Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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The hand and/or machine processes by which leaves or sections (usually paper, but also parchment (or vellum), papyrus, etc.) are secured within covers to form a codex or book, as opposed to a roll.

Historically, bookbinding did not exist in the manner of today until the codex began to replace the scroll, or roughly 2,000 years ago, when parchment notebooks came into use. Leaves of a quadrangular shape were found to be more convenient than scrolls but they had to be secured and covered for protection. Although classical texts and ecclesiastical works did exist in codex form before the 1st century A.D., the codex did not become common for other works before the 4th century.

The earliest extant decorated bookbindings were altar Bibles, which were often elaborately bound and ornamented with jewels, gold, and ivory. Bookbinding in leather, however, was an art believed to have been practiced by the Copts in Egypt. Surviving examples of Coptic bindings, in red and brown leather, from the 8th and 9th centuries, represent a maturity of style and a variety of techniques which would indicate experience in bookbinding that probably developed over hundreds of years. Unlike European bindings of later times, they appear to have been executed by specialists in diverse forms of leather decoration and display a wide range of artistry, including tooling, piercing, and working with a stylus.

The earliest known Islamic bindings were influenced by Coptic methods and techniques. The format they used for these early books was what we sometimes refer to today as OBLONG , or "landscape." At first the Islamic binders tooled only in blind, and in a formal style, but by the 11th century the characteristic Islamic design consisted of an oval center design with triangular cornerpieces, and, by the 13th century, the present day book format had been adopted and gold was being used in finishing. See: GOLD TOOLING . Two hundred years later floral designs were replacing geometric patterns and some pictorial bindings were being executed by means of embossing. Vivid coloring and delicate filigree tooling were used with considerable effect on the DOUBLURE (1) , and, by the 16th century, lacquered bindings of excellent quality were being produced. By the 16th century, however, Islamic binding began to deteriorate, and the decline has persisted to this day.

In Europe, the earliest known example of a decorated leather bookbinding is that of the Gospel according to St. John, found in the tomb of St. Cuthbert (d. 687); it is almost certainly an English binding of the 7th or 8th century. Although this remarkable binding shows the influence of Coptic and Islamic binding, European binding took on its own characteristics and by the 10th century had progressed along totally different lines from that of the Levant. One of the principal differences was in the manner of sewing, which was on raised bands; embellishment, too, developed along different lines, almost always being in the form of blind tooling executed with individual tools.

Gothic bindings of the second half of the 15th century were mainly decorated with blind lines and individual tools, but theROLL (1) which was first used in Germany, was also developed during this period (in about 1470), while thePANEL STAMP was being used in the Netherlands as early as the 13th century. The art of CUIR-CISELÉ was also practiced in German speaking countries. Gothic bindings continued to be produced in Germany and Eastern Europe until after the 16th century; however, by about 1470 or so, gold tooling was introduced into northern Italy (probably Venice), with the influence of the Near East being seen in the designs, the pattern of individual tools, as well as the superior delicacy of the workmanship.

Until about the middle of the 16th century the gold tooled bindings produced in Italy were the best in Europe; other countries, especially France, imitated the Italian style. By 1538, however, morocco leather was being used in France, replacing calfskin, and from that time onward the Parisian craftsmen have produced bindings that have seldom been exceeded in beauty and craftsmanship. The tools used in this great era of French bookbinding were derived by way of pattern books for embroidery or metalwork from Oriental or arabesque models; most of the designs incorporated interlacing strapwork. Elaborations of this strapwork were seen in the FANFARE STYLE .

The most characteristic early 16th century English bindings were those blocked in blind with panel stamps of the royal arms (which represented only a form of decoration and not royal ownership), while the earliest recorded use of gold tooling in England dates from 1519. Gold tooling did not become common in England until about 1530.

Fine binding declined in France in the 17th century despite the artistry of the fanfare patterns and tools having POINTILLÉ outlines. One notable binder of that time wasFLORIMOND BADIER , who also worked in pointillé tooling. In England, where variegated colors and delicate tooling became standard, the golden age of English bookbinding was during the period of the Restoration. Some of the tools in use at that time were of the pointillé style, while others, including small floral volutes, were more English in character. A common feature of many English bindings of this time was the broken pediment associated with the COTTAGE STYLE .

The early 18th century witnessed a revival of French bookbinding, including the mosaics of AUGUSTIN DU SEUIL and ANTOINE MICHEL PADELOUP . High standards were also displayed in DENTELLE bindings with their lacy gold tooled borders, some being the work of the Derome family. See:DEROME STYLE . English binding deteriorated in the first half of the 18th century, partly because English craftsmen hung on to the cottage style after it had lost its effectiveness, and partly because they then began working with the uninspiring HARLEIAN STYLE . And yet, the 18th century produced ROGER PAYNE , a bookbinder who has been called England's greatest, and one of the few English binders the French thought worthy of copying. In addition, the 18th century produced another of England s great bookbinders, EDWARDS OF HALIFAX , who produced some remarkable TRANSPARENT VELLUM bindings.

The use of onlays and inlays increased during the 19th century, the bindings often being tooled in the cathedral style. See: CATHEDRAL BINDINGS . From about 1840 to 1880 there was little innovation in leather binding in any country, the emphasis being on delicacy and precision in tooling in the manner of previous times. The 19th century witnessed three major factors which have had an enormous effect on bookbinding to this day: 1) the rise of edition binding with its rapid development of a great variety of machines designed to produce books by the millions; 2) a severe decline in the quality of both paper and leather produced for the manufacture of books; and 3) the introduction of cloth as a book covering material. See: BOOK CLOTH . In the latter part of the last century new vigor was infused into fine binding largely through the efforts of MARIUS MICHEL in France and THOMAS J. COBDEN-SANDERSON in England.

In France, following World War I, the origins of contemporary binding are to be found in the work of PIERRE LEGRAIN during his brief career as a bookbinder in the 1920s. His influence was enormous and is still being felt, and, in turn, those he influenced, including PAUL BONET , have had considerable influence upon their successors.

The influence of Cobden-Sanderson was also felt well into the 20th century. The fact that he was an amateur bookbinder and not apprenticed to the trade of bookbinding seemed, in part, anyway, to have freed him from the deleterious influences that held sway during a great part of the 19th century, as manifested in the generally poor workmanship and even poorer materials plus a mania for retrospective binding. Cobden-Sanderson founded an amateur school of binding, which proceeded to flourish under DOUGLAS COCKERELL , who was Cobden-Sanderson's apprentice at the Doves Bindery. Cockerell, also, through his writings as well as his bindings, has had a considerable influence on the craft.

English bookbinding fell on hard times between 1920 and the Second World War, not in small part because of book collectors' desire to have their books in original mint condition (including book jacket), a desire which persists to this day. The fine binder had but little opportunity to apply modern concepts of design to modern books.

Bookbinding following the war was given considerable impetus by the efforts of EDGAR MANSFIELD in design andROGER POWELL in construction. The teaching of Mansfield, which commenced at the (then) London School of Printing in 1948, has influenced, at least to some degree, the concepts of design of virtually all contemporary English and American bookbinders. (71 , 89 ,94 , 157 ,200 , 202 ,225 , 236 ,242 , 243 ,252 , 270 ,271 )

Operations. There is a reasonably well-marked distinction between that part of the bookbinding trade dealing with books meant to be read, known as letterpress (from the time when all books were printed by letterpress), and those intended to be written in, called stationery binding. Each of these may again be divided into four groups, according to the particular class of binding involved:

    Letterpress binding
    1. Extra leather binding, i.e., hand
    2. Library binding
    3. Edition (or publisher's) binding
    4. Miscellaneous binding, e.g.,
       pamphlet binding
       Stationery binding
    1. Blankbook (account-book)
    2. Manifold binding
    3. Exercise and notebook binding
    4. General office and stationery
       binding, e.g., checkbook binding.

The operations of bookbinding begin with the folding of the sheets into sections (or signatures) and conclude, in library and edition binding, with casing-in; and in hand binding, with the pasting down of the board papers. The finishing of a hand-bound book, while also a part of bookbinding, is generally considered to be artistic work. In a very general sense, the operations may be divided into three very broad categories: the steps involved in preparation for binding, FORWARDING , and finally, FINISHING (1) . Preparation includes all the operations up to and including folding, most of which are actually the work of the printer and not the bookbinder. (See: BINDERY WAREHOUSE . ) Forwarding, as the name connotes, carries the book up to covering and pasting down (or casing-in), as well as edge gilding, marbling, etc. Finishing includes lettering and any decoration. Since edition and library bindings are blocked (lettered and/or decorated) before being cased, forwarding and finishing are somewhat intermingled. The sequence of operations followed by the bookbinder or bindery from the time the sheets (in edition binding and occasionally hand binding) or books and/or periodical issues (library binding and hand binding) are received to final inspection are as follows: NOTE: B refers to blankbook binding, E to edition binding, H to hand binding, and L to library binding.

    B E H L
    x x     Entering record
    x x x   Folding (only occasionally in hand binding)
    x       Sorting to remove incorrectly or poorly ruled sheets
    x x x   Gathering (only in hand binding if sheets have to be folded;
                in edition binding, gathering sometimes follows the
                tipping on of endpapers)
    x x     Collating
    x       Removing spine folds for oversewing or adhesive binding)
    x x     Pulling (in preparation for resewing through the folds)
    x x     Knocking out the old backing ridge (if required)
    x x     Mending, guarding, general repairs, etc.
    x x     Guarding plates, refolding maps, making stubs, etc.
    x x x   Pressing (bundling)
    x x x x Making joints for blankbooks, or endpapers for others
    x       Guarding first and last three folios (sections)
    x   x x Marking and preparing for sewing
    x x x x Sewing and attaching endpapers or joints
    x       Nipping or smashing
    x       Fraying cords
    x x x x Gluing up the spine
    x x x x Trimming (See alternative hand binding method, below)
    x       Cutting fore edge out of boards
    x x x x Rounding
      x x x Backing
    x       Cleaning off spine and drying
    x       Clothings
    x       Making tongue
    x x     Lining spine
    x       Cutting head and tail out of boards
    x x     Cutting and preparing boards
    x       Paring and slotting tongue
    x x     Case-making
    x x     Cutting leather
    x       Making spring-back (may be done in batches in advance)
    x       Attaching spring-back (and levers)
      x   x Making plate or casting type for blocking
      x   x Blocking case
    x x     Attaching boards
    x       Trimming ends of spring-back
    x x     Paring leather
    x x     Covering
    x x     Trimming margin of turn-ins
    x       Siding
      x   x Casing-in and/or building-in
    x x     Pasting down board papers
    x x     Pressing
    x       Cutting index
    x       Numbering (occasionally follows folding)
    x x     Decorating and/or lettering
    x x     Cleaning off
      x     Jacketing

There are four basic characteristics of a well-bound (modern) book: flexibility, durability, solidity, and accuracy.

Flexibility is a characteristic of the spine of the book which allows the book to open freely with minimum strain on the structure. The factors affecting flexibility include the method of sewing (or otherwise joining the leaves or sections), the grain direction of the paper, the presence of tipped-in plates, the characteristics of the paper, the lining of the spine, rounding and backing, and finally, the materials and techniques used in covering the book. See: FLEXIBLE SEWING ;OVERSEWING ;ADHESIVE BINDING ;MACHINE DIRECTION ;PAPER ;SPINE LINING ;

HOLLOW BACK ;TIGHT BACK . Durability is a characteristic of a binding which enables it to withstand flexing, abrasion, impact, tearing, and staining or soiling. It is built into a binding in certain places, but particularly in the sewing, attachment of the endpapers, rounding and backing, the lining of the spine, and the attachment of the boards (in hand binding), or casing-in or building-in (in edition and library binding). Inferior materials, and especially inferior adhesives, spine linings, endpapers and covering materials will adversely affect durability. See: ROUNDING ;BACKING ;ENDPAPERS ;LACING-IN ;CASING-IN .

Solidity is a characteristic a book displays when it has the appearance of a compact entity, lies flat when closed, and is loosely jointed at the spine. Good pressing (or casing-in), gluing, and especially good rounding and backing, are essential, as also is the use of boards of a suitable weight. Accuracy is a somewhat vague term, but is manifest in the ability of the book to stand vertically without leaning or falling over. This is accomplished by square trimming, proper attachment of the boards (or case-making and casing-in), and square cutting of the boards. (56 , 57 , 89 , 92 , 100 , 115 , 126 , 135 , 152 , 170 , 236 , 279 , 280 , 320 , 335 , 343 , 371 , 372 )

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