The tutorial pictures on this page are extracted from Bookbinding in Pictures.
Japanese tissue, which
has very long fibres and is thin and strong, is torn to shape,
pasted lightly and applied to the torn edge so that the fibres
are just overlapping. Repairs are always completed before
the book is sewn.
AND MARKING UP
The picture shows tape
of varying widths, two weights of hemp cord, and waxed linen sewing
When the book has been cleaned and
repaired it is put in a press and the sewing points are marked,
in this case for tapes. This is known as ‘marking up’.
Books are sewn together one section
at a time. This book is being sewn on tapes and the needle
is in position to make the final knot at the end of a section,
known as the ‘kettle’ stitch (from the German Ketel meaning ‘chain’).
Book backs showing different kinds
of sewing: on tapes, on sawn-in cords and on raised cords.
Once the book has been
stitched together it is rolled and hammered to turn the flat spine
back into a rounded shape, which protects the sewing by reducing
the strain on it when the book is opened. The book is put
into the lying press, two large pieces of wood which are tightened
by means of wooden screws and a bar known as a ‘press pin’. When
the book is the correct shape it is covered by a piece of open
weave cloth called mull and a strip of thin strong paper known
as ‘kraft’ paper.
The book is rolled and
hammered into its rounded shape.
It is then put between specially-shaped
backing boards and lowered into the lying press.
The lying press screws are tightened.
The spine edges can then be shaped
over the backing boards with the backing hammer.
Glue is applied to the spine.
Mull is placed on top.
The mull is rubbed down.
Kraft paper is placed on top.
The kraft paper is rubbed down with
It is also rubbed down with the ball
of the thumb to make sure it is well stuck on.
It can be left to dry in the press
or taken out and left between pressing boards with a weight on
Books covered in leather
are described as bound in quarter leather (spine only), half leather
(spine and corners) or full leather. Many old books are bound in
calf, but modern-day bookbinders mostly use goatskin. This
comes mainly from Africa. It is strong and durable, and good
to work with.
Books to be bound in leather
are sewn on cords which are then ‘laced in’ to the boards through
holes and pasted in place.
Headbands are used to strengthen
the spine of the book when it is pulled out of a shelf. Some
are glued on, but a stitched-on headband as shown here is much
stronger as it is sewn on through the back of the sections.
A strip of pared and pasted goatskin
spine is applied to the spine for a quarter-leather binding.
On a half-leather binding leather corners
are pasted, applied to the book and worked into shape with a bonefolder.
When the leather is dry a cloth side
is cut to fit the corner and glued into place.
A piece of goatskin for a full-leather
binding is pasted and applied to the book.
The boards are held open and the leather
is turned over them.
Titles are applied to the back of the
book by means of brass ‘finishing’ tools.
These are heated on a finishing stove
so that the gold foil or gold leaf will adhere to the leather.
The marbling of paper is an art that goes back several centuries. Many
of the patterns, such as nonpareil and Spanish ripple are classics
which modern marblers copy and develop according to their own
tastes and style. The late Ann
Muir produced wonderful marbled
paper in these patterns but also pushed the art to new boundaries,
and was famous for her 'pictures' in marbled designs. She
is much missed
in the field, but her work is being carried on by her children
at www.ammarbling.com. One of her former employees, Jemma
Lewis, has set up her own business and is producing new designs
based on the old ones. She can also reproduce
papers from a small sample. See www.jemmamarbling.com.
Marbled papers are also produced by Payhembury, Victoria
Hall and Christopher
Leather is expensive, but it is a beautiful material. It
not only looks and feels pleasant for the user, but it also feels
good to work with, and is flexible and durable. Bookbinders now
mainly use goatskin for covering books.
In the past calfskin
was extensively used as this was the leather most easily available. Calf
is still used but mainly for repairing old books. It
has a smooth surface and is obtainable in several shades of brown
to match existing covers as well as a variety of other colours
and in a natural shade which can be dyed.
Goatskin comes mainly
from Africa and India, where it goes through the local tanning
process, but it is treated and dyed in this country. It
is obtainable in a wide variety of colours, finishes and grain
patterns, and you can often see the backbone of the animal, a
slightly darker line running down the length of the skin. For
most books it is necessary to thin or to pare down the skin so
that it can be turned in easily over the boards of the book. How
much paring needs to be done depends on the size and weight of
Paring is done with sharp knives, either an English one, which
is a long straight angled blade, or a French one, which is curved. A
spokeshave is also used, and a blade on a stand is useful for paring
small pieces of leather.
Pigskin is sometimes used but tends to lose its strength when
Sheepskin is not strong enough for bookbinding and cow hide
is too tough.
All sorts of skins have been used at one time or another but
have been found unsatisfactory in some way or other.
In the early nineteenth century, bookcloth
was developed as a cheaper substitute for leather. It was
quicker and easier to apply to books, and it was then that the
‘case’ became more common as a book covering. Many case bindings
were produced that were very elaborately decorated and stamped
with pictures and titling and are now collectors’ pieces. Other
plain case bindings fulfilled their function of protecting the
book as economically as possible. Modern hardback books are
case bindings covered in bookcloth. It is manufactured
in a range of colours and weights.