Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bookbinding may be conveniently classified into (a) the Fine Art, (b) the Bible and Church Service, (c) the Cloth Case, (d) the Paper-covered Departments. Of these the first is the most ancient, and is the modern form of the art which the monks of old carried on in their cells before even printing was invented. It was carried in the 15th century to a high degree of perfection in Italy and France, and in the latter country the most elaborate work still is done. In Germany also great skill in "blind tooling" has been exhibited since the 17th century. It is the custom on the Continent to issue most books, even the finest, in paper covers, and the purchasers have them bound according to their individual taste; but in England books are supplied to the public permanently bound in cloth, so that the fine art department is chiefly patronised by connoisseurs and bibliophiles. The fine art binder (a) has, as a rule in Great Britain, to deal with a book which has been in use, and the paper and ink of which have long been dry and "set." The book, stripped of its boards, has to be reduced in bulk and made pliable by being beaten with a broad and slightly-rounded hammer. With the same object it is rolled in powerful machines and subjected to great pressure. It is then sewn, and sometimes silk thread is used. The back is hammered round. The string bands upon which the book is sewn and built up extend two or more inches on each side, and these ends are "drawn-in" - that is to say, passed through holes made in the millboards and then securely pasted down. Thus the boards are laced firmly to the book. The edges are then cut, gilded, marbled, or coloured, and the book is headbanded to strengthen the top and bottom of the back, which is stiffened with paper. Prepared leather, pared thin at the edge, is then pasted over the boards and back, and turned over the edges or boards, providing a cover for the whole. To this stage the work is termed "forwarding." The book then passes into the hands of the "finisher," who treats the surface of the leather with thin paste and size in order to fill up the interstices, making a ground for the ornament. The decorative design is executed with brass tools and gouges in a very delicate manner. The finisher must have the feeling of an artist to produce the desired effects, which are either in "blind," i.e. plain, or in gold, and sometimes are varied by the inlay of differently coloured leathers. In "calf" binding the title panel is usually in another colour. Half-bound books have a strip of leather glued or pasted over the back of the book and turned in, and reaching about an inch and a half on the board on each side. Cloth or marbled paper is then pasted on, with the edges turned over the boards in the same way as leather. Triangular leather "corners" are added for ornament and strength. Leather binding is applied to Bibles and church services (b), but many of the hand processes have to be replaced by machines, the number dealt with being enormous. The machines and the methods, however, do not necessarily correspond with those which belong to cloth work. The printed matter, as with publishers' books in general, is received by the binder in sheets, with the pages so arranged that three folds will produce a section of sixteen pages, which is the most economical and usual form. On the first page of each sixteen, at the foot, is a letter, or a number, called the "signature." The book usually commences with B, the preface and table of contents, etc., being A. For work of good quality, hand-folding is imperative; no folding machine is sufficiently accurate. The folder, a woman, brings the numbers of the pages one over the other. This is called "sighting." She then folds the edge evenly with a folding-stick. The folded sheets are afterwards pressed to give solidity. Then they are laid in sequence upon a table, and from each pile, in turn, one sheet is "gathered," the collector thus getting together in her hands the printed matter for a complete book. After this gathering revision is required. A collator examines the books separately, making sure that each is complete, and they are again pressed. End-papers are afterwards pasted on them. Girls who sit before adjustable frames, upon which are stretched three or more vertical cords, then sew the book, section by section, to these cords. The cords are subsequently cut, leaving projecting ends, which at a later stage are pasted to the back of the book. The books having been again pressed, their edges are cut by machines and afterwards they are decorated. The books are formed into book shape by "rounding" with a hammer, and they are then "backed" in a machine which nips the back, a roller passing over it and making a groove on each side. Into this groove, or "joint," the boards fit. These boards are cut to size, the leather case being made on the book itself, to secure an accurate "fit." The boards are slightly larger than the book inside, and the projecting edges are called "squares." The case - i.e. the two boards, the -'hollow" or back, and their leather cover - is ornamented by means of blocking presses which expeditiously perform, in one or more operations, work which approximates to that accomplished by the fine art craftsman in minute detail. Upon the same lines in respect to folding, sewing, pressing, cutting, rounding, and backing, the cloth work (c) proceeds. Sewing is here done by machinery as well as by hand. After the book has been "formed," as already described, the back is stiffened with a strip of "lining cloth," which resembles canvas, and paper. These are glued to it, the cloth leaving a wide overlapping edge on each side. Meanwhile the case is also in course of making. The pair of millboards is covered with "cloth," which is a cotton fabric, loaded with starch, dyed or printed, and calendered. Occasionally it is used plain, but generally it is embossed or grained. Cloth work originally began, seventy years ago, with an intention to imitate leather, and it continued in this groove for many years. The cloth is glued over the boards, the edges being deftly turned in by the workman. The case is left plain or else treated in a more or less elaborate and artistic style. In the early stages of this modern development of the trade, blind blocking with gold lettering only was in vogue, but after coloured cloths with gold ornament had been successfully tried, black ink was added, and, step by step, various improvements have been made, so that at the present time the designer can call to his aid not only differently-tinted and patterned cloths and gold and silver leaf, but, in addition, inks of every colour. These necessitate the employment of registering engraved brass blocks, one for each colour or metal required. The requisite impression is imparted by blocking hand and power presses, which are heated. The gold leaf is applied to the design by "layers on." The case having been made to fit the book and the book the case, all that remains to be done is to put the book inside its case, and then to paste firmly to the boards not only the "end papers," but the overlapping margin of lining left for that purpose. These strips, attached as they are to the back and to the boards, act as a hinge. The completed books, still moist, are finally placed between wooden boards in hydraulic presses, and when quite dry they are ready for the publisher. In magazine parts, or books covered in paper (d), the sheets are stitched, sewn, or clamped together with wire stitches, and the paper cover is simply glued to the back.