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Bookbinding

Edith Diehl, in her classic text, Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique, starts off by saying, "The book form has gone through very few changes in physical appearance since its inception...", and until a relatively few years ago, she was right.

Bookbinding is, of course, the process of fastening together the multiple pages which make up a given book, and covering the result. Given the changes which have occurred in the past ten or fifteen years, both in structural technique and artistic presentation, the subject is complex and often controversial.

Traditionally, the craft of bookbinding is divided into the areas of forwarding and finishing. Forwarding consists of all the procedures leading up to the decoration of the covers. That is, folding the leaves into pages and gathering into signatures or quires, sewing them together, adding endpapers, attaching boards, and covering. In other words, the binding proper. Finishing is a specialized field involving gold (or blind) tooling, and sometimes inlay and onlay work: the artistic embellishment of the binding.

Note that there is a significant difference between Eastern and Western binding. In the west, the sheets of paper are relatively thick and opaque enough to print on both sides, and when folded, are sewn through the fold. In the east the sheets are much thinner and relatively transparent so they are printed on one side only. The sheets are folded so that the printed side is outermost, and the sewing is done opposite the fold, through the edges of the two loose halves. Books sewn in the Eastern style do not open flat.

Much more information about the process and philosophy of bookbinding, as well as splendid samples of work, can be found by following the links here. There are also many books (surprise!), not only on the general subject of bookbinding, but also specifically on parts of the procedure.

Samples may also be seen on The Art of the Book '98 and The Art of the Book '03 exhibition pages, specifically Prize-Winning Entries and Fine Binding.


More information on bookbinding:
     Some Hand Bookbinding Terms
     Early Canadian Hand Bookbinding


Dr Brian A. Roberts, a CBBAG member in Newfoundland, has written an article (which has been divided into two parts) on making a nipping press and a lying press, both used in bookbinding. It was originally printed in the CBBAG Newsletter (Spring '96).


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