Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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cleaning off

A term descriptive of a more or less obsolete process of removing excess adhesive from the spine of a book subsequent to lacing-in. Cleaning off is generally done by applying paste to the spine, and, when the glue has softened, scraping off both paste and excess glue with a CLEANING-OFF STICK or plow trimmings. Once a book has been rounded and backed and its shape has been set, the glue on the spine, other than that between the sections, is not required, and, in fact, should be removed to permit greater openability of the book and also to clear the sections of excess glue as a consideration of the binder of the future who may have to rebind the book. Cleaning off also helps in setting the shape of the spine and makes for a cleaner, smoother spine—factors which are very important in the case of a tight back binding.

The increasing use of resinous adhesives in hand binding, such as the polyvinyl group, in lieu of hot glues, has meant that cleaning off has become more difficult, if not impossible, even though the use of these adhesives makes shaping the spine of even greater importance. The plasticized polyvinyls are neither softened by paste nor are they soluble in water; furthermore, they do not seem to affect openability adversely. If, however, removal is necessary, they are alcohol soluble. (83 , 236 , 261 )

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