the pages are counted back from where the first numeral occurs, they should come right.

There will sometimes be one or more blank leaves completing sections at the beginning or end. Such blank leaves must be retained, as without them the volume would be "imperfect."

To collate a modern book the paging must be examined to see that the leaves are in order, and that nothing is defective or missing.

The method of doing this is to insert the first finger of the right hand at the bottom of about the fiftieth page, crook the finger, and turn up the corners of the pages with it. When this is done the thumb is placed on page 1, and the hand twisted, so as to fan out the top of the pages. They can then be readily turned over by the thumb and first finger of the left hand (see fig. 5). This is repeated throughout the book, taking about fifty pages at a time. It will of course only be necessary to check the odd numbers, as if they are right, the even ones on the other side of the leaf must be so. If the pages are numbered at the foot, the leaves must be fanned out from the head.

Plates or maps that are not paged can only be checked from the printed list. When checked it will save time if the number of the page which each faces is marked on the back in small pencil figures.

In the case of early printed books or manuscripts, which are often not paged, special knowledge is needed for their collation. It may roughly be said, that if the sections are all complete, that is, if there are the same number of leaves at each side of the sewing in all the sections, the book may be taken to be perfect, unless of course whole sections are missing. All unpaged books should be paged through in pencil before they are taken apart; this is best done with a very fine pencil, at the bottom left-hand corner; it will only be necessary to number the front of each leaf.


After the volume has been collated it must be "pulled," that is to say, the sections must be separated, and all plates or maps detached.

If in a bound book there are slips laced in the front cover, they must be cut and the back torn off. It will sometimes happen that in tearing off the leather nearly all the glue will come too, leaving the backs of the pages detached except for the sewing. More usually the back will be left covered with a mass of glue and linen, or paper, which it is very difficult to remove without injury to the backs of the sections. By drawing a sharp knife along the bands, the sewing may be cut and the bands removed, leaving the sections only connected by the glue. Then the sections of the book can usually be separated with a fine folder, after the thread from the centre of each has been removed; the point of division being ascertained by finding the first signature of each section. In cases where the glue and leather form too hard a back to yield to this method, it is advisable to soak the glue with paste, and when soft to scrape it off with a folder. As this method is apt to injure the backs of the sections, it should not be resorted to unless necessary; and when it is, care must be taken not to let the damp penetrate into the book, or it will cause very ugly stains. The book must be pulled while damp, or else the glue will dry up harder than before. The separated sections must be piled up carefully to prevent pages being soiled by the damp glue.

All plates or single leaves "pasted on" must be removed. These can usually be detached by carefully tearing apart, but if too securely pasted they must be soaked off in water, unless of course the plates have been painted with water-colour. If the plates must be soaked off, the leaf and attached plate should be put into a pan of slightly warm water and left to soak until they float apart, then with a soft brush any remaining glue or paste can be easily removed while in the water. Care must be taken not to soak modern books printed on what is called "Art Paper," as this paper will hardly stand ordinary handling, and is absolutely ruined if wetted. The growing use of this paper in important books is one of the greatest troubles the bookbinder has to face. The highly loaded and glazed surface of some of the heavy plate papers easily flakes off, so that any guard pasted on these plates is apt to come away, taking with it the surface of the paper. Moreover, should the plates chance to be fingered or in any way soiled, nothing can remove the marks; and should a corner get turned down, the paper breaks and the corner will fall off. It is the opinion of experts that this heavily loaded Art Paper will not last a reasonable time, and, apart from other considerations, this should be ample reason for not using it in books that are expected to have a permanent value. Printers like this paper, because it enables them to obtain brilliant impressions from blocks produced by cheap processes.

In "cased" books, sewn by machinery, the head and tail of the sheets will often be found to be split up as far as the "kettle" stitches. If such a book is to be expensively bound, it will require mending throughout in these places, or the glue may soak into the torn ends, and make the book open stiffly.

Some books are put together with staples of tinned iron wire, which rapidly rust and disfigure the book by circular brown marks. Such marks will usually have to be cut out and the places carefully mended. This process is lengthy, and consequently so costly, that it is generally cheaper, when possible, to obtain an unbound copy of the book from the publishers, than to waste time repairing the damage done by the cloth binder.

Generally speaking, the sections of a book cased in cloth by modern methods are so injured as to make it unfit for more permanent binding unless an unreasonable amount of time is spent on it. It is a great pity that publishers do not, in the case of books expected to have a permanent literary value, issue a certain number of copies printed on good paper, and unbound, for the use of those who require permanent bindings; and in such copies it would be a great help if sufficient margin were left at the back of the plates for the binder to turn it up to form a guard. If the plates were very numerous, guards made of the substance of the plates themselves would make the book too thick; but in the case of books with not more than a dozen plates, printed on comparatively thin paper, it would be a great advantage.

Some books in which there are a large number of plates are cut into single leaves, which are held together at the back by a coating of an indiarubber solution. For a short time such a volume is pleasant enough to handle, and opens freely, but before long the indiarubber perishes, and the leaves and plates fall apart. When a book of this kind comes to have a permanent binding, all the leaves and plates have to be pared at the back and made up into sections with guards—a troublesome and expensive business. The custom with binders is to overcast the backs of the leaves in sections, and to sew through the overcasting thread, but this, though an easy and quick process, makes a hopelessly stiff back, and no book so treated can open freely.


When the sheets of books that have to be rebound have been carelessly folded, a certain amount of readjustment is often advisable, especially in cases where the book has not been previously cut. The title-page and the half-title, when found to be out of square, should nearly always be put straight. The folding of the whole book may be corrected by taking each pair of leaves and holding them up to the light and adjusting the fold so that the print on one leaf comes exactly over the print on the other, and creasing the fold to make them stay in that position. With a pair of dividers (fig. 6) set to the height of the shortest top margin, points the same distance above the headline of the other leaves can be made. Then against a carpenter's square, adjusted to the back of the fold, the head of one pair of leaves at a time can be cut square (see fig. 7). If the book has been previously cut this process is apt to throw the leaves so far out of their original position as to make them unduly uneven.

Accurate folding is impossible if the "register" of the printing is bad, that is to say, if the print on the back of a leaf does not lie exactly over that on the front.

Crooked plates should usually be made straight by judicious trimming of the margins. It is better to leave a plate short at tail or fore-edge than to leave it out of square.


The old "joints" must be knocked out of the sections of books that have been previously backed. To do this, one or two sections at a time are held firmly in the left hand, and well hammered on the knocking-down iron fixed into the lying press. It is important that the hammer face should fall exactly squarely upon the paper, or it may cut pieces out. The knocking-down iron should be covered with a piece of paper, and the hammer face must be perfectly clean, or the sheets may be soiled.


Guarding—Throwing Out—Paring Paper—Soaking off India Proofs—Mounting very Thin Paper—Splitting Paper—Inlaying—Flattening Vellum


Guards are slips of thin paper or linen used for strengthening the fold of leaves that are damaged, or for attaching plates or single leaves.

Guards should be of good thin paper. That known as Whatman's Banknote paper answers very well. An easy way to cut guards is shown in fig. 8. Two or three pieces of paper of the height of the required guards are folded and pinned to the board by the right-hand corners. A series of points are marked at the head and tail with dividers set to the width desired for the guards, and with a knife guided by a straight-edge, cuts joining the points are made right through the paper, but not extending quite to either end. On a transverse cut being made near the bottom, the guards are left attached by one end only (see fig. 9), and can be torn off as wanted. This method prevents the paper from slipping while it is being cut.

A mount cutter's knife (fig. 10) will be found to be a convenient form of knife to use for cutting guards.

In using the knife and straight-edge a good deal of pressure should be put on the straight-edge, and comparatively little on the knife.

To mend the torn back of a pair of leaves, a guard should be selected a little longer than the height of the pages and well pasted with white paste (see page 288). If the pair of leaves are not quite separated, the pasted guard held by its extremities may be simply laid along the weak place and rubbed down through blotting-paper. If the leaves are quite apart, it is better to lay the pasted guard on a piece of glass and put the edges of first one and then the other leaf on to it and rub down.

On an outside pair of leaves the guard should be inside, so that the glue may catch any ragged edges; while on the inside pair the guard should be outside, or it will be found to be troublesome in sewing. In handling the pasted guards care is needed not to stretch them, or they may cause the sheet to crinkle as they dry.

Plates must be guarded round the sections next them. When there are a great many plates the back margin of each, to which a guard will be attached, must be pared (see fig. 11, A), or the additional thickness caused by the guards will make the back swell unduly. In guarding plates a number can be pasted at once if they are laid one on another, with about an eighth of an inch of the back of each exposed, the top of the pile being protected by a folded piece of waste paper (see fig. 12). To paste, the brush is brought from the top to the bottom of the pile only, and not the other way, or paste will get between the plates and soil them. Guards should usually be attached to the backs of plates, and should be wide enough to turn up round the adjoining section, so that they may be sewn through. Should a plate come in the middle of a section, the guard is best turned back and slightly pasted to the inside of the sheet and then sewn through in the ordinary way.

If plates are very thick, they must be hinged, as shown at fig. 11, B. This is done by cutting a strip of about a quarter of an inch off the back of the plate, and guarding with a wide guard of linen, leaving a small space between the plate and the piece cut off to form a hinge. It will save some swelling if the plate is pared and a piece of thinner paper substituted for the piece cut off (see fig. 11, C). If the plates are of cardboard, they should be guarded on both sides with linen, and may even need a second joint.

A book that consists entirely of plates or single leaves must be made up into sections with guards, and sewn as usual. In books in which there are a great many plates, it is often found that two plates either come together in the centre of a section, or come at opposite sides of the same pair of leaves. Such plates should be guarded together and treated as folded sheets (see fig. 13).

In order to be sure that the pages of a book to be guarded throughout will come in their proper order, it is well to make a plan of the sections as follows, and to check each pair of leaves by it, as they are guarded:—

Thus, if the book is to be made up into sections of eight leaves, the pairs of leaves to be guarded together can be seen at once if the number of the pages are written out—

1, 3, 5, 7,—9, 11, 13, 15.

First the inside pair, 7 and 9, are guarded together with the guard outside, then the next pair, 5 and 11, then 3 and 13, and then the outside pair, 1 and 15, which should have the guard outside. A plan for the whole book would be more conveniently written thus—

1-15 17-31 33-47 3-13 19-29 35-45 5-11 21-27 37-43 7-9 23-25 39-41, and so on.

To arrange a book of single leaves for guarding, it is convenient to take as many leaves as you intend to go to a section, and opening them in the centre, take a pair at a time as they come.

The number of leaves it is advisable to put into a section will depend on the thickness of the paper and the size and thickness of the book. If the paper is thick, and the backs of the leaves have been pared, four leaves to a section will be found to answer. But if the paper is thin, and does not allow of much paring, it is better to have a larger section, in order to have as little thread in the back as possible.

The sheets of any guarded book should be pressed before sewing, in order to reduce the swelling of the back caused by the guards.


Maps or diagrams that are frequently referred to in the text of a book, should be "thrown out" on a guard as wide as the sheet of the book. Such maps, &c., should be placed at the end, so that they may lie open for reference while the book is being read (see fig. 14). Large folded maps or diagrams should be mounted on linen. To do this take a piece of jaconet and pin it out flat on the board, then evenly paste the back of the map with thin paste in which there are no lumps, and lay it on the linen, rub down through blotting-paper, and leave to dry. Unless the pasting is done evenly the marks of the paste-brush will show through the linen. If a folded map is printed on very thick paper each fold must be cut up, and the separate pieces mounted on the linen, with a slight space between them to form a flexible joint.

A folded map must have in the back of the book sufficient guards to equal it in thickness at its thickest part when folded, or the book will not shut properly (see fig. 15).


For paring the edge of paper for mending or guarding, take a very sharp knife, and holding the blade at right angles to the covering-board, draw the edge once or twice along it from left to right. This should turn up enough of the edge to form a "burr," which causes the knife to cut while being held almost flat on the paper. The plate or paper should be laid face downwards on the glass with the edge to be pared away from the workman, the knife held in the right hand, with the burr downwards. The angle at which to hold the knife will depend on its shape and on the thickness and character of the paper to be pared, and can only be learned by practice. If the knife is in order, and is held at the proper angle, the shaving removed from a straight edge of paper should come off in a long spiral. If the knife is not in proper order, the paper may be badly jagged or creased.


Place a piece of well-sized paper in a pan of warm water, then lay the mounted India proof, face downwards, upon it and leave it to soak until the proof floats off. Then carefully take out the old mount, and the India proof can be readily removed from the water on the under paper, and dried between sheets of blotting-paper.


Very thin paper, such as that of some "India" proofs, may be safely mounted as follows:—The mount, ready for use, is laid on a pad of blotting-paper. The thin paper to be mounted is laid face downwards on a piece of glass and very carefully pasted with thin, white paste. Any paste on the glass beyond the edges of the paper is carefully wiped off with a clean cloth. The glass may then be turned over, and the pasted plate laid on the mount, its exact position being seen through the glass.


It is sometimes desirable to split pieces of paper when the matter on one side only is needed, or when the matter printed on each side is to be used in different places. The paper to be split should be well pasted on both sides with a thickish paste, and fine linen or jaconet placed on each side. It is then nipped in the press to make the linen stick all over, and left to dry.

If the two pieces of jaconet are carefully pulled apart when dry, half the paper should be attached to each, unless at any point the paste has failed to stick, when the paper will tear. The jaconet and paper attached must be put into warm water until the split paper floats off.


When a small plate or leaf has to be inserted into a larger book, it is best to "inlay it"; that is to say, the plate or leaf is let into a sheet of paper the size of the page of the book. To do this, a piece of paper as thick as the plate to be inlaid, or a little thicker, is selected, and on this is laid the plate, which should have been previously squared, and the positions of the corners marked with a folder. A point is made about an eighth of an inch inside each corner mark, and the paper within these points is cut out (see fig. 16). This leaves a frame of paper, the inner edges of which will slightly overlap the edges of the plate. The under edge of the plate, and the upper edge of the mount, should then be pared and pasted, and the plate laid in its place (with the corners corresponding to the folder marks). If the edges have been properly pared, the thickness where they overlap should not exceed the thickness of the frame paper. If an irregular fragment is to be inlaid, it is done in the same way, except that the entire outline is traced on the new paper with a folder, and the paper cut away, allowing one eighth of an inch inside the indented line.


The leaves of a vellum book that have become cockled from damp or other causes may be flattened by damping them, pulling them out straight, and allowing them to dry under pressure. To do this take the book to pieces, clean out any dirt there may be in the folds of the leaves, and spread out each pair of leaves as flatly as possible.

Damp some white blotting-paper by interleaving it with common white paper that has been wetted with a sponge. One sheet of wet paper to two of blotting-paper will be enough. The pile of blotting-paper and wet paper is put in the press and left for an hour or two under pressure, then taken out and the common paper removed.

The blotting-paper should now be slightly and evenly damp. To flatten the vellum the open pairs of leaves are interleaved with the slightly damp blotting-paper, and are left for an hour under the weight of a pressing-board. After this time the vellum will have become quite soft, and can with care be flattened out and lightly pressed between the blotting-paper, and left for a night. The next day the vellum leaves should be looked at to see that they lie quite flat, and the blotting-paper changed for some that is dry. The vellum must remain under pressure until it is quite dry, or it will cockle up worse than ever when exposed to the air. The blotting-paper should be changed every day or two. The length of time that vellum leaves take to dry will vary with the state of the atmosphere, and the thickness of the vellum, from one to six weeks.

Almost any manuscript or printed book on vellum can be successfully flattened in this way; miniatures should have pieces of waxed paper laid over them to prevent the chance of any of the fibres of the blotting-paper sticking. The pressure must not be great; only enough is needed to keep the vellum flat as it dries.

This process of flattening, although so simple, requires the utmost care. If the blotting-paper is used too damp, a manuscript may be ruined; and if not damp enough, the pressing will have no effect.




The paper in old books is sometimes soft and woolly. This is generally because the size has perished, and such paper can often be made perfectly sound by resizing.

For size, an ounce of isinglass or good gelatine is dissolved in a quart of water. This should make a clear solution when gently warmed, and should be used at about a temperature of 120 deg. F. Care must be taken not to heat too quickly, or the solution may burn and turn brown. If the size is not quite clear, it should be strained through fine muslin or linen before being used. When it is ready it should be poured into an open pan (fig. 17), so arranged that it can be kept warm by a gas flame or spirit lamp underneath. When this is ready the sheets to be sized can be put in one after another and taken out at once. The hot size will be found to take out a great many stains, and especially those deep brown stains that come from water. If there are only a few sheets, they can be placed between blotting-paper as they are removed from the size; but if there is a whole book, it is best to lay them in a pile one on the other, and when all have been sized to squeeze them in the "lying press" between pressing-boards, a pan being put underneath to catch the liquid squeezed out. When the sheets have been squeezed they can be readily handled, and should be spread out to dry on a table upon clean paper. When they are getting dry and firm they can be hung on strings stretched across the room, slightly overlapping one another. The strings must first be covered with slips of clean paper, and the sized sheets should have more paper over them to keep them clean.

Before sizing it will be necessary to go through a book and take out any pencil or dust marks that can be removed with indiarubber or bread crumbs, or the size will fix them, and it will be found exceedingly difficult to remove them afterwards.

When the sheets are dry they should be carefully mended in any places that may be torn, and folded up into sections and pressed. A long, comparatively light pressure will be found to flatten them better and with less injury to the surface of the paper than a short, very heavy pressure, such as that of the rolling-machine.

In some cases it will be found that sheets of old books are so far damaged as to be hardly strong enough to handle. Such sheets must be sized in rather a stronger size in the following way:—Take a sheet of heavily-sized paper, such as notepaper, and carefully lay your damaged sheet on that. Then put another sheet of strong paper on the top, and put all three sheets into the size. It will be found that the top sheet can then be easily lifted off, and the size be made to flow over the face of the damaged sheet. Then, if the top sheet be put on again, the three sheets, if handled as one, can be turned over and the operation repeated, and size induced to cover the back of the damaged leaf. The three sheets must then be taken out and laid between blotting-paper to take up the surplus moisture. The top sheet must then be carefully peeled off, and the damaged page laid face downwards on clean blotting-paper. Then the back sheet can be peeled off as well, leaving the damaged sheet to dry.

The following is quoted from "Chambers' Encyclopaedia" on Gelatine:—

"Gelatine should never be judged by the eye alone.

"Its purity may be very easily tested thus: Soak it in cold water, then pour upon it a small quantity of boiling water. If pure, it will form a thickish, clear straw-coloured solution, free from smell; but if made of impure materials, it will give off a very offensive odour, and have a yellow, gluey consistency."


When there are stains or ink marks on books that cannot be removed by the use of hot size or hot water, stronger measures may sometimes have to be taken. Many stains will be found to yield readily to hot water with a little alum in it, and others can be got out by a judicious application of curd soap with a very soft brush and plenty of warm water. But some, and especially ink stains, require further treatment. There are many ways of washing paper, and most of those in common use are extremely dangerous, and have in many cases resulted in the absolute destruction of fine books. If it is thought to be absolutely necessary that the sheets of a book should be washed, the safest method is as follows:—Take an ounce of permanganate of potash dissolved in a quart of water, and warmed slightly. In this put the sheets to be washed, and leave them until they turn a dark brown. This will usually take about an hour, but may take longer for some papers. Then turn the sheets out and wash them in running water until all trace of purple stain disappears from the water as it comes away. Then transfer them to a bath of sulphurous (not sulphuric) acid and water in the proportion of one ounce of acid to one pint of water. The sheets in this solution will rapidly turn white, and if left for some time nearly all stains will be removed. In case any stains refuse to come out, the sheets should be put in clear water for a short time, and then placed in the permanganate of potash solution again, and left there for a longer time than before; then after washing in clear water, again transferred to the sulphurous acid. When sheets are removed from the sulphurous acid they should be well washed for an hour or two in running water, and then may be blotted or squeezed off and hung up on lines to dry. Any sheets treated in this way will require sizing afterwards. And if, as is often the case, only a few sheets at the beginning or end of the book have to be washed, it will be necessary to tone down the washed sheets to match the rest of the book by putting some stain in the size. For staining there are many things used. A weak solution of permanganate of potash gives a yellowish stain that will be found to match many papers. Other stains are used, such as coffee, chicory, tea, liquorice, &c. Whatever is used should be put in the size. To ascertain that the right depth of colour has been obtained, a piece of unsized paper, such as white blotting-paper, is dipped in the stained size and blotted off and dried before the fire. It is impossible to judge of the depth of colour in a stain unless the test piece is thoroughly dried. If the stain is not right, add more water or more stain as is needed. Experience will tell what stain to use to match the paper of any given book.

To remove grease or oil stains, ether may be used. Pour it freely in a circle round the spot, narrowing the circle gradually until the stain is covered. Then apply a warm iron through a piece of blotting-paper.

Ether should only be used in a draught in a well-ventilated room on account of its well-known inflammable and anaesthetical properties.

A very dilute (about one per cent.) solution of pure hydrochloric acid in cold water will be found to take out some stains if the paper is left in it for some hours. When the paper is removed from the solution, it must be thoroughly washed in running water. It is important that the hydrochloric acid used should be pure, as the commercial quality (spirits of salts) often contains sulphuric acid.

The following recipes are quoted from De l'organisation et de l'administration des Bibliotheques, par Jules Cusin:—

To remove stains from paper:—"Mud Stains.—To take away these kinds of stains, spread some soap jelly very evenly over the stained places, and leave it there for thirty or forty minutes, according to the depth of the stain. Then dip the sheet in clean water, and then having spread it on a perfectly clean table, remove the soap lightly with a hog's hair brush or a fine sponge; all the mud will disappear at the same time. Put the sheet into the clear water again, to get rid of the last trace of soap. Let it drain a little, press it lightly between two sheets of blotting-paper, and finish by letting it dry slowly in a dry place in the shade.

"Stains of Tallow, Stearine, or Fat.—To take away these stains cover them with blotting-paper and pass over them a warm flat-iron. When the paper has soaked up the grease, change it and repeat the operation until the stains have been sufficiently removed. After that, touch both sides of the sheets where they have been stained with a brush dipped in essence of turpentine heated to boiling-point. Then to restore the whiteness of the paper, touch the places which were stained with a piece of fine linen soaked in purified spirits of wine warmed in the water-bath. This method may also be employed to get rid of sealing-wax stains.

"Oil Stains.—Make a mixture of 500 gr. of soap, 300 gr. of clay, 60 gr. of quicklime, and sufficient water to make it of the right consistency, spread a thin layer of this on the stain, and leave it there about a quarter of an hour. Then dip the sheet in a bath of hot water; take it out, and let it dry slowly.

"You can also use the following method, generally employed for finger-marks:—

"Finger-marks.—These stains are sometimes very obstinate. Still they can generally be mastered by the following method:—Spread over them a layer of white soap jelly (savon blanc en gelee), and leave it there for some hours. Then remove this with a fine sponge dipped in hot water, and more often than not all the dirt disappears at the same time. If this treatment is not sufficient, you might replace the soap jelly by soft soap (savon noir), but you must be careful not to leave it long on the printing, which might decompose and run, and that would do more harm than good."

Sheets of very old books are best left with the stains of age upon them, excepting, perhaps, such as can be removed with hot water or size. Nearly all stains can be removed, but in the process old paper is apt to lose more in character than it gains in appearance.


For mending torn sheets of an old book, some paper that matches as nearly as possible must be found. For this purpose it is the custom for bookbinders to collect quantities of old paper. If a piece of the same tone cannot be found, paper of similar texture and substance may be stained to match.

Supposing a corner to be missing, and a piece of paper to have been found that matches it, the torn page is laid over the new paper in such a way that the wire marks on both papers correspond. Then the point of a folder should be drawn along the edge of the torn sheet, leaving an indented line on the new paper. The new paper should then be cut off about an eighth of an inch beyond the indented line, and the edge carefully pared up to the line. The edge of the old paper must be similarly pared, so that the two edges when laid together will not exceed the thickness of the rest of the page. It is well to leave a little greater overlap at the edges of the page. Both cut edges must then be well pasted with white paste and rubbed down between blotting-paper. To ensure a perfectly clean joint the pasted edge should not be touched with the hand, and pasting-paper, brushes, and paste must be perfectly clean.

In the case of a tear across the page, if there are any overlapping edges, they may merely be pasted together and the end of the tear at the edge of the paper strengthened by a small piece of pared paper. If the tear crosses print, and there are no overlapping edges, either tiny pieces of pared paper may be cut and laid across the tear between the lines of print, or else a piece of the thinnest Japanese paper, which is nearly transparent, may be pasted right along the tear over the print; in either case the mend should be strengthened at the edge of the page by an additional thickness of paper. In cases where the backs of the sections have been much damaged, it will be necessary to put a guard the entire length, or in the case of small holes, to fill them in with pieces of torn paper. The edges of any mend may, with great care, be scraped with a sharp knife having a slight burr on the under side, and then rubbed lightly with a piece of worn fine sand-paper, or a fragment of cuttle-fish bone. Care must be taken not to pare away too much, and especially not to weaken the mend at the edges of the sheet. As a general rule, the new mending paper should go on the back of a sheet.

Sometimes it is thought necessary to fill up worm-holes in the paper. This may be done by boiling down some paper in size until it is of a pulpy consistency, and a little of this filled into the worm-holes will re-make the paper in those places. It is a very tedious operation, and seldom worth doing.

Mending vellum is done in much the same way as mending paper, excepting that a little greater overlap must be left. It is well to put a stitch of silk at each end of a vellum patch, as you cannot depend on paste alone holding vellum securely. The overlapping edges must be well roughed up with a knife to make sure that the paste will stick. A cut in a vellum page is best mended with fine silk with a lacing stitch (see fig. 18).

Mending is most easily done on a sheet of plate-glass, of which the edges and corners have been rubbed down.


End Papers—Leather Joints—Pressing


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.

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 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.


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.

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.


Trimming Edges before Sewing—Edge Gilding


When the sheets come from the press the treatment of the edges must be decided upon, that is, whether they are to be entirely uncut, trimmed before sewing, or cut in boards.

Early printed books and manuscripts should on no account have their edges cut at all, and any modern books of value are better only slightly trimmed and gilt before sewing. But for books of reference that need good bindings, on account of the wear they have to withstand, cutting in boards is best, as the smooth edge so obtained makes the leaves easier to turn over. Gilt tops and rough edges give a book a look of unequal finish.

If the edges are to remain uncut, or be cut "in boards" with the plough, the book will be ready for "marking up" as soon as it comes from the press; but if it is to be gilt before sewing, it must be first trimmed.

The sheets for trimming with end papers and all plates inserted must first be cut square at the head against a carpenter's square (see fig. 7). Then a piece of mill-board may be cut to the size, it is desired to leave the leaves, and the sections trimmed to it. To do this three nails should be put into the covering board through a piece of straw-board, and the back of the section slid along nails 1 and 2 until it touches No. 3 (see fig. 23). The board is slid in the same way, and anything projecting beyond it cut off. When the under straw-board has become inconveniently scored in the first position, by shifting the lower nail (1) a fresh surface will receive the cuts. Fig. 24 is a representation of a simple machine that I use in my workshop for trimming. The slides A A are adjustable to any width required, and are fixed by the screws B B. The brass-bound straight edge C fits on to slots in A A, and as this, by the adjustment of the slides, can be fixed at any distance from B B, all sizes of books can be trimmed. As by this machine several sections can be cut at once, the time taken is not very much greater than if the book were cut in the plough.

Considerable judgment is required in trimming. The edges of the larger pages only, on a previously uncut book, should be cut, leaving the smaller pages untouched. Such uncut pages are called "proof," and the existence of proof in a bound book is evidence that it has not been unduly cut.

Before gilding the edges of the trimmed sections, any uncut folds that may remain should be opened with a folder, as if opened after gilding, they will show a ragged white edge.


To gild the edges of trimmed sections, the book must be "knocked up" to the fore-edge, getting as many of the short leaves as possible to the front. It is then put into the "lying press," with gilding boards on each side (see fig. No. 25), and screwed up tightly. Very little scraping will be necessary, and usually if well rubbed with fine sand-paper, to remove any chance finger-marks or loose fragments of paper, the edge will be smooth enough to gild. If the paper is very absorbent, the edges must be washed over with vellum size and left to dry.

The next process is an application of red chalk. For this a piece of gilder's red chalk is rubbed down on a stone with water, making a thickish paste, and the edges are well brushed with a hard brush dipped in this mixture, care being taken not to have it wet enough to run between the leaves. Some gilders prefer to use blacklead or a mixture of chalk and blacklead. A further brushing with a dry brush will to some extent polish the leaves. It will then be ready for an application of glaire. Before glairing, the gold must be cut on the cushion to the width required (see p. 200), and may be either taken up on very slightly greased paper, a gilder's tip, or with a piece of net stretched on a little frame (see fig. 26). The gold leaf will adhere sufficiently to the net, and can be readily released by a light breath when it is exactly over the proper place on the edge.

When the gold is ready, the glaire should be floated on to the edge with a soft brush, and the gold spread evenly over it and left until dry; that is, in a workshop of ordinary temperature, for about an hour. The edge is then lightly rubbed with a piece of leather that has been previously rubbed on beeswax, and is ready for burnishing. It is best to commence burnishing through a piece of thin slightly waxed paper to set the gold, and afterwards the burnisher can be used directly on the edge. A piece of bloodstone ground so as to have no sharp edges (see fig. 27) makes a good burnisher.

There are several different preparations used for gilding edges. One part of beaten up white of egg with four parts of water left to stand for a day and strained will be found to answer well.

After the fore-edge is gilt the same operation is repeated at the head and tail. As it is desirable to have the gilding at the head as solid as possible, rather more scraping is advisable here, or the head may be left to be cut with a plough and gilt in boards.


Marking up—Sewing—Materials for Sewing


This is drawing lines across the back of the sections to show the sewer the position of the sewing cords.

Marking up for flexible sewing needs care and judgment, as on it depends the position of the bands on the back of the bound book. Nearly all books look best with five bands, but very large, thinnish folios may have six, and a very small, thick book may look better with four. Generally speaking, five is the best number. In marking up trimmed sheets for flexible sewing, the length of the back should be divided from the head into six portions, five equal, and one at the tail slightly longer. From the points so arrived at, strong pencil lines should be made across the back with a carpenter's square as guide, the book having been previously knocked up between pressing-boards, and placed in the lying press. It is important that the head should be knocked up exactly square, as otherwise the bands will be found to slope when the book is bound. In the case of a book which is to be cut and gilt in boards, before marking up it will be necessary to decide how much is to be cut off, and allowance made, or the head and tail division of the back will, when cut, be too small. It must also be remembered that to the height of the pages the amount of the "squares" will be added.

About a quarter of an inch from either end of the back of a trimmed book, and a little more in the case of one that is to be cut in boards, a mark should be made for the "kettle" or "catch" stitch. This may be slightly sawn in, but before using the saw, the end papers are removed. If these were sawn, the holes would show in the joint when the ends are pasted down.

If the book is to be sewn on double cords, or on slips of vellum or tape, two lines will be necessary for each band.

It has become the custom to saw in the backs of books, and to sink the bands into the saw cuts, using "hollow backs," and putting false bands to appear when bound. This is a degenerate form, to which is due much of the want of durability of modern bindings. If the bands are not to show on the back, it is better to sew on tapes or strips of vellum than to use sawn-in string bands.


The sewing-frame need by bookbinders is practically the same now as is shown in prints of the early sixteenth century, and probably dates from still earlier times. It consists of a bed with two uprights and a crossbar, which can be heightened or lowered by the turning of wooden nuts working on a screw thread cut in the uprights (see fig. 29).

To set up for sewing, as many loops of cord, called "lay cords," as there are to be bands, are threaded on to the cross piece, and to these, by a simple knot, shown at fig. 28, cords are fastened to form the bands. The "lay cords" can be used again and again until worn out.

To fasten the cord below, a key is taken (see fig. 28) and held below the press by the right hand; the cord is then pulled up round it by the left, and held in position on the key by the first finger of the right hand. The key is then turned over, winding up a little of the string, and the prongs slipped over the main cord. It is then put through the slit in the bed of the sewing-press, with the prongs away from the front. The cord is then cut off, and the same operation repeated for each band. When all the bands have been set up, the book is laid against them, and they are moved to correspond with the marks previously made on the back of the book, care being taken that they are quite perpendicular. If they are of the same length and evenly set up, on screwing up the crossbar they should all tighten equally.

It will be found to be convenient to set up the cords as far to the right hand of the press as possible, as then there will be room for the sewer's left arm on the inner side of the left hand upright.

A roll of paper that will exactly fill the slot in the sewing-frame is pushed in in front of the upright cords to steady them and ensure that they are all in the same plane.

When the sewing-frame is ready, with the cords set up and adjusted, the book must be collated to make sure that neither sheets nor plates have been lost or misplaced during the previous operations. Plates need special care to see that the guards go properly round the sheets next them.

The top back corner, on front and back waste end paper, should be marked. When this has been done, and all is found to be in order, the book is laid on a pressing-board behind the sewing-frame, the fore-edge towards the sewer, and the front end paper uppermost. As it is difficult to insert the needle into a section placed on the bed of the sewing-frame, it will be found convenient to sew upon a largish pressing-board, which will lie on the bed of the frame, and may have small catches to prevent it from shifting. When the board is in place, the first section (end paper) is taken in the left hand and turned over, so that the marks on the back come in the proper places against the strings. The left hand is inserted into the place where the sewing is to be, and with the right hand a needle and thread is passed through the kettle stitch mark (see fig. 29). It is grasped by the fingers of the left hand, is passed out through the back at the first mark on the left-hand side of the first upright cord, and pulled tight, leaving a loose end of thread at the kettle stitch. Then with the right hand it is inserted again in the same place, but from the other side of the cord, and so on round all five bands, and out again at the kettle stitch mark at the tail, using right and left hands alternately. The centre of the next section is then found, and it is sewn in the same way from tail to head, the thread being tied to the loose end hanging from the first kettle stitch. Another section is laid on and sewn, but when the kettle stitch is reached, the under thread is caught up in the way shown in fig. 30. These operations are repeated throughout the whole book. If the back seems likely to swell too much, the sections can be lightly tapped down with a loaded stick made for the purpose, care being taken not to drive the sections inwards, as it is difficult to get such sections out again. When all the sheets and the last end paper have been sewn on, a double catch stitch is made, and the end cut off. This method is known as flexible sewing "all along."

When one needle full of thread is exhausted, another is tied on, making practically a continuous length of thread going all along each section and round every band. The weaver's knot is the best for joining the lengths of thread. A simple way of tying it is shown at fig. 31. A simple slip knot is made in the end of the new thread and put over the end of the old, and, on being pulled tight, the old thread should slip through, as shewn at B. The convenience of this knot is, that by its use a firm attachment can be made quite close up to the back of the book. This is a great advantage, as if the knot is made at some distance from the back, it will have to be dragged through the section two or three times, instead of only once. The knot, after having been made, must be pulled inside the section, and remain there. Considerable judgment is required in sewing. If a book is sewn too loosely, it is almost impossible to bind it firmly; and if too tightly, especially if the kettle stitches have been drawn too tight, the thread may break in "backing," and the book have to be resewn.

One way to avoid having too much swelling in the back of a book consisting of a great many very thin sections is to sew "two sheets on." In this form of sewing two sections at a time are laid on the sewing-frame. The thread is inserted at the "kettle stitch" of the lower section, and brought out as usual at the first cord, but instead of being reinserted into the lower section, it is passed into the upper one, and so on, alternately passing into the upper and lower sections. This will give, if there are five bands, three stitches in each section instead of six, as there would be if the sewing were "all along," lessening the thread, consequently the swelling by half. It is usual to sew the first and last few sections "all along."

The common method of sewing is to make saw cuts in the back, in which thin cords can be sunk, and the thread merely passes behind them and not round them, as in flexible sewing. This method, although very quick and cheap, is not to be recommended, on account of the injury done to the backs of the sections by the saw, and because the glue running into the saw cuts is apt to make the back stiff, and to prevent the book from opening right to the back. Indeed, were a sawn-in book to open right to the back, as it is expected a flexibly-sewn book will do, showing the sewing along the centre of each section, the saw marks with the band inserted would show, and be a serious disfigurement.

Mediaeval books were usually sewn on double cords or strips of leather, and the headband was often sewn at the same time, as shown at fig. 32, A. This is an excellent method for very large books with heavy sections, and is specially suitable for large vellum manuscripts, in many of which the sections are very thick. An advantage of this method is, that the twist round the double cord virtually makes a knot at every band, and should a thread at any place break, there is no danger of the rest of the thread coming loose. This is the only mode of sewing by which a thread runs absolutely from end to end of the sections. The headband sewn at the same time, and so tied down in every section, is firmer and stronger than if worked on in the way now usual. In the fifteenth century it was the custom to lace the ends of the headbands into the boards in the same way as the other bands. This method, while giving additional strength at the head and tail, and avoiding the somewhat unfinished look of the cut-off ends of the modern headband, is, on the whole, of doubtful advantage, as it is necessary to cut the "turn in" at the point where strength in the leather is much wanted.

At fig. 32 is shown in section the three methods of sewing mentioned. A is the old sewing round double bands; with the headbands worked at the same time with the same thread; B is the modern flexible sewing, and C the common sawn-in method.

Books that are very thin or are to be bound in vellum, are best sewn on tapes or vellum slips. The easiest way to set up the sewing-frame for such sewing is to sling a piece of wood through two of the lay cords, and to pin one end of the vellum or tape band round this, pull the other end tight, and secure it with a drawing-pin underneath the frame. The sewing, in the case of such flat bands, would not go round, but only across them. To avoid undue looseness, every three or four threads may be caught up at the back of the band, as shown in fig. 33.


The cord used should be of the best hemp, specially made with only two strands of very long fibres to facilitate fraying out. For very large books where a double cord is to be used, the best water line will be found to answer, care being taken to select that which can be frayed out. If tape is used it should be unbleached, such as the sailmakers use. Thread should also be unbleached, as the unnecessary bleaching of most bookbinder's sewing-thread seems to cause it to rot in a comparatively short time. Silk of the best quality is better than any thread. The ligature silk, undyed, as used by surgeons, is perhaps the strongest material, and can be had in various thicknesses. It is impossible to pay too great attention to the selection of sewing materials, as the permanency of the binding depends on their durability. The rebinding of valuable books is at best a necessary evil, and anything that makes frequent rebinding necessary, is not only objectionable on account of the cost involved, but because it seriously shortens the life of the book.

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