FINISHING: Conclusion Polishing and crushing:
After the book has been tooled both inside and out and on the back, it must be polished and crushed. Both of these operations are rather lengthy ones. Polishing Plates: The usual material from which polishing plates are made is copper or brass about one-fourth inch thick, and either nickeled or silver plated. One pair of plates of good size, say 9 by 12, will answer the purpose of the average worker. It is, of course, more convenient to have plates of various sizes, but they are somewhat expensive. I am using a pair of plates made of aluminum. These plates have the advantage of being very much lighter in weight, but they also have the disadvantage of not retaining the heat as the more dense metal does. For amateur use, however, where only one book at a time is being crushed, they do very well. Aluminum becomes easily tarnished, so it is necessary to have them plated. I have succeeded in having a pair nickel-plated, but it seems rather difficult to have this done. (Aluminum plates cost much less than of brass, copper, etc.)
The polishing is done with either one of the two polishing irons which are in stock, each portion of the cover being gone over with a polisher which is somewhat hotter than the finishing tools themselves, not too much pressure being used during the operation. The polish is produced with the polisher and not with the polishing plates. After the book has been given the gloss which is desired, it goes through the operation of crushing. In order to do this successfully and evenly, a pair of metal plates are heated on the stove, the degree of heat being about that used in the finishing tools. Two thin polishing tins are also heated, one being placed inside each cover, with perhaps one thickness of clean blotting paper between the tin and the sections. Great care must be taken to have both the blotting paper and the tin go well down into the joint of the book. The tins being in place, the book is closed and laid on one of the hot plates, the other being placed on top of it. The book and plates are now put in the press. To facilitate handling the hot plates and book, I find it well to place a thin board (one-quarter inch thick) outside each plate. Transfer the whole (holding them firmly so no disarrangement may take place) to the press, which is then screwed down securely until a somewhat firm pressure is exerted on the book. It is much better to have too little pressure than too much, and it is well to remember that a very moderate pressure, combined with the heat of the plates, exerts a very great influence on the soft leather.
My own method is to have the plates only moderately hot, bringing a reasonable amount of pressure to bear on the book for a few minutes only, then loosen it up and again screw the press down until the plates just hold the book in place. When placing the book in the press it should be so adjusted that its center lies under the central point of the platen of the press. The book should be left in the press overnight, or at least for several hours, and if it is found that it is not crushed enough -which is not often the case- it can be easily remedied. Too often, however, the beginner finds that the pressure he has used has been so great that the grain of the leather has been quite crushed out, leaving a glossy surface, the gold being thus on the surface of the leather.
It should be noted that one of the objects of proper "blinding-in" is to get the impression deep enough and sharp enough, so that when the book is finished no amount of handling will impair the brilliancy of the gold, for the reason that the whole pattern is sunk below the surface of the leather and is not touched when the book is used. On the contrary, when the "blinding-in" is poorly done, or if the crushing is overdone, the gold is in this operation brought up to the surface of the leather and is open to injury from the slightest cause. Half-bound books: This is a most useful style for library use. The forwarding is in all respects the same as that already described, up to the point of putting in leather. In this case the back and corners only are covered with leather. The leather may extend on the sides as far as may be desired; the only point to be observed is to have the width from A to B the same, or a bit greater than from C to D. Otherwise the corners seem "skimpy." After the leather has been put in place and has dried thoroughly, it should be cut square and true at the free edges. Now cut a piece of thin mill-board to fit on the outside and cover all of the board not covered with leather. Using this as a pattern, enough filling should be cut to raise the surface level with the leather. The filling should be long enough to cover the edges and the inside edge of the board also if the leather here needs it. The turn-over of the filling should not go further than does the leather. If the inside of the board needs lining as a whole, special filling should be cut for it, just as in full-bound work. When the filling-in has been completed, lines should be drawn on the leather (with straight-edge and folder) about one-eighth inch from the edge. The paper or cloth for covering the board is then cut to fit the space. It should be large enough to come up to the lines above referred to and to turn over the edges of the cover. It may be fastened on with paste or glue; the latter is best, but very troublesome to use until one becomes expert.
Opening a newly bound book:
When both forwarding and finishing are quite done, the binder should "open" the book carefully in the following manner: Open one cover flat; hold a rulers edge upright against the end-paper (fly-leaf) where it is pasted to the section. Open the end-paper and run a folder along the straight edge, thus "breaking" the page somewhat. Do the same to the other end-paper. Now take all the sections, hold them perpendicular, the covers lying on the bench; take two or three sections at a time (front and back alternately), flatten them down and run the hand along the joint, always beginning at the center of back, thus flattening them down as much as possible. Continue until all have been attended to. The book should now be put under pressure againnot necessarily in the pressand left a day or a few days before it is allowed to leave the bindery "Hand-tooled" work produced by machinery: A few words on this modern development may not be out of place. The well-known method of "blocking" has recently been made use of to produce a style of finishing which in itself is quite well enough; it is very objectionable, however, to impose bindings finished by such purely mechanical processes on the guileless public as "hand-tooled" books. These "blocked patterns" are produced as follows: The whole design is engraved on a single metal plate. This is placed in an "arming press" and heated.
The cover with a blanket of gold-leaf (this often of poor quality) on it, is slipped in position, the lever pulled, and "presto!" the pattern is produced. No preliminary "blinding-in" is needed. By this method all parts of the design are stamped to the same depth, and all parts are flat as regards surface. This naturally results in "loss of life" in the design; it is flat and uninteresting, devoid of that individuality which is always present in the simplest specimen of hand-work. In using small tools no two impressions are necessarily at the same angle; this causes the reflecting surfaces of the gold to be active at whatever angle the book is held and thus gives brightness and variety which can never exist in blocked work. It therefore follows that a hand-tooled book, where the design is worked out in small tools, is much more brilliant than where large tools are employed. Some criticism expressed recently, by a competent authority, referring to this variety of work, may be read with profit: In short, it could not give the impress of thought and mind to its work, which render the simplest specimen of true handicraft more or less interesting and satisfactory. Its perfection was a dead level of uniformity, dull and unpleasing, and its limitations of ornamental or other art were pretentious failures. "The remarks "as to flatness" apply also to the employment of "rolls" in borders. They not only make a bad finish at the corners, but they produce a "flat" result, as the whole bearing surface must be on one level; the wider the roll the worse the effect. It is only of recent years that a few unscrupulous publishers have begun to employ this method of exploiting their unwary customers.
The usual procedure is as follows:
A so-called "limited edition" of some well-known standard set of volumes (on which the copyright has usually expired) is advertised and subscriptions are solicited. This is done by clever agents who work almost exclusively among people not familiar with such methods. It is represented that this is in itself a "limited" edition of say 1,000 copies, and that a small number of copies (from ten to thirty) are specially illustrated by original watercolors or line drawings on "specially prepared" paper, specially hand-bound and tooled, etc. When issued as full bound work, the leather selected is sometimes of inferior quality and soon deteriorates. In some cases the machine tooling is eked out by a small amount of hand-work, just enough to give color to the statement "it is hand-tooled." This business, however, only flourishes among customers who are in complete ignorance as to what constitutes a well-bound book.
There is only one thing to be said in favor of such work, and that is, that even though purchasers are defrauded to some extent, they soon find it out and in the research made necessary by this they do acquire a knowledge of what is the real thing, and in this way many of them become well posted for the future, as to the kind of books they ought to buy. In this manner a considerable knowledge of the art is spread abroad, though in a very objectionable manner.
In closing this article, I desire to express my indebtedness for many valuable points contained herein to the works of Zaehnsdorf, Cockerell, and particularly to the excellent articles published by Messrs. Sangorksi & Sutcliffe, of London. Their articles were illustrated by the best cuts which have so far come to my notice, and I have made free use of them, particularly those relating to sewing and head-banding. I also desire to acknowledge my indebtedness to Bradstreets bindery, its genial superintendent, Mr. John Oliver, and to the expert staff, Messrs. David Smith, forwarder; Nathaniel Kirby and Alfred Launder, finishers, and Miss Doran, who does the sewing and head-banding. To their willingness to give me practical points and to discuss them has been due whatever success I have had so far.
Not being interested in the art of bookbinding in any way except for the love of it, I have felt free to make full use of all accessible data which would aid me in bringing in compact shape before the beginner those points which will aid him in his efforts. If I have done this, in even a slight degree, I shall feel well repaid.
NEW YORK, September, 1907, 346 Broadway.