To bind a book well, certain tools are indispensable; but very few will go a good way; and a book may be put together very decently with the aid of no other tools than a shoemaker's hammer and a glue-pot, with the addition of such implements as are usually to be met with in every household. The necessary tools for small work are: a sewing press; a cutting press, the small music-paper size; half-a-dozen pressing boards, as large as the press will admit, and as many of octavo size; as many cutting and backing boards; a bookbinder's hammer, folder, knife, small shears, saw, paste-bowl, a quire or two of demy or royal printing paper, a quire or two of marbled paper, and some leather and coloured cloths for covers.
As it is desirable that the book should be as thin as possible, and not have a swollen appearance when finished, the sheets ought first to be compressed. The binder does this by beating the volume in sections with a 14-lb. hammer, or passing it between the rollers of a rolling machine. Instead of that we may divide the volume in half-a-dozen sections, and placing one of the pressing boards on each, screw them all together in the press as tight as possible, and leave them there for a night. After being pressed, the sections are taken from the boards; the book is then held between the extended fingers of each hand, and the back and head are knocked up square and even; one side of the book is then laid upon a pressing board, beyond which the back must project 1/2 inch or so; a second pressing board of the same size is placed on the upper side, parallel with the first, and the boards being firmly grasped with the left hand, the book is lowered into the cutting press, which is screwed up tight, and three cuts, not quite 1/16 inch in depth, are made with a saw in the back - one in the middle, and one at about 2 1/2 in. distant on each side of it; two additional cuts are then made outside of the three, and distant about 1 1/2 in. from them.
These measurements would, of course, be different for a volume of different size, but the proportions will do for any volume.
The book is now taken to the sewing press, where the binder suspends three cords from the top rail, which are fastened underneath by means of brass keys; the cords may be shifted to any position, and being made to correspond with the three central cuts in the back of the book, they are tightened and kept in their place by means of the nuts and screws on the side pillars. The sewing is performed in the following manner: - First, a fly-leaf or end paper is laid on the press, and sewn to the cords by passing the needle into the first right-hand cut, or catch-stitch mark, with the right hand; the left hand, which is inserted in the middle of the section, receiving the needle and returning it outwards on the head side of the cord, where it is taken by the right hand, and passed through again on the other side of the cord; thus with all three of the cords, until the needle is brought out at the last left-hand cord or catch-stitch groove, rare being taken that the needle never penetrates the cord or twine. The thread is now drawn to the left gently, until only 2 inches or so are left undrawn, at the point where the needle first entered.
The first sheet is then laid on, the title-page downwards, and sewn on in the same way, as the needle returns towards the head of the book; when the needle comes out at the catch-stitch mark over the end of thread left undrawn, the sewing thread is tied to that end in a firm knot. Thus all the sheets are sewn in succession, care being taken, on arriving at the catch-stitch, to fasten each sheet to its predecessor by passing the needle round the connecting thread. After he has sewn 4 or 5 sheets, the binder will find his thread exhausted, when he must join on a new length with such a knot as will not be likely to come undone. Several volumes may be sewn on one set of cords, but some attention is necessary that they be not sewn together, and that the cords be long enough for the subsequent purposes.
After sewing, the book is cut from the press, with about 2 inches of the cords protruding on each side. The back should now receive a coat of glue, and when that is dry, the ends of the cords are untwisted and scraped with a blunt knife till the fibres of the tow are well separated. Now is the time to insert ornamental end-papers, if any are desired; these may be either of marbled or coloured paper; the sheet is folded with the plain side outwards, one-half of it being pasted; it is then laid between the fly-leaves, with the fold of which it is closely worked; the other half is then pasted, and the outside fly-leaf is rubbed down upon it. The back of the book has to be rounded, which is done by laying the volume with the fore-edge towards the operator, who, pressing the fingers of his left hand upon it, gently taps the back up and down with a hammer, changing the sides alternately until the back is beaten into a somewhat circular shape. The book is then placed between two backing boards, the thick edges of which are ranged parallel with each other, within about 1/8 inch of the back. The boards and book, being tightly grasped with the left hand, are lowered into the cutting press, until the boards are flush with the cheek of the press, which is then screwed as tightly as possible.
The back is hammered gently and uniformly up and down each side, and a little in the middle, which causes it to spread over the boards so as to form the lequired projection. The book, thus backed, is ready for the covers, which are of millboard, and, being cut to the required size, either with shears or in the cutting press, are pierced with holes pricked with a bodkin, two at each cord, one about 1/2 inch from the edge, and the second as much beyond it. The frayed cords are then sodden with paste, drawn through the outer side of the board or cover, and passed through the other hole to the outer side again. The book is then held in the left hand, while, with the right, the pasted cords are hammered on a smooth piece of iron (a flat iron screwed into the press will do) into the substance of the millboard covers. It should now be left to dry. The next step is that of cutting the which is rather a difficult process. Hold the book in the left hand, with the fore-edge upwards, and allow the covers to hang down on each side; thrust a paper knife or a flat piece of metal between them and the back of the book. Then placing a cutting board on each side, and opening the covers horizontally, beat the back of the book against the press until it is perfectly flattened.