This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
With the old method the sections are usuallv sewn together round five cords placed at intervals, which project from the back of the book. The thread passes out from the section, right round the cord, and enters the section again at the same place. (See Fig. 2A.) With the modern method, five saw-cuts are made in the back of the sections where the cords are to go, and the cords are sunk into the hollows so formed. Each section can now be attached to the cords by merely passing the thread across, as explained at Fig. 2B. This is a much quicker method of sewing, but very insecure; and there are other objections to it. The saw marks seriously injure and disfigure the sections, and the introduction of the cord prevents the leaves from opening right to the back, as they should do. If the cord is outside the section, as in the old method, the thread gets glued firmly round it when the back of the book is glued. Then, should the thread get broken at anyplace there would not be much danger of the section coming out, as the glue holds the thread at the cords. By sinking the cord into the sections and passing the thread only across them, the thread does not get glued to the cords or not sufficiently so, and if broken the section is liable to come out.
The ends of the cords are utilised for attaching the boards, and all five should be laced into them, but often one or two of them are now cut off and only the remainder laced in.
With the old method, the cords projecting from the sections form the ridges one is accustomed to see on the back of the book. Instead of honestly acknowledging that he has sunk the cords and so cannot with reason have these ridges, the modern binder glues five false cords on for no other purpose than to imitate the old binding.
With the old method the leather is attached directly on to the back of the sections, taking the strain of the opening and shutting of the book, equally over the back, and firmly attaching the cover on to the book. (Fig. 3.) The binder, finding the introduction of the cords into the book, and the false cords that have been put on, prevented the book from Opening freely, detached the leather and the false cords from the back of the book, merely covering the sections with a piece of brown paper glued on, thus making a hollow between the back of the book and the leather (Fig. 4). The book, now being relieved of the false cords and the leather, certainly opens better, but at what cost !
Leather is used for the binding of books because it is a flexible, durable material, and yet where it is most needed it is removed and a piece of brown paper put in its place. The book now is not attached to the leather in any way. The leather is attached to the boards, and the boards to the book merely by the cords laced into them. Consequently all the strain is placed on these cords, and they often break away, the book then coming out of its cover. Examples of this occurrence can be seen in almost any library. For a binding to have the durability it should have, the leather must be attached directly to the sections.
It has been implied that the hollow hack has been introduced for the preservation of the decoration on the back, the leather moving with each section being liable to break the gold tooling. It is not economy to attempt to preserve this gold tooling at the expense of the binding, for then neither is preserved. This modern method of binding is such a good imitation of the old substantial binding that even the most elaborately decorated books, that to all appearances have been bound with no regard to economy, are bound in this way. One cannot think with indifference of the weeks, and sometimes months, of labour spent in decorating a badly constructed book which cannot last as a well-bound book should, and which if bound on sound methods would be almost imperishable.
Thus, on the score of economy, no good has been accomplished. Everything has tended to the deterioration of the binding, and all because of the attempt to imitate the appearance of a more expensive binding. If the question of expense has to be considered, the decoration should be the first thing to discard, that being superfluous, the lettering only being necessary. After that, the leather being needed principally on the back and corners, these portions only need be covered with the leather, and and a less expensive material could be used for the remainder.
This is what is called a "half-binding," and a half-binding should never be much decorated, although it often is. A half-binding is such, purely from purposes of economy, and undue expenditure on its decoration is inconsistent.
Then the quality of the leather can be considered. Thanks to the inquiry of the Societv of
Arts on the deterioration of leather,and the interest awakened by their report among some of the principal manufacturers, it is possible now to get leather of different qualities and prices, but almost all equally durable.
For a further reduction of the cost of binding, an alteration of the whole construction and appearance is necessary. A much quicker method of sewing can be used by sewing the sections on tape instead of cord. Being broader than cord, four tapes can be used instead of five. The thread, coming out and passing over the broad surface of the tape, gets glued firmly there. The ends of the tapes are interlaced and glued into the boards. The covering with the leather is very much quicker, as the surface of the back is almost level, the tapes making only very slight ridges. This binding, while almost as durable, makes no attempt to imitate the more expensive kind. It can be either entirely covered with leather, or only half covered, or else covered with linen or some such material.