Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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1. The art or process of polishing, lettering, and embellishing the spine, covers. insides of the covers. and sometimes the edges of a book. as well as inlaying, onlaying, varnishing, and otherwise decorating and/or protecting the finished bookbinding.

The purpose of finishing is to identify (letter) and beautify the book. but, at least in the latter case, in such a manner as not to interfere with the strength of the binding. The degree of finishing, depends upon the nature of the book, the craftsmanship of the binder or finisher (gilder. as he is traditionally called), whether another craftsman did the forwarding, and, at times, the wishes of the customer.

Finishing has assumed a very important role in the craft of bookbinding since the earliest times. Almost all early finishing, at least in Europe, was in blind until the latter half of the 15th century, whenGOLD TOOLING was introduced into Italy. See also: BLIND TOOLING .

In modern finishing. all but the simplest designs are measured out and drawn or tooled on thin paper. This is then positioned on the cover and heated tools are pressed through. The paper is then removed, and the blind impressions are again blinded-in. This sharpens and deepens the impressions, and, if gold is to be used, provides a smooth flat surface for the metal. In addition to making it possible to execute extremely difficult patterns without making errors on the leather itself, the use of a paper pattern eliminates the necessity of making basic guide lines in blind upon which the design is then built, and which almost invariably show beyond the tooling. It is uncertain when paper patterns were introduced, but they probably were not used much before 1830.

Not all leathers can be tooled successfully. Aside from the great difficulty encountered in tooling chrome-tanned leathers, only those vegetable-tanned (or tawed) leathers with surfaces firm enough to hold a line, such as goatskin, calfskin, pigskin, etc., are suitable. With the exception of sheepskin, leathers that are loose and stretchy do not retain impressions very well.

Library bindings are seldom "finished" to any greater degree than lettering of the spine, although gold lines and/or symbols are sometimes blocked on the spine. Edition bindings vary widely in the degree of their ornamentation. Whatever ornamentation they may have is usually done by means of blocking or printing. Whichever the case. they are "finished" only in the very broadest sense of the term. See also:BLOCKING (1) ; GOLD BLOCKING ; INLAY (4) ; ONLAY ; POLISHING .

2. The various operations in paper manufacture performed after it leaves the papermaking machine. Finishing operations include supercalendering, plating, slitting, rewinding, sheeting, trimming, sorting, counting, and packaging. Ruling, punching, pasting, folding and embossing are also at times considered to be paper finishing operations.

3. The processes in leather manufacture following tannage, including shaving or splitting, dyeing, fatliquoring, setting out, drying, staking, finishing or seasoning, glazing (or plating or embossing), and measuring. (118 , 130 , 161 , 172 , 194 , 236 , 320 , 335 , 343 , 363 )

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