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Common Binding Styles.

Posted: 2012-04-13 08:14

Books are bound in a variety of of ways, and the style to be chosen depends on their age and value, and the use they are to be put. Each can present different problems and may require certain modifications in working methods. However, in general terms, when a bookbinder embarks upon the binding of a text he or she will in the majority of circumstances consider either of the following common forms of presentation:

(i) The Case Binding

Some very fine examples of printing and works of universal interest are casebound. The sections are sewn, (either hand or machine), cut, rounded, backed and the spine is lined up with first and second linings. A separate case is constructed from two separate boards held together by a cloth or similar material with a strip of paper or card glued to the back as a stiffener. The text block is then pasted into the case held in position by the sewing tapes, spine linings and the endpapers. False headbands can be applied as a decorative detail and the cases can be gold blocked for indentification or design purposes. A single-section manuscipt or presentation pamphlet can also be bound attractively as a case binding in full leather with a leather inner-joint. Here are some examples of casebound editions both antiquarian and modern froms:
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(ii) The Library Style

To meet an ever increasing demand to supply bound books for both public and private libraries in the middle of the 19th c. unfortunately led to a lowering in the standards of craftsmanship. The appearance of a book seemed to be taking a precedent over the strength and durability of its construction. It was becoming common practice for books to be sewn using the sunk cord method for speed, using inferior thin cords, and the covering boards were placed flush with the joint. Calfskin was the fashionable leather of the time; and again because of demand, its tanning process was simplified by using harmful acids. Excessive paring also caused undue weakness. Backs were stiffly lined to to take gold tooling, making them inflexible and brittle. Endpapers were no more than a simple fold of marbled paper. This style, with its thin boards and elegant finishing could not easily withstand heavy use. To overcome this problem a style of binding evolved influenced by the techniques used for the production of account books. Thus the term ' library style ' was coined. Features included using thick unpared morocco goatskin at the hinges for extra strength and durability. The boards are set away from the joints into what is known as a ' French Goove ' to allow for a freer opening. The covering leather is moulded into this groove and when the board is ' thrown back ' it stands away high and away from the joint. Sewing onto unbleached tape was introduced and proved more durable than hemp cords; other constructional features were the tight back, endpapers were oversewn onto the first and last sections and reinforced with linen, and the tapes were inserted into ' split boards ' for protection. The library style is not universally accepted as elegant but it serves its purpose of standing upto heavy and constant use. Buckram cloth can also be used for covering books in this method as we often see in reference libraries and legal offices.


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A heavy and large landscape format Press Cuttings Book forwarded in the library style.

(iii) The Flexible Style

The designation ' flexible ' refers to the action of the spine, which becomes concave when the book is opened. The text block is hand sewn onto hemp cords which protrude from the spine and these are ' oversewn ' by the thread. Traditionally, these raised bands are odd in number, five being the most popular, but seven or nine can be utilized, depending on the dimensions of the book. The spine is often lined with with an extra lining of leather. Board attachment is by achieved by ' lacing in ' to prepared and channels. This technique is in the main used for fine binding as it involves exceptional techniques in sewing, cutting and covering. Quality materials are used and extra refinements such as headbands, edge gilding and decoration are usually lavished on the work.

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Shelved editions bound in the Flexible Style showing the distinctive raised bands on the spine.

(iv) The Sunk Cord Style (Mock Flexible)

The invention of this style roughly coincides with the introduction of machine made paper to the printing industry in the first half of the 17th c., and the consequent rise in the demand for books as a result. Competition among binderies was increasingly fierce, and in order to reduce costs some establishments employed unskilled labour and, unfortunately, inferior materials were used. Bookbinders soon realized that sewing on sunk cords was more suited to these, evidently, weaker papers, and that text blocks could be sewn in almost one-fifth of the time as that used for the genuine flexible style. Eventually, this questionable technique was adopted and the ' extra letterpress style ' , with its attachment of false raised bands to the spine to give the appearance of raised band sewing soon became widespread. Traditionally, books were sewn onto five cords and the same number of false bands would be attached. Initially all of these cords were laced into the boards, but later; again as a time saving device, two would to be cut away and only the remaining three laced in. Further reductions in the number of cords soon followed which would inevitably led to an overall weakness in the binding structure and the security of board attachment. The legacy of this era in bookbinding is evident by the number of editions requiring rebinding and restoration today. However, it is not all bad news. Many contemporary fine bindings have been produced in this style as the tight smooth back (i.e. minus the false bands) is ideally suited for lettering and design. These books though are sewn on much thicker cords, covered with acid free leather, the backs are reinforced with extra linings and the inner joints are usually strengthened with cloth or leather.

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(v) Loose-leaf and Guard Books

Although loose-leaf work is generally considered not to be part of the craft bookbinder's repertoire, it is seen as a reasonably cheap, quick means of securing sheets together in a protective cover. As the term indicates pages are not sewn but bound integrally with the cover by an assortment of cords, rings, posts, slides and spring loaded, gripping bars. The obvious advantage is that sheets can be both inserted and
and removed without difficulty. The disadvantages are the movement of the sheets within the covers, causing a weakening at the spine edge,
invariably, where holes and slots have been pre-punched. Notwithstanding, a loose-leaf binding can be presentable as it lends itself for creative input with the use of eye catching covering materials; and is often used as a method for ' ease of use ' works of reference, personal albums, technical manuals, the display of photographs, and occasionally exhibiting small to medium scale planographic works of art.

A variation on the loose-leaf forwarding method is the Guard Book. When photographs, cuttings or other ephemera are added after the book has been ' made up ', the spine width must be increased to compensate for this extra thickness. Strips of paper, (the guards), should be the same as that used for the text block and are positioned between each sheet adjacent to the spine edge. As an example, a loose-leaf bound guard book is given one less guard than the total number of pages that are collated to make the main text block. An alternative option is to strengthen the sheets at the spine edge by forming a hinge with the use of either bookcloth or linen material. This then suffices as the ' compensating guard '. Guard books are in most cases compiled with thick paper to support the build up of weight, and as a consequence have rather bulky sections.

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Linen hinged guards seen here used on a antiquarian multi-section Guard Book for displaying postcards.

(vi) Vellum Bindings

Vellum is a beautiful and durable material which has been used for centuries to either cover books or form the leaves of a text block. The lighter, thinner skins of calf are used by calligraphers and scribes for writing upon, fine printing, small books and limp work. For large heavier bindings goat vellum is the favoured choice. The transparent nature of this particular skin lends itself for design opportunities, however, it is not the most amenable skin for working. It is very reactive to changes in ambient humidity,it has a translucent appearance and is not very flexible. Books covered in vellum are mostly forwarded in the Library style and the application of the skin to the boards is by a technique known as ' drummed' on. The boards which are slightly thicker than used for leather work because they must counteract the ' pull ' of the vellum during the drying process .They should also be lined with white cartridge paper on the outside, and a well pasted bond paper on the inside; and their edges whitened with emulsion paint. These treatments are necessary, otherwise the underlying board or any dark toned paper will show as a grey tone beneath the vellum. A stiffened ' one lining on ' and ' three off ' hollow back spine is another feature, again usually made white cartridge. This hollow back is essential; the inflexibility of vellum is impracticable on a tight-back book.

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Edwards of Halifax, '' The Life of Pope Sixtus the Fifth '', Dublin, W. Colles, 1799. Painted vellum with the arms of the Harrington Family
centred on the upper board.

(vi) Limp Bindings

Some early books were bound in vellum wrappers without hard covers, with the vellum extending beyond the dimension of normal squares, and enclose the foredge entirely. This popular style of covering continued when leather replaced vellum and the name ' Yapp edge ' was adopted in about 1850. Many devotional books are still bound with extended squares; a bible carried to church is held with the fingers round the foredge thus protecting the text block beneath.

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A limp Vellum covered binding showing a primary endband, which forms part of the attachment of the text block to the cover.
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A Library Edition dating back 249 years.

Posted: 2012-04-08 16:21

Continuing with the theme of the working methods of the Bookbinder.
Here are a number of close-up shots of a project I completed in January this year. The ravages of time and usage had taken their toll on this featured edition of , '' The Royal Charter of Confirmation Granted by King James II to the Trinity House of Deptford-Strond ''. (London. 1763).
A process of re-hinging detached boards using Japanese Tissue was used on this thin, small folio edition. As you will see, once the repairs have all been completed, the careful operation of age staining, blending in and dressing the sprinkled calfskin on this Cambridge Panel style binding is concluded, before the book is returned to the customer as a functioning archive.This repair technique was demonstrated by Dominic Riley at the Society of Bookbinders Training Seminar in Birmingham 2002. I understand it is now quite a common practice for working on ' tight-back ' spine covered books, and is applied in situations where the covering leather is too fragile to lift from the spine for completing a traditional reback utilizing a replacement skin. http://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2523.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2524.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2525.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2536.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2537.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2539.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2540.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2542(1).JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2544(1).JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2547(1).JPG
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