Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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tight back

A book which has the covering material, usually leather, glued directly to the spine or to the (leather) lining on the spine. In the early days of the English codex, the leather cover was not attached directly to the spine, nor, for that matter, was the spine glued up at all. Aside from these early bindings, however, as well as limp (vellum) bindings and some vellum-covered stationery bindings, the use of the tight hack was virtually universal until the times of the Deromes in France (see: DEROME STYLE ). It was at this time that theHOLLOW BACK began to be used in France.

Until about the last quarter of the 18th century, it was not unusual to line the spines before covering, and bindings that did not have raised bands were often lined with three or more layers of paper, or, at times, canvas. Craft bookbinders in 17th and 18th century France generally lined the spines of books with strips of parchment manuscripts which overlapped the joints and were pasted down under the endpapers. See:SPINE LINING (1) .

The use of the tight back declined dramatically after about 1820, except by fine binders who often used it along with false raised bands. See:MOCK FLEXIBLE . Similarly, all so-called boarded books had tight backs and boards that were laced in this practice continued from the 1770s, when the style was first used, until the 1820s, when casing-in was introduced. Others had tight backs until the late 1830s, when "boards" more or less passed out of existence.

The tight back was revived in craft bookbinding, at least to a certain extent, by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and Douglas Cockerell, who influenced a host of amateur fine binders for several decades.

The objection to the tight back, other than the fact that it is a more expensive technique, is that if the leaves of the book are relatively thick in relation to their area, they will not lie flat by themselves, but, because of the inflexibility of the spine, will tend to open like a fan. This tendency may be lessened by having the grain direction of the paper run parallel to the spine. In addition, some bookbinders object to the tight back because it causes the leather on the spine to flex every time the book is opened, which can cause cracking of the gold tooling on the spine. Also called "fast back." (83 , 236 )

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