Bookbinding for Amateurs



THERE are two methods of dealing with the back of a book before covering: it may be either what is called ” tight” or “open.” In the first, one or two thicknesses of paper are glued to the back, and when the book is covered with leather, the leather which falls on the back is pasted to this paper. The result, of course, is that, in this case, the leather has to take any form that the back itself does.

Thus, for instance, when the book Is open the back rises up, as at B, Fig. 104. In the “hollow,” or “open,” back, some slips of paper are glued LOOSE BACK to the back, over which are placed others free from the back When the book is covered, part of the leather is turned in between these, so that the covering of the back only adheres to the loose paper. The consequence is that, when the book is opened, the real back flies up; but the loose back, to which the leather cover is attached, retains its shape. This is shown at Fig. 104, where a loose-backed book is shown open. B is the back of the book, which has naturally sprung up; A is the outer part of the lining, with the leather attached, which, being detached from the actual book, keeps its regular shape. Each method has its advantages. The ” tight” back is undoubtedly the more antique and the stronger system.

 All old books have tight backs, so have most small Church Services of the present day (of which more anon) and large pulpit Bibles. But the hollow back opens better, and the ” finishing ” is less liable to damage; and, in short, this kind of back is almost universal at the present day. Before lining the back, the headband should be set. This is done by means of glue. If the headband be worked, it is glued over both at head and tail, and then, by the aid of a folder, the headband is made to take the same curve as the back of the book. This is accomplished by holding the book, with its back downwards, on the cheek of the press, in the left hand, while with a pointed folder, held in the right hand, the bead of the headband is rubbed down and manipulated to make it of good shape. The silk or cambric at the back is then rubbed down as closely as possible, and the book allowed to dry. In lining a tight back, the book is screwed up in the laying-press, back projecting; the back of the book is carefully glued over with glue of tolerable thickness. A piece of smooth brown paper is now taken, which has one edge cut quite straight. This straight edge is applied to the left side of the back, the paper put down on the glued surface, and then well rubbed down to the back with a stout bone folder and the palm of the hand. It is then cut off straight with a sharp knife at the right side of the back. It is well to glue this brown paper over, and apply a second piece; or, still better, a thickness of stout smooth cartridge paper. The paper should be long enough to project a little over the headbands at head and tail. For hollow backs the proceedings differ somewhat. The first thickness of brown paper is glued on, as described. This is next glued over, and another piece put above it, but not quite up to the edge of the back on the left-hand side.

This stage of the lining is represented at Fig. 105, where A shows the glued portion of the first thickness of the paper, not covered by the second thickness (B). The second thickness is rubbed well down with the hand and the thick folding-stick; then it is creased or folded straight along the right-hand side of the book at B, When the lining is dry, the overplus paper at the head and tail should be cut off with the scissors level with the top of the headband. With a sharp penknife inserted into the hollow of the back, each side should be cut down for a couple of inches at the head and tail, so as to allow the leather to be turned in when covering.

If the book is to have bands, these should now be placed. Bands are those projections on the back of a well-bound book which represent the projection of the actual band upon which antique books were bound. Some binders use string or cord for these, but they generally consist of two or three thicknesses of leather glued together and dried under pressure, then cut into slips one-eighth of an inch or less wide, with a sharp knife and the cutting-board. A single thickness of stout morocco will generally be sufficient. A piece of thin white paper is usually glued inside the leather, whether it be of a single thickness or made of several. Of course, the larger the book the wider the band. The book is now placed in the press and marked up.

The general number of bands is five, and they are placed equidistant, rather more space being allowed at the tail than at the head of the book. Fig. 106 shows a small sketch of a back so marked and proportioned. The inside (paper side) and the surplus portion, C, is brought over to the left hand, where it adheres to the glued part, and again folded down. When this is done, the small amount of glued space left at A will be found enough to hold this fresh fold of the paper down. This being done, the top of this last fold of paper is again glued and folded over from left to right, and then cut off level by folding it back and running a sharp knife along the fold. This style of lining up is technically known as ” two on and two off,” because, as will be understood from the preceding description, there will be two thicknesses of paper glued to the back of the book, and two others semi-detached from it, being only connected at each edge, so that, when the opened book is viewed from the head or tail, it will present the appearance shown at Fig. 104, where A is the loose thickness of the lining paper, and B that which adheres to the book and assumes its shape. For thin books, one thickness on the back and two on the hollow will be sufficient. Thick or large books may have more paper applied, in proportion to their size.

Overcast books should be rather strongly lined to relieve the strain. Good paper should be used for this important operation. Flabby brown paper, with a liability to stretch, is quite unsuited. Old writing, account-book, or copy-book paper is fairly suitable; tough smooth brown paper is better; and good quality cartridge is best of all.



IN whole-bound works a roll of sufficient breadth is generally run along the edges of the boards and the inside of the squares. This may be done by taking the gold upon the roll as usual and holding the volume on the work-bench firmly with the left hand. It is, however, generally best, especially if the volume be large, to screw it up in boards, either in the finishing-press or the laying-press, according to size.

The boards are used to prevent the back being injured. When the end-papers have a broad leather joint, which is to be finished, it is best to lay on gold over all the space, with the tip or cotton, and then work the ornaments as desired. It is upon the sides of whole-bound books that the competent finisher usually finds the best scope for his talent and can show his taste and skill. Where the ornamentation is confined to a simple roll worked round the side, a line made with the folder will be sufficient guide, and the gold can be taken upon the roll and worked direct. But when the pattern is large and complicated, and with much detail, it will be well to work all the tools upon the side before glairing, and apply the gold subsequently. The gold may be laid on one side only, and that side be finished first, and the book be screwed up in the laying-press.

Or, still better, the book may be placed between a couple of firm billets of wood resting steadily on the work-bench (Fig. 144); and thus the gold may be laid on both boards. The whole of the boards may be glaired over with the sponge, or the whole be first worked, and the impressions only glaired with the brush. To gild silk or velvet, it is necessary, owing to their delicate character, to adopt a different procedure to that used with leather. Wet glaire would, of course, permanently stain them, and therefore the whites of eggs are carefully dried, and brought to a very fine powder; this is placed in a small bottle, with a piece of fine muslin tied over the mouth, and can then be shaken and powdered over the place desired. On this powder the gold is applied, and the tools worked.

Many modern bookbinders prefer powdered gum sandarach to the egg albumen. As there is no moisture in silk, the finisher must not lay on so much gold at one time as he would on calf or morocco. “We will now give an example of a side finished in gold. We cannot give more than one, owing to the space which such illustrations would take up.

The principle, however, is in all cases the same, and the operator, if possessed of a little good taste and self-reliance, should have no difficulty in so combining a small collection of suitable tools as to make plenty of effective designs for himself. In our example (Fig. 145) it will be seen that the tools required are a single-line fillet, several semi-circular gouges of different sizes, some circles, and the line and corner tools shown at Fig. 146, of which two are volutes or scrolls.

The single-line fillet is first worked round the side, equidistant from each of the .edges. The tool A is then worked at each corner, as shown. Inside this, again, the fillet is used so as to produce a square incomplete at the corners, which are afterwards finished off with a gouge. The central ornament should be worked blind first. The middle knot is formed with gouges carefully worked so that the lines interlace. At their ends the volute (Fig. 146, B) is placed, and to this is added the smaller volute, 0. The circles worked within each other finish the design, which is chaste and pretty. Of course, the design is mainly one of lines. In others the ornaments preponderate, and a few lines are only used to bind them together in something like a coherent decoration.

Other designs have more of a border character consisting of a wide square or oval framework, formed by working broad rolls or a multiplicity of tools round, while the middle of the design has no ornament. For look, few methods are better than to cover the sides with scrolls or gouges carefully arranged to run into or branch out from each other, while small terminal tools spring from their extremities. Some of the smaller tools shown at Fig. 125, p. 151, are well adapted for this. Ancient binders of repute seem to have been very fond of a style of decoration which secured the most massive and showy appearance at little cost of designing skill. This was done by running a couple of broad rolls round the boards, working some large ornamentssay, a crown or a mitrein the middle, and filling up all the interspaces by continued repetitions of some small tool, as a fleur de lis or a rose.

Many of the books of Henri II. and Diane de Poitiers are finished thus; and the famous French binder Le Gascon was also much addicted to this manner. A side can be also completed by the use of rolls alone, working them in gradually lessening squares, or, rather, parallelograms, inside each other, and ending with a centre tool in character with the rolls. Blind Tooling. This is seldom done upon the sides of morocco-covered books. With calf it is not uncommon to run a roll round the board, and to fill up the central space with blind work produced by plates, and known as “graining.” The plates are of metal, and bear the “grain” that it is desired to impart to the leather on one side. One of the most common patterns is that termed ” russia.” For this, slight file-cuts are made round a sheet iron or copper plate, and thin copper wire is coiled around, passing into each of these saw-slots. When all the wire is wound, the plate is covered with molten solder on one side, which solders the wire firmly to that side of the plate.

The folds of loose wire on the other side are then removed, and the working face of the plate resembles A (Fig. 147), the lines of wire standing up boldly. To use these plates, one is placed on each side of the book, the whole put between boards, well pulled down in the standing-press, and left in all night, or longer. When removed, it will be found that the plates have stamped in the pattern A (Fig. 147) on each side. The plates are now reversed, so that the lines run across those already made, and again screwed down in the press. When taken out, the side will be found to bear the complete russia pattern, as at B (Fig. 147). Besides the above pattern, there are others known as morocco, turkey, fish scale, basket, shagreen, waving, and double patterns. These are engraved in solid metal plates, and are used the same as the ” russia ” plates, but do not need reversal and a second impression. Inlaying.

From a very early period in the history of bookbinding, endeavours have been made to get variety by embellishing the sides of the boards in various devices with pieces of leather of different colour to that which the book was bound in. This is termed ” inlaying.” Most of the larger volumes in the famous library of the celebrated Grolier, chancellor of France, were inlaid. The pattern generally used was that of interlaced strapwork. In Grolier’s time, this peculiar kind of ornament was very popular, especially in Flanders and Germany, and to some extent in France, as a general decorative enrichment; it consists of a narrow fillet or band folded and’crossed, and occasionally interlaced with another, the convolutions sometimes exhibiting much ingenious elaboration. The style originated, however, at a much earlier period. A specimen which dates as far back as the eleventh century, and possesses all the characteristics of the Byzantine art of that time, is sculptured in stone over the church gate at Nassau, Saxony. The adoption of this peculiar ornament was exceedingly common in the later days of the Renaissance, and became a prevailing characteristic of that style. It was carried to perfection under Henri II. of France, and hence it is not surprising to find it brought into the bookbinding of that era. Books so bound are often called ” Groliers” in the present day, from those of that chancellor bound in this style.

Fig. 148 exemplifies a simple pattern of this description; it consists of an interlaced square and diamond. Patterns of this kind are easy for anyone to design in great variety. It is only necessary to bear in mind that any under of either ribbon must be followed by an over. Fig. 149 shows a more complex corner strapwork ornament of the time of Henri II.

The pattern is usually cut out of morocco of two or more colours, differing from that of the book cover. For instance, if the book be bound in purple morocco, the square (Fig. 148) may be scarlet, and the diamond bright green. They may be cut out with a sharp-pointed knife. Of course, the leather is only used single; that is to say, when one colour appears to go under thd other, that portion is omitted. The leather should be pared thin before the ornament is cut out, as otherwise it may be found very difficult to pare it. It should also be cut from morocco which either has no grain or from which the grain has been rubbed out.

The various portions of the ornament are carefully pasted over with thick paste, laid accurately care also being in the position which they are to occupy on the book side, and rubbed down scrupulously with the folder; taken not to stretch the leather. When the paste has got out, place a pie the book in the a little set, clear away any that has squeezed ce of clean waste paper on each side, screw press and leave it there until dry. The inlaid ornament is finished by working pallets and line tools in gold around all its outlines. These had better be in fine lines. If the binder have a tolerable assortment of single-line pallet gouges, and the others recommended in Chapter XIX., he should have no trouble in matching any pattern; but, if he have any doubt, then, in designing his pattern, he mrst take into consideration what tools he has, and modify it accordingly.

Fig. 150 shows a side of an ancient book in the Grolier style, from the Morante collection. This pattern is a very good one. Fig. 151 shows a less complicated pattern of the same period. Etruscan.In this style, instead of being covered with gold, the back is ornamented with Gothic and Arabesque compartments, or imitations of Greek borders and Etruscan vases, in their proper colours, which, when well executed, have a good effect.

The Marquis of Bath possesses a copy of Caxton’s ” Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye,” bound in this coloured manner by Whittaker, of London, who some years ago brought it to great perfection. The back represents a tower in imitation of stone, on the battlements of which is a flag. bearing the title, and on a projection of the tower the name of the printers is impressed. On the sides are Trojan and Grecian armour in reliefs, round which is a raised impression of the reeded axe. The insides, which are also of russia, are ornamented with drawings, in Indian ink, of Andromache imploring Hector not to go out to fight, and the death of Hector.  The edges of the leaves are gilt, on which various Greek devices are painted. To execute this kind of work properly, the design must be carefully marked out on the covers. The proper tints and shades for the colour must be ascertained by trials on waste pieces of the same leather as the book is bound in. Painting.Another variety of ornamentation for the sides of whole-bound books are landscapes. These can of course only be done if the workman be skilled in painting. The volume ia prepared by being paste-washed, so as to present an uniform fawn colour, the designs slightly traced and afterwards coloured, according to the pattern, the colour being mixed to the proper shade with water. The shades must be tried on pieces of refuse leather, as, being spirit colour, when once laid on, no art can soften them down if too strong, and a peculiar lightness of touch will be necessary to produce effect. Portraits, &c., may also be executed in this manner, and many superb designs have at times been executed by the best binders of France. M. Didot, the celebrated Parisian printer, presented a copy of the ” Henriade,” published by himself, and most elegantly ornamented in this style, to Louis XVIII. It was executed by M. Leniers Belliers, bookbinder, of Tours, and exhibited on one side a miniature of Henri IY., and on the other a similar one of Louis XVIIL, both perfect likenesses. The greatest difficulty consisted in the portraits, which were first imprinted on paper, very moist, and immediately applied to the cover, on which they were impressed with a flab roller. When perfectly dry, they were coloured with all the art of which the binder was capable, and the other ornamental paintings were executed by hand. This kind of work demands much time and care. When this style of ornamentation is required, and the workman does not possess the requisite skill to properly paint a landscape, the same, or nearly the same, effect may be attained by the use of “transfer” pictures. The proceeding is as follows : Cut the print intended to be transferred close to the design on the sides. Let it steep in glaire till it is well saturated. During this time, glaire the book twice, letting it dry on each application.

Take out the print, place it exactly in the centre of the side cover, and, laying a piece of paper above, rub it sharply on the book, so that it may adhere very closely. Remove the upper paper, and with the fingers rub off the paper gently until the printed design begins to appear, wetting the fingers in glaire should the paper get too dry. The utmost attention will now be necessary, for the least carelessness in removing the paper that still remains may entirely destroy the design, and the whole of the previous labour be lost. The paper must be gently removed piece by piece, till the design only appears in the leather while damp. When dry, a whiter appearance will be presented, arising from the small particles of paper adhering to the ink; but these will be sufficiently hidden in glairing the side previous to finishing. The extent and variety to which, at a small expense, these designs may be carried, with the finish and beauty given to the sides of the books, render the subject worthy of the ornamental workman particularly; but he must possess perseverance and carefulness in an eminent degree to carry it to perfection. After the gilding or other ornament is executed, the side must be finished off in the usual manner. A slight coat of varnish will give a superior finish.



THIS part of bookbinding is a matter of some importance, especially as tree-marbled calf patterns have again recently revived in popularity. We will first speak of the preparation of the colours and solutions necessary. Binders differ much amongst themselves in the formulae they prefer; but the following, mainly those given by John Hannett, in his ” Bibliopegia,” may be relied upon.

All the woods and other ingredients named should be reduced to powder or small pieces before being used.


1. Dissolve 1lb. green copperas in a couple of quarts of water. The oxide contained in the sulphate of iron will combine with the tannin of the leather and produce a good black.

2. Boil in a cast-iron pot a quart of vinegar with a quantity of rusty nails or steel filings till reduced one-third, taking off the scum as it rises to the top. This liquid improves with age. To keep up the quantity, boil with more vinegar.


1. Half-pound of good Dantzig or American potash dissolved in one quart of rain-water, and preserved in a bottle, well corked.

2. Salts or oil of tartar in the same proportion as above.

3. A beautiful brown may be procured from the green shells of walnuts.

To prepare this, a quantity of the green shells, when the nuts are gathered, must be pounded in a mortar, to extract the juice, and then put into a vessel capable of holding a sufficient quantity of water. The water being put in, the whole should be frequently stirred, and left to soak with the vessel covered. Afterwards, the liquid must be passed through a sieve, the juice well expressed, and bottled, with some common salt, for use. This liquid, after fermentation, will produce the best effects for the uniform tints, as it tends to soften the leather, and will not corrode.


It is usual with many binders to use ” Scott’s Liquid Blue,” but it is well to know the composition of the colour. Perhaps the best and most simple one is that given by Poerner, which is as follows: In 4oz. of sulphuric acid of 66deg. mix gradually 1oz. of finely-powdered indigo, so as to form a kind of pulp. Place: the vessel in another containing boiling water for some hours, and leave it to cool; afterwards put in a small portion of good potash, dry and finely powdered, stirring the whole well, and letting it rest for twenty-four hours, when bottle, and use as required. This colour will appear nearly black, but may be made any shade by adding water to it. If any portion remains after being diluted, it must be put into a separate bottle, as if mixed with the first preparation the whole would be deteriorated.

2. A readier blue may be prepared by mixing loz. of powdered indigo with 2oz. of oil of vitriol (sulphuric acid), and letting it stand for twenty-four hours, and then adding 12oz. of pure water. Purple.Boil half a pint of archil, or logwood, with vinegar and water, of each half a pint.


Same as the purple, with the addition of about two tablespoonfuls of potash. Violet.Half-pound of logwood chips and loz. of Brazil dust, boiled over a good fire in four pints of water, until reduced one-half, and left to clear. Then throw in loz. of powdered alum and 2gr. of cream of tartar, and boil again till dissolved. This liquid must be used warm. Fawn.In two pints of water boil loz. of tan and a like portion of nutgalls, till reduced to a pint.


1. To Io2;. of good caked saffron, turmeric, or French berries, add a portion of spirits of wine or hydrochloric acid, and leave the mixture to macerate. This liquid is used cold, and may be varied to any shade by adding water as required.

2. In two pints of water put 8oz. of French berries, and boil till reduced one-half; then pass it through a sieve or fine cotton, add a small quantity of powdered alum, and again boil, using it warm.


In a pint and a half of potash liquid boil £lb. of fustic chips till reduced one-half; then put in loz. of good annatto, well beaten, and, after boiling, a small portion of alum, and use warm.


1. Liquid blue and yellow, mixed, will best suit for general purposes.

2. Dissolve in a bottle loz. of verdigris in loz. of best white wine vinegar, and place the whole before a fire for four or five days, frequently shaking the bottle.


There are three sorts of red, viz., common, fine, and scarlet. Common :

1. In a tin kettle, boil 1lb. of Brazil wood, 8gr. of nutgalls, both powdered, and three pints of water, till the whole is reduced one-third. Then add powdered alum and sal ammoniac, of each loz., and, when dissolved, strain through a sieve. This liquid must always be used warm.

2. Boil 1lb. of Brazil dust, 2oz. of powdered cochineal, and a little alum, in two pints of the best vinegar, till a bright red is produced. Use warm.


1. In three pints of water boil 1Ib. of Brazil dust and 1oz. of powdered nutgalls; pass the whole through a fine cotton, and replace the liquid on the fire, adding 1oz. of powdered alum and 1oz. of sal ammoniac; give another boil, and then add a portion of hydrochloric acid, according to the shade desired, and use warm.

2. A quicker and cheaper proceeding is by putting in a cup a portion of Brazil wood, and adding to it the hydrochloric acid, letting it stand for a quarter of an hour to extract the colour.


To 1oz. of white nutgalls and 1oz. of cochineal, both finely powdered, add two pints of boiling water. After boiling some time, add 1oz. of hydrochloric acid, and use warm.

Vitriol Water.

Vitriol, as sold in the pure state, should not be used in marbling or sprinkling, as it would corrode and destroy the leather. It must be weakened at least in a proportion of 1oz. of vitriol to 3oz. of water.

Marbling Water.

It is usual with many to use the water pure, but a few drops of potash liquid used with it renders the marble more distinct.


Put sprits of wine in the proportion of two drops to the whites of twelve eggs, and beat the whole well together until perfectly clear.


Before going into details of the different marbles, it may be well to give some general information. It must be borne in mind that success in many of the marbles depends largely upon prompt and quick execution, and therefore the operator should have his colours, brushes, and preparations so disposed that everthing is ready to his hand in the order required. In preparing the colours, only sufficient for the job should be made ready, because, as a rule, when mixed, they will not keep well. The covers of the books to be marbled should be washed over with paste water, to which has been added a small quantity of pearl-ash liquid; this should be done with a sponge, and the books allowed to dry afterwards.

Next, the books should be glaired carefully and equally over, and again allowed to dry. The books are then placed upon the marbling-rods. These rods are in pairs, and slope towards the operator. The books are placed in them so that the boards rest extended on the rods, and the leaves hang between them; the tail of the book is thus lower than the head. In some cases the back is required to be left plain, and not marbled. When this is the case, a piece of wood grooved to the shape of the back, or even a piece of thin millboard or pasteboard, curved by the fingers, is placed over it. To avoid the scum arising from the beating of the brushes over the colours, it is better to rub the ends of the bristles upon the palms of the hands, on which a little oil has been spread. All these details being settled, let us begin with the simplest marble.

Common Marbles.

The book being placed on the rods, throw on the water prepared for marbling in large drops, with a coarse brush, or a bunch of quills, till the drops unite; then, with a brush charged with the black liquid, and beaten on the press-pin as directed for sprinkling the edges, a number of fine streaks are produced by throwing the colour equally over the cover. Afterwards, the brown liquid must be similarly thrown over. When the veins are well struck into the leather, the water must be sponged off, and the book placed to dry.

Another plan is to throw on the vinegar-black, then the brown, and lastly a fine sprinkle of vitriol water. If the volume has been previously coloured with any of the preparations before described, and it is wished to produce a marble thereon, the brown must be thrown on first, and then the black, as, without this precaution the marble would not strike, because of the acid which forms part of the colours. This observation is also applicable to all the other designs.

Purple Marble.

Colour the cover two or three times with hot purple liquid, and, when dry, glaire. Then throw on water, and sprinkle with sti’ong vitriol water, which will form red veins.

Stone Marble,

After throwing on the water, sprinkle boldly with the black liquid, then, with a sponge charged with strong brown, drop the colour on the back in three or four places, so that it may run down each side in a broad stream, and afterwards operate with vitriol water on the parts the brown has not touched.

Green Agate.

Sprinkle black, in nine times its quantity of water, in large drops over the whole surface .of the cover, and, when the drops unite, apply on the back, at regular distances, the green liquid, so that it may flow on the boards and unite with the black.

Blue Agate.

Proceed as above, only substituting blue in place of the green, weakened with water according to the shade required.

Porphyry Vein.

Throw on large drops of black diluted in double the quantity of water. When the colour has struck well into the leather, sprinkle in the same manner brown mixed equally with water; then apply a sprinkle of scarlet, and afterwards large spots of yellow, the liquid nearly boiling. Whilst these colours are uniting, throw on weak blue, and then nitro-muriatic acid, which, flowing together down the sides, will form the vein distinctly.

Tree Marbles.

These had their origin in Germany, whence they passed into this country; they are great favourites, and, when well executed, are very elegant. They are formed by bending each board down the middle, so that the water and colours flow from the back and fore edge to the centre of the board in the form of branches of trees. The name is also given to such as are made to imitate the grain of wood, but those are rare.


Formed by sprinkling black and brown only, as for the common marble.


After sprinkling as for walnut, and before perfectly dry, apply lightly a sponge presenting large holes, dipped in orange, upon various places on the cover, so as to form a description of clouds; afterwards apply the fine red, with a similar sponge, evenly upon the same places, and, when dry, give the whole two or three coats of yellow, taking care that each penetrates evenly into the leather.


The proceedings are nearly the same as for the walnut, the difference being merely in sprinkling the black more boldly, and, when perfectly dry, giving two or three uniform coats of red.


In order to imitate the veins contained in box, the boards must be bent in five or six different places, and in diverse ways. After placing the books between the rods, throw on the water in small drops, and proceed as for the walnut; when perfectly dry, throw water again in large drops, and sprinkle on small spots of blue, equally diluted with water; and when again dry, and rubbed well, apply the scarlet with a sponge, as directed for the cedar. Finally, when dry, give two or three coats of orange.


Colour with strong brown glaire, and place between the rods, with the boards flat; throw on weak black in large spots, then brown in like manner; and, lastly, sprinkle boldly with vitriol water.


These are produced by paste-washing the book (not glairing), then putting on the rods, and sprinkling it over in fine spots with any of the colours given, precisely as the edge is sprinkled. Plain cheap school books are often thus sprinkled for common work.


THE materials of the cover vary widely, and comprise most kinds of leather, parchment, vellum, bookbinders’ cloth, velvet, needlework, wood, and imitations of different kinds, such as leatherette and feltine, Amongst the leather we have various kinds of morocco, goatskin, or imitation morocco, such as ” levant,” calf of different kinds, and imitation calfs, roan, sheep, and occasionally russia never hogskin.


If the book is to be entirely covered with leather, the skin, whether of calf or morocco, is laid down upon a large smooth board, with the ” flesh ” or rough side upwards. Then the book is grasped by the fore edge of the leaves with the left hand, the millboard hanging loose, and lowered down on the leather, so that the book rests on it and the boards lie on it flat (Fig. 109).

The leather can now be cut with a sharp-pointed knife round the book, allowing enough all round to turn in, which may be about fin. for an octavo, and less or more for smaller or larger books. Next, the exact size of the book may be marked on the leather with a soft blacklead pencil. Some binders keep paper or millboard patterns for the covers of all sizes of books, and cut out by these. The edges of the leather must now be “pared,” “skived,” or shaved down all round, so that they will cause no unsightly protuberances when the leather is pasted on. The part between the pencil marks and the edge is the portion to be pared. The operation is performed with a long sharp knife, on a marble slab, a bit of lithographic stone, or a piece of plate glass. The French paring knives, sold by Messrs. Eadie, of Great Queen-street, Lincoln’s Inn (whose name we have previously mentioned), are by far the best in the market. The leather is laid on the slab with the grain side downwards, and drawn tight by the fingers and thumb of the left hand, while the blade of the knife is laid almost flat upon the edge of the leather, and gradually pushed forward by the right hand. More or less leather will be removed according to the angle at which the knife is held, and if it be held too upright it will go through the leather before the edge is reached, and make bad work. In setting the knife upon the oilstone, the ” burr ” should be left on the side which is to go towards the leather in paring; for, if the burr be on the other side, the knife will slip off the leather or not cut. What is especially necessary, when some skill is attained, is to take off a level shaving of the right thickness, and not to leave a series of ridges on the leather by uneven cutting. To overcome some of the difficulty which morocco and roan present in paring, it is the usual practice to damp the edges of the cover for a little way in, with a sponge and water.

The same plan is occasionally practised with rough calf, that is to say, calf which is dressed inside out, so that, when the book is covered, the ” flesh ” side is placed outwards. This is usually a ” stationery” binding on account books, but occasionally law books or books of reference are bound in “rough” calf. Great care must be taken in paring the back, both at the head and tail, or when turned in the effect will be bad. It requires great practice to pare leather properly. If the cover be of morocco, it should now be well wetted with a sponge and grained up either with the hand or a piece of cork. The leather is then folded together, and rubbed in all directions with the cork until the ” grain” is sufficiently developed, when the cover is pasted over on the flesh side with thin paste and hung up to dry. For ” straight grain,” the leather should only be rubbed one way. Where it is desired to have the morocco quite smooth, to imitate some antique book, the leather should be soaked with water, and the grain quite rolled out with a rolling-pin, used with good pressure; or, if the cover be small, it maybe beaten out by the careful use of the backing-hammer. Russia also should be moistened and well rolled with the rolling-pin. The cover (if of morocco) should now be well pasted with good thick paste, made as before directed, applied with a small brush (what painters call a ” giash tool” is best). The paste should be spread evenly, and no more should be left on than is required to make the cover adhere to the book. Any lumps or hairs from the brush should be carefully removed. The cover is then laid on a clean millboard o:a the bench, fore edge to the operator, and pasted surface upwards, the squares at the book’s head and tail carefully adjusted, a slight touch of paste applied with the finger to each band, and then lowered down upon the cover, as at Fig. 109, in such a position that the back of the volume which is farthest from the workman will be in the middle (see B). The far part (A) is then brought over the board which is uppermost, and fastened at the fore edge. The square portion (C) is then treated in a similar manner.

Care must be taken during this manipulation that the squares are not disarranged. The volume is now placed on its fore edge, and the leather tightly strained over the back with the hands and rubbed smooth with the folder. The leather is then alternately raised from each side board, drawn as tightly as it can be, turned in again at the fore edges, and smoothed down well on the sides and back with the hand and the folder. In manipulating morocco covers, care must be taken at every stage not to mark the covers with the folder. The bands (if any) should now be pinched slightly with a pair of band-nippers. The cover at the head and tail of the book must at this stage be turned in; to do so, take it by the fore edge, and place it upright on the bench with the boards slightly extended, and with the hands, one on each side, slightly pushing back the board close to the headband, and folding the cover over and into the back with the thumbs, drawing in so tightly that no wrinkle or fold is seen. If the back is an open one, the loose part of the fold previously made must be covered over with the leather, in the same way as the boards. The leather on both boards being turned in along the fore edge, and the edges rubbed well down and square, the parts of the cover are next brought together at the corners, pulled up almost perpendicularly with the board, pinched together, and nearly all above the angle of the corner cut off with the shears.

 The portion on the side is then turned down (Fig. 110), and the other, on the fore edge, wrapped a little over it, the corner being set by the aid of the thumb-nail, and folded as neatly as possible, and so that no raw edge of the cover is visible. The folder should also be well rubbed in the joints to make the cover adhere to those parts where the back is likely to hold the leather oft’. If any derangement of the squares has taken place, it must now be rectified. The headband must next be set; this is an important operation, upon which much of the beauty of the work depends. It is usual to tie a piece of fine twine round the book between the back and the boards before the headband is set. This cord rests in the places where the inner corners of the bands at head and tail are cut off (Fig. 111), and should be tied in a knot.

 With a small smooth folder, one end a little pointed, the double fold of the leather at head must be rubbed, to make it adhere; and if the boards have been cut at the corners, the hand must be applied thereon, and headband forced close to the leather and made even on the back with the fingers, while a neat cap is formed of the projecting part on the top of it. The folder is then applied again to the edges of the boards, to ensure their square appearance. The cap of the headband should be exactly level with the boards, and yet cover the headband neatly and completely. The grain of the morocco should be nowhere marked or obliterated. The perfection of covering in TYING UP morocco is to have all the edges of the boards sharp and square, without the grain of the leather being anywhere destroyed. In some cases, when the leather is unusually thick or untract-able, some binders ” tie up ” the bands, to ensure the adhesion of the cover to the back, in the manner following. A pair of backing-boards are placed on each side of the book at the fore edge in such manner that they project slightly over it, and are then secured by a cord with a slip-knot (see Fig. 112). Another knot of the same kind is made at the end of a longer piece of cord, and the loop is placed crossways around one of the end bands. It is then drawn in a slanting direction over the backing-board at the fore edge, and drawn tight; next passed round the other band, then over the fore edge again, and so on with the other bands.

This is roughly shown at Fig. 112, whence it will be seen that the cord, which should be kept fairly tight, presses down on each side of each band and drives the leather home there, while the backing-boards prevent the cord leaving any impression on the edge of the boards at the fore edge. Th s cord is left on all nigbt until the cover is dry. TYING UP BANDS Half-binding.The same general directions as given for whole binding are applicable to half-binding. The corners are put on first, and afterwards the backs. With calf, the corners are first rolled up in the backs, flesh side out, tied tightly round with a strip of paring, and thrown into a pail of water.

When they are sufficiently soaked, the water is squeezed out, and  they are then untied and smoothed out well with the hands on a flat board, ready for pasting. The shape of the corners is shown in Fig. 113. As mentioned in the covering of whole-bound books, great care should be given to turning in the corners neatly. The corner should be put on slightly aside, so that when the side of it is turned over, there is a slight double of the leather at the extreme point, as at A, Fig. 114. Now when the top fold, B, is turned down, it is easy to see that the corner at the extreme angle will be a double or fold of the pared leather instead of a raw edge, and, therefore, much more durable.

All calf books, whether whole or half bound, will require a small piece of morocco leather affixed to the back, to receive the lettering. The calf itself, when properly prepared, will form a surface sufficiently good to receive, and retain, a fairly perfect impression, in gold, of the ordinary ornamental finishing tools; but good impressions of the letters cannot be depended upon, especially if small. When the back of the book is provided with five bands, the lettering generally occupies the space from the first to the second, as in Fig. 115 at A.


Occasionally there is a subsidiary lettering of the volumes, author’s name, &c. This is sometimes placed on the single space just spoken of, sometimes on the space between the second and third band, as at B (Fig. 115), or more frequently between the fourth and fifth, as at C. Where the back is not provided with bands, the space should be divided off by the compasses, and the places where the bands would be, and where the fillet will be worked across, should be well and distinctly creased with the edge of a sharp folder, so as to leave a clearly perceptible channel. A single mark should be also made at the head, and a double one at the tail, as at Fig. 115. A piece of smooth morocco, which has no grain, or from which the grain has been entirely removed by wetting the leather and rolling it with a rolling-pin on a marble slab, or smooth board, or glass, or by rubbing it well with a blunt folder,  is selected. A slip of the width between the bands is now set off with the compass, and cut off with a sharp-pointed knife on the cutting-board.

Each edge of this is pared very carefully, and pieces are accurately cut off the slip of the width necessary for the various volumes. Each of these has now its other two edges carefully pared. The lettering pieces are then well pasted over with good thick paste, stuck on the proper place, and well beaten and rubbed down with the folder. Scarlet, bright green, or purple, and occasionally blue, are the colours usually chosen for lettering pieces. Where there are two, they are generally of different colours. Half-bound books have their sides covered with cloth or marbled paper, the first being the more substantial.

Either is folded and cut to the shape of Fig. 116, so as to allow enough to turn over, and to permit sufficient of the corner to show The corner space must be of the same size on both sides. The cloth sides are glued as previously described; the marbled paper sides are pasted with thin paste. Both should be carefully rubbed down, and made nicely square and sharp over the edges of the board with the folder. The cloth is usually selected to match the leather in colour and (if morocco) in grain as far as possible. Some binders think that the sides of half calf should contrast, but this is not good taste. Marbled paper should match the end-papers and edges. The new leatherette, feltine, &c., may at times be used advantageously.

Cloth Binding.

The covers are cut out, like the leather ones, a little larger than the size of the book, to allow for turning in. They are then each rolled up with the hand the contrary way to what they have been in the roll. This is to take the curvature out of them, and make them lie flat. Each one is now laid, right side down, upon the glueing-board, and is lightly but completely glued over. To make a good job of this, it is indispensable that the glue should be in good condition. In the first place, it should be thoroughly melted, and so thin that it will run easily from the brush when the latter is raised from the glue-pot. But it may be all this, and still be stripy and scummy when applied, as the grain of the cloth offers some obstacle to complete distribution. To “cut up” the glue, therefore, it is best to take the glue-brush (which should be a good sized one) out of the pot while filled with glue, dab it down on a piece of waste brown paper, and, with the handle between the open palms of both hands, give the brush a rapid rotary motion, while held upright, for a few minutes. The brush is then replaced in the pot and the same motion imparted to it. In a few minutes the glue-pot will be filled with froth. The glue is now well ” cut up,” and, if the cloth be rapidly but perfectly :glued over, there will be no streakiness, but tlie whole surface will look, as it were, frothy, as did the glue in the pot.

The book is now laid upon the glued cloth, and the manipulation of covering proceeded with, much the same as the covering of a whole-bound book in leather. The cloth must be well rubbed down, so as to thoroughly adhere both to the back and boards, and the edges of the boards must be made nicely square. The joints should also receive particular attention, but great care should be taken not to mark the cloth with the folder, nor damage the grain more than possible. If necessary, through the glue getting too cold to work, the book may be held to the fire for a few seconds, when the glue will again become fluid. The ” forwarding ” of the book is now practically finished, and it is ready for the finisher. Some binders paste down the endpapers now, while others prefer to leave that operation until the book has been finished.

Whenever the former plan is carried out, it is best to cut a slight shaving only from all round the outside loose end-paper with the knife and cutting-board, as this obviates any unsightly projection of the end-paper inside the board, caused by the stretching of the end-paper from the damping with the paste. The board of the book is laid back, and the end-paper pasted over with thin paste by the brush, and the board lowered upon it, when it will adhere. The board is then again raised, and the end-paper rubbed down with the hand and folding-stick, the latter being especially applied with great care at the joints. This is very necessary, or the paper may not properly “go home ” and adhere here, and, if it should not, an unsightly protuberance of loose paper at the joint will be the result, which is generally termed a ” pencil case,” and is a clear mark of bad bookbinding. Flexible Binding.The kind of work thus denominated concerns those books which, as before explained, are sewn upon the bands without any saw-kerfs being made in them, so that the bands or cords stand up from the back, as in old books.

This kind of work is not lined up, and the leather is attached directly upon the backs of the sections themselves; but a piece of fine linen is glued over the headband and well rubbed down, the surplus being cut off when dry. The bands are damped, and then knocked up perfectly straight and square with the end of a cutting-board or a blunt chisel. If there are any saw-kerfs in the back from former binding, pieces of untwisted cord are pasted and carefully worked in. These are all well smoothed when dry, and no means should be neglected to make the back perfectly level, as any inequalities will show through the leather when the book is covered. In the style called ” flexible, not to show,” a piece of stiff muslin, called ” mull,” is glued on the back first, and th^n one piece of paper. For the hollow, three, four, or even five pieces are glued one on the other to gain firmness, whilst the book itself will appear as if it had a flexible back.