There are comparatively few of these, however, for many so-called amateurs are really semiprofessionals, engaged more or less in the production of bindings for profit. This applies both to teachers and those who are not engaged in teaching. The net result, however, of the growth of interest in this country has been to develop a certain number of binders who do work of the first class.
This, taken in connection with the professional binders who do commercial work entirely, renders it unnecessary nowadays for the lover of good books to send them abroad to be bound. While the best work in this country equals that done abroad, there are comparatively few binders who are capable of producing work that measures up to the standard of the best foreign binders. Aside from the scarcity of first-class workers, we must consider the question of cost; and as labor of all kinds is better paid in this country, it follows that binders here cannot, as a matter of fact, compete in price with those abroad, and it may be that this is one of the reasons why so much work is still sent to foreign countries.
The amateur who begins work with a view to becoming a good binder should in every possible way cultivate a liking not only for the special work he undertakes, but also for allied lines of art, and will do well to observe the following maxims:
1st.. Learn to care for really well-bound books by familiarizing ones self with such bindings and with fine editions of good literature, worthy of fine bindings.
2d. To make careful study of the details of mechanism, beauty and adaptation of fine binding; and also to gain accurate knowledge of the discrepancies and dangers that beset inferior work.
3d. To make perfection the goal of every effort.
To do ones absolute best with every stroke of work, from least to greatest, and to condone no failures save through renewed knowledge, ability and effort to do better.
The simplest textbooks for a beginner are:
Bookbinding, by J. W. Zaehnsdorf, Bookbinding for Amateurs, by W. J. E. Crane. , Bookbinding and the Care of Books, by Douglas Cockerell. Brander Matthewss , Bookbindings, Old and New, may be consulted with pleasure and profit.
While not a technical handbook, it gives one a brief view of the history and styles of the art. These are inexpensive and may be had through any bookstore. One of the first questions asked by the seeker after knowledge along this line is, what constitutes the difference between a well bound book and the ordinary book of commerce? It is surprising how small the percentage is of persons who have any definite knowledge as to what the elements of a good binding are. Knowledge on this subject has spread very slightly, and only among a very limited class of people; so it is always necessary to explain carefully to the inquirer just what makes this difference. The binding of a book is described in the two technical terms, forwarding and finishing.
Forwarding covers collating, cleaning, sewing, backing, head-banding, putting on the leather, everything, in fact, that prepares the book for decorating and lettering. Finishing comprises the designing of cover decoration, tooling of sides and back, as well as whatever decoration is done on the inside of the cover.
The ordinary book of commerce, which is generally sold in boards with a cloth or paper cover, is really not bound at all. The book is sewn by machinery, and the cover, which is technically known as a casing, is also made by machinery, in many cases being applied by the same machine. The connection between this so-called cover and the book itself is of the very slightest nature. The tapes or cords on which the book is sewn are held to the cover simply by one thickness of paper, and in some instances by one thickness of crinoline. The book is not strongly sewn, and it has no head-bands, save in some instances a strip of material (manufactured by the yard) pasted on in lieu of the head-bands, this being an imitation of the real thing.
A well-bound book, on the other hand, is properly sewn with linen or silk on linen cords; these cords are laced into each board in so firm a manner that it is impossible to remove the board without cutting the cord or tearing the boards to pieces. The head-bands are then worked on the book itself, these being made of a strip of vellum standing on edge and entirely covered with silk thread, each head-hand being fastened to the book in from three to five places, thus becoming an integral part of the book itself when it is finished. The boards are then covered either entirely or in part with leather, which is a further strong connection between the cover and the book proper. The leather may either constitute a half, a three-quarters or a full binding. The book is then properly decorated either with a simple title or with whatever elaboration or decoration is desired.