For more than a thousand years lacing-in has been the customary method of attaching the boards in craft bookbinding. The Stonyhurst Gospel, a Coptic style binding of the 7th or 8th century, has the sewing thread laced through its boards, while in bindings of the 11th century or earlier, which were sewn on raised thongs, the thongs run along tunnels and through holes, and are held in place by pegs. By the 13th century, or even earlier, thongs were run over the upper sides of the boards, sometimes in grooves cut to receive them. This technique persisted up to the 15th century.
Wooden boards usually had two or three holes in a straight line out from the location of the thong on the spine; later on, however, the holes were cut straight, sometimes at a diagonal, or at right angles to the thong. Diagonal holing and lacing-in became the favored technique, and was the superior method because it strengthened the binding, particularly since boards made of paper had largely replaced wooden boards. The right angle method has the disadvantage of weakening the board.
Although the cords in fine binding were frayed out so they would not be noticeable under the leather, fraying out was not done in other styles of binding, and the technique of cutting grooves to receive the cords was not introduced until the end of the 18th century. Grooving is a superior technique because it does not weaken the board to any extent and yet allows thicker cords to be used in sewing.
The practice of lacing-in began to decline in the 19th century in favor of split boards and the French joint. See also: HOLING OUT . (236 )