Arts & Crafts





THE modern revival of bookbinding in the spirit of thoroughness of the medieval craftsman, is engaging the attention of many amateurs at the present time so that no book on the art crafts is complete which does not treat of the subject to some extent.

To do the work thoroughly requires an equipment large and expensive in comparison with the other crafts, and to do it in a makeshift way is most unworkmanlike. The best we can do with our limited space here is to give the student some suggestions for simple work such as can be performed by beginners, and then to explain, as clearly as is possible in print, the “forwarding ” and “finishing ” of a book in the best method of the craft.

Let it be understood from the first that we are considering special binding in contradistinction to trade or commercial binding. The directions that follow are as clear as words and working-drawings can make them; but the reader will come to a better understanding of each step of the work of bookbinding by taking apart an old copy of a hand-sewn book and comparing it with the diagrams and the printed instructions.

A visit to a neighboring bindery will also prove of practical interest. Magazines in general, particularly the ten-cent variety, are as a rule hardly worthy of the immense amount of time required to do special binding. If one’s time is valued at anything one cannot afford to undertake the work when a commercial binder will bind, and bind well, for a dollar or less a volume. On the other hand, if you have a first or old edition of some standard or really good piece of literature, in which paper, type, and other features are worth good binding, and which may need careful thought and patient mending, you may not care to intrust such a volume to the trade binder; and you may find it a labor of love to undertake the job of binding it yourself.

A simpler and less trying piece for a beginner would be a book obtained from the publishers in sheets, if possible. This will avoid any mending, and will allow one to start with the first step in binding, thus saving the work of undoing the original binding. In selecting such a book good hand-made paper, correct margins, and satisfactory presswork in every detail should be insisted upon, and the subject-matter of the volume assuredly should be of intrinsic merit. If we wish to emulate the craftsmanship of the medieval binders, nothing but the best material and most thorough methods will suffice.

For the special binding of books, at school or in the home, the following equipment , which is kept as simple as possible, will be required. In some cases ingenious and efficient substitutes may be found to take the place of articles named. Any article on the list with which the reader is not already familiar may be obtained at any bookbinder’s supply store.

Sewing-frame (Fig. 6).



Tins for pressing.

Celluloid sheets.

Letter-press (ordinary office press).

Finishing-press. Lying- or cutting-press.


Carpenter’s square.


Straight edge or metal ruler.

Awl. Backing-hammer (Fig. 12).

Paste-brush. Ivory or bone folders.

1 ordinary cutting-knife.

2 knives for paring leather (Fig. 15).



Knocking-down iron, also used as weights for less heavy pressing. The actual knocking-down iron cannot be had in this country: a handleless flat-iron or other substitutes must be used.

Forwarding a, Dummy Book.

By “forwarding,” in bookbinding, is meant all the steps toward the completion of a book, up to, but not including, “finishing,” or the lettering and decoration of the same. A wise and eminently safe beginning in bookbinding is to practise first on a dummy or blank-book. This may be planned, as to thickness and dimensions, to meet the requirements of a journal, guest-book, or scrap-book, as the case may be. The quality of paper used will depend, of course, on the nature of the book. Ordinarily, you will do well to select a medium-grade cream or white and a medium size paper. Artist’s charcoal-paper is excellent. These sheets will be possibly eight times the size of the book determined upon. Now carefully fold and cut once, then refold and cut each half until double the size of the final page is obtained. Sections will be made up of from three to eight folded sheets, depending on the weight and bulk of paper, and as many sections used as may be desired. A book of medium thickness is somewhat easier to handle, as well as more quickly sewn. These sections, with the ” end-paper” sections, must now be pressed between pressing-boards and tins, in the letter-press, preferably over-night.

End Papers.

The “end-papers” are blank sheets occurring at the front and back of the book, and are not only a protection to it, but also help to give it a respectable appearance, and should be generously allowed for. Always three or four endpapers, not counting the paste-downs, are to be found at either end of a book, and are prepared as follows:

Take two carefully folded sheets of paper slightly larger than the book, mark them with dividers, 1″ from the back, near the top and bottom (Fig. 1), and paste the second folded sheet to the first as far as these points (Fig. 2), and then press.

When the paste is quite dry, fold Al back over Bl, and A2 the reverse way, when the sheets will appear as in Fig. 3,

Another folded sheet is inserted at P, and the sewing passes through this, as well as through B1. “When the paste-down Bl is to be pasted down to line the inside of the board, the waste Al is torn out. This joint, known as Cockerall zigzag, is necessary to give a spring to the board and to pre-veut its tearing the end-paper away from the Fig. 2 book. These two sections of end-papers must be pressed with, the book before sewing.

Marking – up.

– ” Marking-up” consists in determining and marking across the back of the sections the position of the sewing-cord. These are usually five in number, though they vary with extreme sizes of books, at the discretion of the binder. Divide the back of book with dividers (beginning at the head) into six parts-five equal ones, with that at the tail slightly greater. Having determined the position of the cords, draw heavy pencil-lines across the back, marking every section.

Mark the position of the kettle-stitch (or catch-stitch) about half an inch either end (KK, Fig. 4). These are sawed or filed in to a depth of about one eighth of an inch. Sewing,-A. sewing-frame such as has been used certainly since the sixteenth century, and probably earlier, is shown in Fig. 5, and is still in use. .

The best hemp cord should be used, the size varying somewhat according to the size of book. Five cords are now tied to A and fastened below B, 011 a special key made for that purpose. Or, as the keys are not easily obtainable in this country, a good-sized nail may be used, around which the cords are twisted and firmly tied (Fig. 6). Now adjust the cords to correspond to the marks on the book, and tighten them by screwing up the cross bar (Fig. 6).

The book will now be sewn, beginning with the first section, which is laid face down, head to the right, back against the cords on a pressing-board which is larger than the book, and which raises the section from the bed of the frame and lessens the difficulty of inserting the needle. The needle, threaded with a good linen or silk thread, medium weight, is inserted from the outside first at the nearer right-hand kettle-stitch. . An end of,say two inches is left at this first kettle-stitch, to tie to later, and the rest of the thread pulled through. The needle is now in the middle of the section and will be passed out at the left-hand side of the first cord, the thread pulled taut, and the needle inserted again into the hole out of which it came, but from the opposite side of the cord, and so on around all the five cords, and finally out at the kettle-stitch at the foot (Fig/7).

The next section is laid on and is sewn from foot to head, similarly,, after which the thread is tied to the loose end left at the first kettle-stitch. The third section is then laid on and sewn, but when its tail kettle-stitch is reached, the under thread eonnections? sections 1 and 2, are tied too, as shown in Fig. 8,

This kettle-stitch is repeated at each end throughout the book. When the last end-paper has been sewn on, a double kettle-stitch ismade, which completes the sewing. The cords may now be cut off leaving about three inches on each side of book, for fraying and later lacing into the boards.


– For this operation the best cabinetmakers’ glue is used, prepared in the usual way, having been soaked overnight and shortly before needed cooked in boiling water to a smooth, clear, rather thin consistency. A large brush of good quality is used. The book is knocked up squarely at the back and head, put between two pieces of millboard or old cloth covers, covering the cords, and screwed up in the lying-press, exposing the back only (Fig. 9).

Hot glue is now daubed thoroughly on to and into the back of the book. The press . must not be screwed so tight as to result in the glue remaining entirely on the surface, nor left loose enough to allow of its penetrating too deeply between the sections. Before the glue has hardened, but after it has ceased to be “tacky,” the book is removed from the press and rounded, during which process the back is curved slightly and evenly. The degree of curvature will depend upon the natural disposition or tendency of the book, and partially as well upon the taste or wish of the binder. All books will be rounded somewhat, to prevent the possibility of their later becoming concave. Bounding consists in drawing the sections over and tapping slightly with a hammer, first on one side of the book and then on the other, resulting in an even convex fonn at the back and a correspondingly concave form of the fore edges of the book. In Sacking a book the rounding is completed, made permanent, and the book given a firm, smooth back. A backing-board is placed on either side of the book, back from the edge, just the thickness of the boards. This projection of the book will cause a joint, into which the boards should just fit. In placing boards and arranging for screwing up in the press, firm handling, endless pains, and no little patience are required. Frequently one or both boards slip, leaving a greater projection of the book at one end or side; this must be carefully avoided. When the book is ready, screw the press up very tight. “With a back-hammer-and it should not be a heavy one – proceed gently and cautiously to start the sections in the right direction, bringing them over from the middle each way. Then with heavier, firmer strokes go over the entire back, taking care that the joint is as sharply defined as possible. Fig. 9 shows the rounded back, and the joint is indicated by the arrow. Cutting and

Lacing-in Boards,

– A. good, firm mill-or tar-board should be used for cover-boards. Both come in several thicknesses, from which the binder will choose, according to the size of the volume in hand. First cut the boards roughly to size of the book, allowing, say, one inch beyond. Plow.- This is the binders’ cutting-knife, which is now employed to obtain the exact size and perfectly clean-cut, smooth edges. The two boards are placed in the cutting-press against a piece of stiff millboard, or against a piece made by pasting together two or three thinner pieces of millboard. The plow (with plough-knife extended about 1″ and screwed in) is placed in the groove of press provided for it, held by the hand and screw, and run slowly and smoothly backward and forward; a slight turn of the screw brings the knife forward. When the two thicknesses are cut through, remove the boards and line them.


– With a piece of common white paper, line one side of each board. Paste Formula.-A. good paste may be made to use for bookbinding purposes, as follows: 1 pound of flour (two cups) ; 2 teaspoons of alum, dissolved. Mix the flour with a little cold water, getting the lumps out with the hands. Add 8 cups of hot water and boil, stirring constantly. This becomes partly clear when done. Add 1 teaspoon of essence of wintergreen and sassafras, which helps keep the paste sweet. The paste is to be used cold, and applied with a large brush. Cover the lining-papers evenly, and as thinly as possible. Place on the board to be lined, and rub perfectly smooth, using the palm of hands and folder. Be sure to have both the inner and double lining-papers pasted down uniformly and perfectly smooth. The lined covers should be pressed for a few moments only, and then stood up to dry. Now if the boards are dry, continue cutting them in the plow down to the size of the book. Decide upon the square or projection of board beyond the leaves of the book, usually 1/8″ or less if the edges are plow-cut; more if they are rough or deckled. Mark this square accurately, using dividers and try-square. Place in the press with double linings together, and cut to the marks with plow. Test again with the try-square, and by reversing the position of boards; then mark and cut the remaining sides. When perfectly square, and of the required size, place the boards on the book in their final position, hold firmly in place with the left hand, and with the right mark accurately the position of the cords on the back edge of the board.

Lacing-in Boards.



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