By F. Sangorski, Teacher at the Northampton Institute, and G. Sutcliffe, Teacher at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts.


A Comparison between Old and New Methods.

ON examining the early bindings one cannot help noticing their appearance of strength and durability. Even after the wear of centuries many of them look almost as sound as when they left the binders' hands. The sewing is intact and the boards are still securely attached. An examination of a number of books bound during the last fifty years will show boards detached, end papers broken away, and plates and sections either loose or missing - in fact, the whole book falling to pieces. Evidence will also be found of books being continually rebound. This occurs not only with volumes that have been bound quite cheaply, but also with those bound in whole morocco, on which there has evidently been no study of economy. Contrasted with the previous examination, this convinces one that there is something faulty in the modern methods of binding.

Introduction 726

Fig. 1.

As has been pointed out by the Society of Arts, the deterioration of the leather is somewhat due to the presence of sulphuric acid in the modern skins; but the whole responsibility can by no means be laid at the door of the manufacturers. Investigation will show that the binder has developed quite a different method of binding from that formerly employed, and a comparison between the two methods will convince one that the construction of the early binding is the sounder of the two, that of the modern binding being weak and faulty throughout.

Fig. 2a.

Fig. 2a.

The early method of binding is a lengthy operation and, with the rapid increase in the production of books, no doubt a demand was created for a more expeditious one. Instead of inventing an entirely new form of binding to meet this requirement, the binder retained the outward form and character of the old binding, substituting quicker and inferior methods of construction, entirely ignoring the sound principles on which the early binding is based.

Fig. 2b.

Fig. 2b.

So successfully has the appearance of the latter been preserved that the public are generally deceived, firmly believing that their bindings are constructed like the early bindings and have all their stability.

We do not intend in these introductory remarks to describe in detail all the processes of binding. We merely wish to point out the chief differences between the two methods, and convince our readers that the method we have adopted, founded upon the principles of the early binding, is the better one.

Plates Ami Single Leaves

These formerly were guarded round an adjoining section and sewn on with this section. Now usually they are merely pasted on to the next leaf. Consequently they cannot open right to the back, and they put an undue strain on this leaf. If guarded round a section, they are equally as secure as any leaf in the book, but if merely pasted on they are liable to break away.

With old books, when the sections are damaged at the back, making a large number of single leaves, instead of repairing these sections by guarding the leaves together, the common practice is to cut away a piece of the back of the book, so making it entirely into single leaves. Then the number required to make a section are sewn together in the manner explained in Fig. I. This is called overcasting, and is very much quicker than guarding, but it quite prevents the book from opening properly within some distance from the back, seriously damages the book, and destroys the proportion between the margins of the page. A folded sheet of paper will open quite easily, using the fold as a hinge. With an overcasted book this hinge has been cut off.

A very bad practice of some publishers is to issue books that have a large number of plates all in single leaves unsewn, being held together merely by a solution of rubber at the back. This quickly perishes, and the book falls to pieces. To rebind this book properly it is necessary to guard all the leaves, making them into sections, as should have been done in the first instance. All this labour is incurred from apparently no other cause than the endeavour to save the few pence necessary for sewing the book, and to avoid the trouble of a little arrangement and foresight. It is difficult to explain the indifference of these publishers as to what becomes of their books after they have done with them. They must know that a thin solution of rubber cannot hold together a book full of plates for long. This fairly illustrates the want of cooperation between the binder and those responsible for the production of a book.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 3.

This difficulty with the plates, by a little arrangement can easily be avoided. As many as possible should be printed in pairs to be folded together and inserted in the sections, and those that have to be placed in singly should have a little larger margin left at the back than is required as a margin. This extra piece could then be folded over and inserted into the section. The plan has been adopted with success by some publishers.


These are placed in the book to protect it. They are intended to take the extra wear to which the end leaves of a book are subject, and in the early binding were sewn on in the same manner as the sections. The practice now is just to paste them on to the next leaves. Being usually made of a much thicker paper than that of the book, a great strain is put on these leaves, and it becomes necessary to overcast the first and last sections to prevent them from being torn away. These sections, being overcasted, are much stiffer than the others, and are always liable to break away from the rest of the book.