Bookbinding for Amateurs

p style=”text-align: center;”>PLAIN FINISHING.

THE materials required in finishing are paste, size, glaire, and oil. The first is the ordinary thick paste of the bookbinder, which should be made as advised on page 61. The size is made with parchment or vellum cuttings, such as are rounded off from account-book covers. When size is required, a quantity of these parchment clippings are cut up very small, put into a pipkin of glazed earthenware, covered with clean water, and set on the fire to boil. The pipkin should have a tin lid to keep out soot. After being boiled, and then allowed to cool, the size should be a jelly of such consistence that, if the pipkin be inverted, the size will not run out. The size is reheated every time it is used. The glaire is made of the whites of eggs well beaten up, as follows: Break a number of eggs, according to the quantity of glaire you require, and get the whites into one vessel, without a particle of yolk. Then put in the “devil” [24](see Fig. 18), and, taking the handle between the palms of both hands, cause it to revolve rapidly. This will quickly beat the glaire up into foam; which will fill the cup, mug, or other vessel containing it. If put by for a while, the white will subside from the froth, and should be poured out into another vessel.

This is glaire, and differs from the ordinary white of egg, in thisthat whereas the latter is stringy and ropey, so that it would not lie evenly on any surface, the glaire is as limpid as water, and can be evenly spread on anything; hence “beating up” the glaire well with the devil is indispensable to the finisher’s success. Some kind of oleaginous substance is required to be applied to the leather after glairing, and immediately before the contact of the gold. We, and most bookbinders, prefer olive oil, but many use lard, and some say that nothing equals a palm-oil candle. The first step in the finishing process is to paste-wash the books. We may mention that, in an ordinary shop, a certain number of books, known as a ” batch,” are generally forwarded together, and also finished together. There are certain advantages in dealing with a batch of, say, twenty books, which would be wanting if they were either forwarded or finished by couples.

For the paste-washing, then, the back of the book is smeared over with the thick paste. If it be a calf book, the paste is then well rubbed up and down the back with the edge of a blunt folder. A sponge, dipped in clean water, is next taken, and the paste removed from the back; and the sides, corners, or other portions of the leather are washed over with the combined paste and water remaining on the sponge. The latter is then well squeezed out in the “water, and the book washed over with clear water alone. This paste-washing is intended to fill up holes, pores, and interstices in the leather, so as to form a good level foundation for the size and glaire. The paste-washed books are now left to dry, and are next washed over with hot size, applied with a piece of sponge. When the size is dry, they are glaired; the glaire is also applied with a piece of clean sponge. The number of times the glaire is applied depends upon the kind of leather. For sheep and roan, one good glairing over will be sufficient; for morocco, the same. On morocco, however, the sponge is not generally used, but the glaire is applied only at such places as are to be gilded, with a camel-hair pencil. Calf is glaired three timesfirst, over the back, sides, and corners; second and third, over the back only.

Each coat must be allowed to dry before the next is applied. When the last application is just dried, but not hard, the finishing may begin. We will take a plain half-calf book as first specimen, filleted and lettered. We first put a single or two-line fillet on the gas stove (see [25]Figs. 11 and [26]12, page 19). The single fillet is a brass wheel, which has a periphery or edge like A [27](Fig. 117); the two-line has an edge like B in the same figure.

The book is taken and lightly greased with a little oil or lard, applied with a piece of cotton wool or flannel; it is then screwed up in the finishing-press, and the press turned on the board, so that the head is to the operator’s right hand. Meanwhile, a leaf of gold is taken out of the book, with the gold-knife, and laid on the cushion. If not quite level, a slight breathing, exactly upon its centre, will bring it flat. Now cut from one side sufficient strips, just a little broader than the fillet is wide. This is done by putting the gold-knife gently on the leaf, and pushing the knife backwards and forwards, as if sawing, when the gold leaf is easily cut. The fillet is now taken from the stove, and tested to see whether it is sufficiently hot. This is done by spitting upon it, and judging by the hissing. If the saliva adheres to it, and slowly evaporates, it is not hot enough. If, on the other hand, it forms a globular drop, and slides swiftly off, the tool is a trifle too hot. The right heat is just between the two extremes.

When the required temperature is arrived at, pass the edge of the tool a few times over the flesh side of a piece of leather, or the gold-cushion, to make it clean and bright; then carefully draw it across the palm of your left hand, to impart a very slight greasiness to the edge. If it be now carefully rolled on the strips of gold leaf on the cushion, they will adhere to it. When its edges are thus supplied, roll the fillet carefully, and with an equal pressure, over the back of the book, at the places where you have previously marked it with the folder. The fillet must be hot enough, or the gold will not adhere to the leather, but not too hot, or the leather will be burned, and the fillet will cut it. When the book is filleted, the next thing is to letter it. There are two different ways of doing thiseither with separate letters, or with the; whole title set up in a row of type. The first is the old-fashioned way, is quicker, and still popular with many of our best binders; the second is simpler, and easier for the amateur. With the first, you have an alphabet of separate letters, each cut on the end of a small piece of brass, and fixed in a round wooden handle. The brass letters are kept in a round pasteboard box, face upwards. Supposing your book is Pope’s ” Homer,” you pick out ” P, 0, E, S, H, M, R,” and an apostrophe and full point, and range them on the gas stove the ends that bear the letters over the hot centre of the stove, and their round handles resting on the semi-circular niches in the iron ring that surrounds the stove (see [28]Fig. 12, page 19). It is well to have a small piece of sponge, fixed to a block of wood, and wetted. By placing each letter in contact with the wet sponge before using, you can tell from the hissing whether it is of the right heat. This is more cleanly than the saliva test. You now cut out a square piece of gold, of the size of the lettering piece, and bring it to an unoccupied part of the cushion. The book is then lowered upon it, and moved a little from side to side, when the gold leaf will adhere to the lettering piece. The book is next to be screwed up in the finishing-press again, with the head, which must be furthest from the operator, elevated a little more than the tail. It requires great dexterity to letter with the separate letters, and different binders adopt slightly different plans.

Perhaps the following is best for beginners: Take up the P first, and, having rubbed it on the leather, or gold-cushion, to brighten it, hold the handle with the right hand, and, steadying the end of the letter with the thumb of the left, carefully print it where you wish the centre of your first line to be. Replace the P on the stove, and, taking up the 0, stamp that on to the left of the I’; take the latter letter again, and stamp it on to the left of the 0. Replace the P on the stove, and, raising the E, imprint it to the right of the P first made; let the apostrophe (‘) follow, to the right of the E; then the S, to the right of the apostrophe, which will finish the first line, ” POPE’S.” Now take the M, and stamp this in the centre of the lettering piece, a short distance below the first line; follow this by the 0 and the H on the left side, and the E and the II on the right. Of course, great care must be taken to ” work” the letters in a perfectly straight line. Some binders affect various little ” dodges” to help them, as, for instance, marking lines across the gold leaf, with the point of a dull knife or a blunt bodkin; others take a short piece of sewing-silk, with a tiny flat lead weight at each end, and lay the silk across at the place as a guide; but care and practice are all that are needed. When the types are used, you have a ” fount” of the size required (for you need more letters by this plan, as you cannot use the same letter again and again). These are generally kept in a box, with compartments for each letter. Then a type-holder, as shown at [29]Fig. 14 (page 22), is necessary. The line or lines required are then picked up, ranged in order in the type-holder, and screwed up tightly. The whole apparatus is then heated, and the lines worked across the back of the book in one motion. When the lettering and filleting of the book are completed, the gold leaf is wiped off with the gold-rag. This is generally a piece of open canvas which has been well greased, and consequently the fragments of gold leaf attach themselves to it-(This rag, in process of time, becomes of value, in consequence of the accumulated gold contained in it, and may be sold to the gold refiners.) The gilding is then cleaned up more carefully with a piece of flannel, and on morocco very frequently with a piece of indiarubber, smartly but cautiously applied. Blind Tooling.Most books are further ornamented by having the heated tools stamped on some part of them without any gold; this, of course, only leaves the pattern indented in the leather, and is technically termed ” blind tooling.” Generally, a tool is worked ” blind ” on each side of the gilded fillets. If it be wished that the blind tooling be left ” dull”that is to say, free of glairethe latter can be removed with the point of the finger, wrapped over with a piece of fine cotton and wetted.

The pallets used in blind tooling are of the shape shown at Fig. 118, with various patterns on the edge. Some of them are very simple and some very elaborate. At Fig. 119 we give several patterns of pallets.

The finishing-press (with the volume screwed up) is turned again, so that the head of the book is to the right hand of the operator, and the pallet heated and worked across on each side of the fillets, so that the completed back presents the appearance of Fig. 120; A being the gold lines, the blind ones being on each side of them.

The book, if a half-bound one, is then taken out and laid on its side on a clean millboard placed on the work-bench, and the two-line fillet (blind) is run along the edges of the sides, both at back and corners, as in Fig. 121.

The finishing of the half-bound book is now completed, if it is only to be plainly bound. The back is polished with the polisher to render it more glossy and level. There are two forms of this tool, as shown at Fig. 122. A is the more usual form, and the only one suited to the sides of whole-bound books; but B is more useful to apply to the sides of the boards.

In either case, the implement is heated on the stove, rubbed clean and bright on a piece of leather, and, the book being held in the left hand, with the head or tail against the workman’s abdomen, the polisher, held in the right, is passed swiftly, with a slight, equable pressure, a few times up and down the back of the book. Very frequently half-calf books are “varnished” over the leather. This is partly in order to give a better gloss than the burnishing will produce, and partly as a preservative for the leather. Bookbinders’ varnish can be procured of any of the dealers in bookbinders’ materials whom we have enumerated. The French is the best. It is well to give a good price for varnish in preference to using inferior qualities; thereby certainty of a good result is obtained, and the best will go farther, and so be found the cheapest. It can be applied with a bit of sponge. We certainly should not advise the amateur to attempt to make his own varnish, but, in order to render our book complete, we append an approved recipe, that of the celebrated Tingry ; it is perhaps the best known for its brilliancy and drying qualities. Put into a vessel 6oz. of mastic (in drops), 3oz. of sandarach (finely powdered), 4oz. of coarsely broken glass (separated from the dust by a sieve), and 32oz. of spirits of wine, of about 40deg.; place the vessel upon straw in another filled with cold water, put it on the fire, and let it boil, stirring the substances together with a stick to keep the resin from uniting. When the whole appears well mixed, put in 3oz. of turpentine, and boil for another half hour, when the whole must be taken off, and stirred till the varnish, and’the water in which it is placed, cools. Next day, filter it through fine cotton, by which means it will acquire the greatest degree of limpidity, and well cork it up in a bottle. Another recipe is given by M. F. Maiset, of Chatillon-sur-Seine, and may be prepared similarly to the preceding. The ingredients are three pints of spirits of wine, of 36deg. to 40deg.; 8oz. of sandarach, 2oz. of mastic in drops, 8oz. of shellac, and 2oz. of Vienna turpentine.

There is also a varnish called Caoutchouc Polish, which is very good. The varnish is first put on the back of the book, with a camel-hair brush, as lightly and in as small quantity as possible. When nearly dry, it is polished with a ball, formed of fine white cotton filled with wool, on which has been rubbed a small quantity of olive oil, to make it glide freely. The back must be rubbed at first lightly, and as fast as the varnish dries, and becomes warm, more sharply. The sides are then varnished, one after the other. Before entering further into detail on the various styles of finishing, we may here cite the advice of the celebrated Dr. T. F. Dibdin, a great authority upon the subject: “First, let your books be well and evenly lettered, and let a tolerable portion of ornament be seen on the backs of them. 1 love what is called an overcharged back. At first, the appearance may be flaunting and garish ; but time, which mellows down book ornaments, as well as human countenances, will quickly obviate this inconvenience, and about a twelvemonth, or six months added to the said twelvemonth, will work miracles upon the appearance of your book. Do not be meagre of your ornaments on the back, and never suffer blind tooling wholly to pervade a folio or quarto, for by so doing you convert what should look like a book into a piece of mahogany furniture. ” In large libraries, there should not be too much blind tooling, or too great a want of gilt.

No doubt the ornament should be as appropriate as possible to the book. No one could endure gingerbread-gilt Bibles and Prayer Books, or chronicles, or dictionaries, or other books of reference. Let these have a subdued decoration on their backs; bands only full gilt, or a running edge-tool in the centre of them, with small ornaments between the bands. ” I would recommend the lettering of a volume to be as full as possible, yet sententiousness must sometimes be adopted. The lines should be straight, and the letters of one and the same form, within the line; yet the name of the author may be executed a size larger than that of the date or place of its execution, and the lettering may be between the top and bottom, [query ” second”] bands, or it may occupy the space between three bands, or even more. Re-letter old books perpendicularly, as was the custom. In fresh bindings, however, prefer horizontal to perpendicular lettering.”



IN our last chapter, we dealt with backs that were simply filleted in gold and blind tooling. Let us now advance a step in decoration, and advert to what is generally called “half gilt.” Here the back is provided with the raised bands, and these are tooled in gold, generally by working a broad pallet or roll, with a pattern on it, across them.

A tool may or may not be worked in the centre of each space between the bands. If it is used, it IB worked in gold. The patterns for pallets and roll edges are almost infinite in number. Pallets cost from about 4s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. each, according to size and elaborateness of pattern; rolls, from 10s. to 40s., according to pattern and diameter of roll. We have given some, and adduce a few more at Figs. 123 and 124.

The patterns given at Fig. 124 are more novel in character, and generally imitative of floral or plant forms. These are very light and elegant, and may be had in great variety. They were, we believe, originally introduced by the Messrs. Sharwood. tool- cutters (now out of business).

The amateur should look through a tool-cutter’s specimen book, and select those that meet his taste. In forming a judgment, it is well to remember that the impression in gold will look heavier than that in printing ink, in the specimen book. Amongst bookbinder’s tool cutters we irmy mention the following: Knight and Cottrell, 9 and 10, St. Bride’s-avenue, Fleet-street; Hughes and Kimber, West Harding-street, E.G.; Thomas Francis, 10, Old Bailey, E.G.; and Frederic Knights, 10, Bolt-court, Fleet-street. Others may be found in the London Post Office Directory.

With regard to the separate ” tools,” such as would be worked in the centre of the inter-band spaces, Fig. 125 shows several varieties. Fig. 126 shows a half-gilt back. Although very effective, this class of work may be done quite quickly, because there is little or no working of separate tools.

There is a kind of pallet made especially for working across bands, which may be had of any length, and in varied patterns. Several of these are shown at Fig. 127. A ” full-gilt” back has, as its title imports, the whole of the back covered with gilt tooling.

There are several ways of doing this. The book maty have raised bands, and these may be finished by the pallet or the roll in the manner just spoken of. The portion of the back between the bands may then be finished with centre and corner tools, or the back may be without bands, and finished as at Fig. 128.

Here the pallet shown at Fig. 129 is made to do the whole of the work by being used in the different positions, so as to cover the back with squares, as at Fig. 128. If carefully selected pallets are used, this style looks very nice.

A gouge (of which the binder should possess an assortment, of different sizes) is worked on each side of the lettering-piece. Fig. 130 shows another style of back.

This is done with six tools, worked as shown, and a single-line pallet and gouge worked around the lettering. Fig. 131 shows another back done with four tools; and Fig. 132 another, in the execution of which only three tools and some line pallets and gouges are required.

Fig. 128 is known technically as “mitred” back. There is a style now very popular for post octavos and other small books. The lettering-piece is placed near the head of the book, and a pallet worked over the whole of the back below it. A similar effect can be produced by working a repetition of any small tool, but of course this takes longer.

We may here quote, as a pendant to that of Dr. Dibdin in our last chapter, the very sensible advice given in the ” Bibliopegia” of James HannEtt, who viewed the matter from the standpoint of a practical bookbinder: “It is a subject of the utmost importance, in the selection of the tools for gilding, that the party have a good knowledge of the style of binding peculiar to the day, and a quick perception of the beanty of this kind of ornament, the general bearing of the designs towards each other, and their geometrical fitness for application when combined, so as to produce a series of patterns from the same tools. Without this, as may be seen in many offices where judgment has not presided in the selection, a large and expensive collection of tools may be provided, which cannot be blended together without offence to the eye of taste from the defect presented in the complete designs, which even one misfit tool will cause.” So important a point in finishing is the combination of tools, tliat the novice should spare no pains to make a good working selection, as no man can finish satisfactorily without a judicious selection of good tools, such as will combine to form an extensive series of scroll ornaments, flowers, &c.

As all combinations are composed of a variety of ornamental tools and plaiu lines, it becomes of necessity not only a matter of taste but of expense with the binder in the selection of the former; but of the latter, it will be economical to possess himself of such as he will find constantly required, or being newly introduced into almost every design he may wish to execute.

The cost of a set of gouges, half-circles and plain lines, will be trifling, and their frequent application renders them necessary. He will also find that a similar set of circles and three-quarter circles, though not so constantly required, are not less requisite where work of a superior character ia executed.” Fig 133 shows a set of plain line pallets of a certain size,

and Fig. 134 a similar set of thick-and-thin line. Fig. 135 represents a set of gouges, and Fig. 136 a set of half-circles.

Circles are exemplified at Fig. 137, and three-quarter circles at Fig. 138. Each shape can be had as a single line (broad or narrow), a double line, a dotted line, a thick-and-thin line, or a thick-and-double-thin line. In finishing morocco books,

the back is not usually glaired all over, as is calf. Let us take a morocco back, and suppose that the finishing is to consist of a pallet on each side of the bands, and a tool in the middle between each. First ascertain the centre of the back.

 This can be done by measuring at the head and tail with a pair of compasses or spring dividers. By holding a runner to these two marks, the centre of the space between the bands can be uiaiked off with the points of a folder. Now heat the pallet and the tool slightly on the gas stove, and work them in their places with a slight impression only.

Next wash the back with some vinegar, and pass over it, with the grain of the leather, a small, hard, clean, short-haired brush. When dry, glaire the impressions made by the pallet and tool, applying the glaire with a small camel’s hair pencil. When the glaire is dry, apply a second coat in the same manner. When the second application is dry, rub the places over with the oiled cotton wool previously mentioned. Next take a leaf of gold from the gold-book, put it on the gold-cushion, and cut it with the gold-knife into pieces a shade larger than the glaired spaces. Lift them by a piece of cotton wool which has been drawn over the operator’s head to render it slightly greasy. Place each piece of gold leaf in its place and press it down in the pattern. If there are any holes or breaks, breathe slightly on the gold leaf and put another piece on the top of it. When all the places are covered, begin to work the tools. These require to be heated to such a temperature that if you let fall a drop of water upon them it does not hiss or roll off, but dries up at once. Work all the tools exactly in the blind impressions.