The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 7, Number 6
Dec 1983

The Inserted-Flange Case Binding Structure for Rebinding Heavy Folios Without Leather

by Scott Kellar
private conservator, Chicago

As a great many library reference works have either been published as heavy folio volumes in "inadequate" (to be polite) case bindings, or given leather bindings that are now deteriorated, it is hoped that this structure will find an application. Designed for utility and endurance, it is meant to provide an economical binding alternative for heavy folios for which leather is not deemed appropriate or desirable. Characteristics of both Birdsall's and Harrison's adaptations of the split-board construction1 are integrated for their combined advantages. This structure includes a stab-sewn cloth-joint endsheet which assumes the volume has moderate-to-heavy shoulders and is not to be resewn.

Although questions may legitimately be raised with regard to the appropriateness of stab sewing through the shoulders (a topic of high mileage), it is well to note that the original bindings of a definite majority of these books include stab-sewn or overcast shoulders, especially in those published from the early nineteenth century on. Removing this original sewing is unnecessary and often disastrous. This type of volume usually functions well, by wear and/or design, without the first and last few sections opening completely to the spine fold. Stab sewing in rebinding can securely attach a cloth joint at the same time it reinforces the original stab sewing. If the volume does not have this original stab sewing through the shoulder, it is indeed up to the binder to decide whether or not that particular book will benefit by introducing it. In general, the heavier the shoulders, the more likely a binding of "stout" construction will benefit from its use. Simple modifications may be made in the following description to omit stab sewing if it is deemed preferable.

In the method described below, the specifications of many materials (linings, cloth, tapes, etc.) are left to the discretion of the binder. The use of a hollow tube (oxford hollow) on the spine is optional.


  1. Remove spine adhesive from the book block.
  2. Mend tears, clean pages.
  3. Secure loose pages; reinforce with japanese tissue at gutter if weak or brittle.

Cloth Joint Endsheet Construction (Figures 1-3)

  1. Tip 3" linen strips of suitable weight and strength to the shoulders with PVA.
  2. Pierce holes through to the spine at the base of the shoulders approximately 3/4" to 1-1/4" apart. Stitch in and out of these holes with strong thread. Draw the thread firmly and tie off at the first and last holes (Figure 1).
  3. Apply PVA to the perpendicular surface of the shoulders, being sure to cover the thread. Draw the linen strip back firmly away from the base of the shoulder and rub it well against the adhered surface.
  4. Prepare two double folios of strong acid-free paper, slightly larger than the book block.
  5. Gently crease the folded edge of the endsheets at a distance equal to the shoulder height.
  6. As each of these endsheets are tipped to the shoulders Figure 2), pull down the linen hinges over the end- sheet and crease them at the base of the shoulders. It is important that the folded edge of each endsheet extend completely to the edge of the shoulder.


    Figure 1. Stab-sewn shoulder.


    Figure 2. Hinge attachment.

  7. Tack linen tapes of sufficient weight and number to the spine with PVA. These should extend at least 2" onto the sides of the book block.
  8. Sew the double-folio endsheets through the fold onto these tapes (Figure 3), tying off the thread at head and tail to the previous stab-sewing. This "double sewing" provides a secure attachment of the hinge cloth to both the base and the outer edge of the shoulders.


Figure 3. Endsheet attachment.


  1. Trim the endsheets at head and tail.
  2. Round as necessary.
  3. Back the book and set the spine (this consolidation helps the spine to retain its shape on the shelf). This may be done by moistening the spine while it is in the backing press with methyl cellulose or paste. After allowing it to absorb as much moisture as possible, scrape off the excess and rub it down with a folder. Allow to dry in the press overnight.
  4. While the book is still in the backing press, add appropriate spine linings and allow to dry.
  5. If desired, a hollow tube may be added to the spine at this point.

Forming the Flanges

  1. Cut a strip of acid-free file folder stock for each flange, the height of the volume by 2", grain short.
  2. Brush PVA on the outside of the endsheet under the extending cloth joint only, and rub down the joint.
  3. Adhere the tapes onto the cloth joint.
  4. Brush PVA onto one side of the file folder strip, place it up to the base of the shoulder and rub it down.
  5. Brush out the foredge half of the outside endsheet and fold it up to the base of the shoulder, even with the file folder strip. Rub it down. (Figure 4)


    Figure 4. Flange construction.

  6. Repeat Steps 2-5 for the other flange.
  7. Put tins under the flanges up to the shoulders and press till dry. Later the flanges will be trimmed on all three edges to fit into recesses in the boards (Step 6 in the next section; Figure 7).

Recessed Laminated Board Construction (Figures 5 and 6)

  1. Quarter cloth: Cut all board heights (vertical grain) to the book block height plus 1/4" (squares are best kept small on heavy volumes to minimize possible sagging). Board width may be cut oversize and trimmed after the cover is attached.

    Full cloth: Board height as above. Board width should be the width of the book block from foredge to base of shoulder less 1/8". This allows for an average 1/4" distance between shoulder and board in the bound book. If the shoulders are higher than 1/4", the boards should be that much narrower; if they are not that high, the boards should be that much wider. See Case Construction, Step 1, below.

  2. Use boards of a thickness which, together with one 2-ply board and one thickness of thin acid-free flexible board (about .15", or like chipboard), will equal the height of the shoulder.
  3. Add the 2-ply board by laminating a piece (Figure 5, b) the same size as the board less 1-1/4" in width. A 1-1/4" 2-ply strip (Figure 5, c) is cut and attached at the inside margin, but adhered only 3/4" in from either end (Figure 6, c).


    Figure 5. Laminated cover board, viewed from end.

    a. Binders board.

    b. Two-ply board 1-1/4" narrower than a, abutting c, adhered to a and d.

    c. Two-ply strip, 1-1/4" wide, adhered for only 3/4" at head and tail to a and d.

    d. Thin board, same size as a.


    Figure 6. Laminated cover board, viewed from inside edge.

    a. Binders board.
    c. Adhered part of 2-ply strip.
    d. Adhered part of thin board.
    e. Cut (incision).
    f. Unadhered portion of 2-ply strip.

  4. The thin board (Figure 3, d) is cut the same size as the binder's board and is laminated, leaving the inside margin (1-1/2") unadhered. Adhesive is added 3/4" in from either end of this flap (Figure 6, d).
  5. After all is dry, cuts (Figure 6, a) are made 3/4" in from the ends of the inside margin, penetrating both the thin board and the 2-ply board. The cuts extend 1-1/4", enough to free the unadhered portion of the 2-ply strip. Remove but do not discard it.
  6. Trim the flanges to fit easily within these recesses, allowing about a 1/4" space between the shoulder and board (Figure 7).


    Figure 7. Trimmed flange.

  7. Tack the 2-ply strip pieces back into the same recesses with dots of adhesive.

Case Construction and Attachment (Figure 8)

  1. The case is made off the book. Keep the width of the cloth turn-ins under 3/4", to avoid obstructing flange insertion. Acid-free file folder stock may be used for the case spine strip; if a hollow tube has been used, a lighter paper should be substituted. Because of the depth of the french groove, the boards should be laid on the glued-up cloth further away from the spine strip than usual for smaller books. The distance should be about twice the shoulder height: a 1/2" joint width for a book with 1/4" shoulders seems appropriate. Add pieces of cord of suitable thickness at the head and tail of the spine strip.


    Figure 8. Outside joint (french groove).

  2. Directly after the case is made, insert the book block into it and work down the french grooves with the bone folder to give the case its shape. Mold the endcaps. Allow the case to dry under a light weight.
  3. Remove the case from the book block, noting front and back board positions.
  4. The case may be lettered with a stamping press at this point if preferred. Alternatively, tooling or label may be added as a final step.
  5. Case in. Brush the joints of the case carefully with PVA; if a hollow tube is used, glue this up as well. Reinsert the book block, rub down the spine if necessary, and set the french grooves with appropriate diameter wooden or aluminum rods until dry.
  6. If the case is quarter cloth, trim the board foredges to provide even squares. Add vellum tips if desired, and add cloth or paper sides.

Insertion of Flanges and Finishing

  1. Open one board and pop out the recess filler piece.
  2. Brush PVA onto the outside of the flange and insert it into the recess.
  3. Close the board and immediately check the groove and foredge square--it may be necessary to slide the board back toward the shoulder slightly to regain a well- shaped french groove and proper foredge square.
  4. Repeat 1-3 for the opposite board.
  5. Press till dry.
  6. Adhere the inside margin of the thin board laminate (covering flange) and press again.
  7. Paste in the endsheets and press the book (boards closed) till dry.
  8. Add label or tooling if any.

Bernard Middleton. A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique. London: The Holland Press, 1978. Pages 76-78, 81.

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