Covering, Protecting the sections while covering (capping):

When ready to put in leather it is judicious to enclose the sections in a cover to protect them from accidental soiling by paste, etc. This is easily done by taking a piece of white or thin manila paper (flexible) about twice the length and breadth of the volume when closed. With the book lying closed on the bench, slip the long edge of the paper between the lower cover and the sections (the end-paper may also be left outside) close up to the joint. The paper at head and tail should project enough to meet or overlap a bit (when folded) at center of book. It should extend beyond fore edge enough to cover the same and reach the joint when folded.

The paper being in position, lay back the upper cover, fold paper over fore edge of sections and cut so that it will not quite reach the joint. Hold it tense and run the finger along the upper edge of the sections, to crease it. Let it go and make a similar crease on ends at head and tail. These creases act as guides in cutting. By consulting the diagram herewith no one should have difficulty in making a neat cap. The part folding over the fore edge is cut somewhat longer than the sections. This extra length is folded down on head and tail (for extra protection) before the ends are folded down and pasted. This “cap” should be snugly fitted before being pasted, so it will not slip off easily. It is usually best to leave the outside leaf of end-papers outside the cap. The correct title of book with date, etc., should be written on the waste end-paper before putting on cap.

Putting in leather:

Select a firm piece of leather and cut it the proper size. When a book is put in full leather it is usual to leave enough margin so that when it is turned over inside the cover, there will be a margin of about one inch on the inside. The most accurate way to measure is to cut a strip of stiff manila paper about one-half inch wide and fold it around the book (between the bands), creasing it over the front edges of the boards. By means of a pair of compasses, one inch is to be added at each end and the paper cut at these points. This will give a very precise and unyielding measure for the length of the leather.

Another strip of paper is then laid on one cover from head to tail and creased at the upper and lower edge. With the compasses an inch is again added at each end and the paper again cut. This will give the width of the leather. By adopting this method a very precise and unchanging measure is arrived at and mistakes are avoided. After the leather is cut to correspond to these measurements, a line is drawn from top to bottom at the exact center where the back of the book is to come. This line being taken as a base line, two other parallel lines are drawn equidistant from the center line -the distance of these lines from the center line varies, of course, with the thickness of the book, but they should indicate just where the edges of the back will come. (It is best to measure the width of the back in the same manner with a strip of paper.) Other lines are drawn parallel to these, indicating where the front edges of the covers will come. Similar measures are taken at the top and bottom, and we then have a gridiron, indicating exactly the width of the back, and the-width and height of the sides of the book. As the leather covering the back will stretch somewhat when being applied, some allowance must be made so the line at the fore edges will come exactly to the edges of the boards and not fall beyond them.

Paring leather:

The lines of the back and sides having been accurately outlined in pencil, lay the leather on a paring stone (any hard, polished surface, stone or metal) and with the ordinary paring-knife, held at an angle of about 45 degrees, make a shallow cut along one of the lines, but be sure not to cut through. Do not try to pare off the whole width, but cut or dig out a shallow trench, so to speak, along the pencil line, to about the depth the paring is to go. Then holding the leather in place with the left hand, the knife held almost flat on the leather (the point in the groove already cut out), shave off part of the thickness to be pared. After the leather has been pared on one edge of the cover, by running the finger over it one is able to tell by the “feel” whether it is about the same thickness all along. The French knife may be used toward the finish to remove any inequalities, holding it quite flat on the leather. In the cut is shown how a cover is laid outalso a section of the leather after it is pared.

After the back and edges have been pared to the shape and relative thickness shown, then those portions shown in black should also be pared off. This is easily done by running the sharp-pointed paring knife along each groove. These strips are removed so as to make the thickness of the leather decrease gradually and not so abruptly as would otherwise be the case.


The leather being ready for putting on, it is thoroughly moistened with water (on the right side) so that it will be flexible. After this has been done, it is pasted on the inside with thick paste well rubbed in. It should then be folded and left for a short time. The book itself is then taken, and raising each cover at an angle of 45 degrees, a little paste is slipped under each cord (with the point of a folder), the cover then being closed and the paste rubbed in the cord thoroughly with the folder. This is done so that the cord will stick closely to the board as well as to the leather. The book is then rested on the table on its fore edge and the back thoroughly smeared with a finger of paste, especially around the bands. Surplus paste should be carefully removed. The boards are then adjusted so that the squares on each side at the head and tail are the same. The cords in the grooves are then rubbed down again with a folder.

The pared cover is now spread on the bench, the back placed on the leather exactly in the space intended for it, noting that the center line on the cover is exactly in the center of back, and the latter at equal distances from the head and tail of covers Holding the book steadily with the right hand the leather is raised with the left hand and pressed firmly against the side of the book (care should be taken that the book does not slip during this operation). The same is done with the other side of the cover. The book is now placed carefully on its fore edge, the two hands being placed firmly on each side, the leather drawn down firmly and evenly, so that it is brought in close contact with the hack of the book. [covering.jpg] It is necessary during this operation to make allowance for enough leather to cover the bands without stretching it too much. This is done as follows: With one hand on each side of the book (still standing on its fore edge with tail towards the worker), the leather is drawn in by the fingers, from the head, so that it wrinkles somewhat over the back. The book is now reversed and the leather drawn in from the tail.

After this is done it may again be drawn down on the sides, the book still on its fore edge. After the leather has been evenly distributed on the back, the book may be laid on its side, a piece of tough paper, or a smooth piece of skiver, laid on it and with a straight-edge folder the leather is smoothed evenly on each side. By inspecting the edges from time to time the worker notes whether the lines on the leather exactly match the edges of the boards; if not, now is the time to adjust them. Never rub damp leather except through a protective, such as paper. At this point it is necessary to pinch the leather close around each band with the band nippers. Care must be taken that the bands are perfectly straight across the back. After having pinched the bands tightly, a flat piece of wood, narrow enough to go between the bands, is used for the purpose of pressing down the leather between the hands. This operation and that of pinching the leather around the bands must be repeated from time to time, because it takes considerable manipulation to make the leather fit smoothly and adhere to bands and back.

These manipulations consume considerable time, and it is necessary to moisten the leather, both on the back and around the edges, from time to time (by means of a sponge dipped in water) in order to keep it as flexible as possible.

After having smoothed down the leather on the back and sides a number of times and having pinched the bands until they retain their shape, we come to one of the most troublesome operations in covering, that is, the turn-in at the head and tail of the book. It is well to be very deliberate in covering so far as we have gone, in order to give time for the paste to “set” to a certain extent so that the leather will not separate from the back during the next step. Taking the book by the fore edge, the leather which is to be turned in and form the cover of the head-band is to be moistened with some fresh paste, and a small amount of paste is also to be rubbed on the inside of the boards just to the right and left of the head-band. The book is again taken by the fore edge, both covers open slightly, and the book itself stood on its tail on a small stone or block about an inch in height and not over-wide (the sections only resting on it, but not the boards), with the upper part of the fore edge resting against the operators chest to steady it. One cover is to be taken in each hand, opened at right angles to the book, the thumbs on the inside of cover next the head-band and the rest of the fingers at the middle of the back. The upper part of each cover is then pressed back by the thumb until it is slightly beyond the level of the back of the book (the two covers forming a straight line at right angles to the book); the leather which is projecting beyond the edge of the boards is turned down on the inside of the boards and behind the back of the sections, thus making a double thickness of leather behind the head-band. (A very thin narrow folder may be used to smooth out any wrinkles where the leather is folded on itself.) Great care is necessary in this operation in order not to have the leather come loose all the way down the back, thus allowing the boards to change their position in relation to the sections. Great care must also be taken to have the leather which is turned in on the back lie smoothly and not in wrinkles. After this has been successfully accomplished and the leather is turned in at the back of the head-band, it should project beyond it about one-eighth of an inch or somewhat less.

The book is now closed, laid on its side with the fore edge toward the operator. With one hand between the sections and the lower cover, the book being opened at an angle of 45 degrees, the leather on the upper edge of the board is firmly turned in, drawn on the inside of the board as tightly as possible and smoothed down. It is very necessary at this particular juncture to see that the leather is turned down as tightly as possible at the hinge, and if necessary pushed against the inner side of the board (in the joint) with the pointed bone folder. The folder is also to be run firmly along edge of the. cover, pressing the leather against it as tightly as possible, in order to make a good square edge. The same operation is to be gone through with the other cover. If it is now found by inspection of the back that the turned-in leather, instead of lying smoothly, is wrinkled, this can be helped by standing the book up, partly opening the covers and slipping a very thin, narrow, bone folder between the back and the leather and by a little gentle manipulation smooth out the wrinkles.

This same operation must be gone through with at the tail of the book. Great care must be taken to push enough leather down into the joint, both at head and tail, to allow the book to open easily. Now turn in each fore edge by itself, the book lying on its side and one hand being placed between the sections and the cover on which work is being done. The fore edge in particular should be smoothed very firmly with the folder, in order that the edges of the board when finished will be sharp and not rounded. No covering for the leather is used when it is being pressed against the edges with the folder.

Turning in the corners:

is a very nice operation, and various methods have been devised; in my opinion the best being to cut the corner off on a slant, as indicated in the cut, by means of the pattern shown. This leaves approximately enough leather to make a good corner; the overlapping portion comes from the fore edge. A few experiments in fitting corners will show the student how much to allow for this and how the edge should be cut and pared to make it fit firmly and evenly. The corner, when finished, should not be thicker than the rest of the cover. Another method (advised by Cockerell) is as follows: The leather at the corner (not pared) being very damp, is pulled well over from both edges and drawn well over at the extreme corner; the surplus leather makes a fold, when pressed together over the line where the miter finally comes. Pressing it well together, say with two folders, the surplus is cut off with a pair of shears; the outer end of the cut should be at least one-eighth inch from the corner of the board. One edge should be pasted down and the other one over it, making a double thickness of leather. It may be necessary to pare the leather a bit at the point nearest the corner, but a little manipulation with the end of a pointed folder is usually all that is needed to make it lie properly for the time being. After it has dried thoroughly the corner may be mitered (say next day) by using a straight-edge and a very sharp-pointed knife held on a slant. Care must be taken that the cut begins say not less than one-eighth to three-sixteenths of an inch from the corner, in order that there be no chance of the latter becoming exposed should the two edges of the miter ever part company. After making the cut, dampen the leather, raise the edges and adjust them so there will be no signs of a joint. While some hinders make exclusive use of this method, I think the majority prefer the method described first as being stronger and less liable to become damaged later in the life of the binding.

The leather has been properly turned in, it will be necessary to dampen it at the head and tail, in order to shape the leather over the head-bands. It will be remembered that the inner corners of the boards were trimmed off; that is, a little wedge-shaped piece at each inside corner at the hinge had been removed. This is done in order to give room for the extra thickness which is caused at this place by the turning in of the leather. Placing the book on its side, with the leather well dampened, a folder is pressed into this V-shaped space, rather deep, making a well-marked crease. After this has been done on each side of the head, the book should be held upright, with the fore edge pressed against the chest and with a flat folder, the leather which is still projecting above the level of the headband is pressed over the top edge and should then lie flat with the upper edge of the boards. There should be enough of this leather to cover the upper edge of the head-band and the turned-over portion should be the same width all around. After this has been done, the point of the folder should be inserted at the end of the head-band and the leather pushed out so that the upper edge of the leather covering the head-band will he pushed out level with the board, the finger or another folder being held against the crease already made, to prevent it being pushed out. This process needs to be repeated several times, in order to get the leather properly shaped and to make it lie smoothly. It should be kept quite damp up to this time. The same operation is repeated at the tail of the book, so that the two ends are duplicates. After this has been done, the book may be stood up on its tail on a flat stone, and with a square wooden rod, which lies flat on the stone, pressure should be made against the tail, just over the headband. By holding the book firmly on the stone and pushing it slightly away from the operator and at the same time bringing pressure to bear against the leather with the wooden rod it will be found that the leather is made absolutely smooth and regular all around. Treat the head in the same manner.

Tying up:

After the head-band has been properly formed and the creases on the side of the book made permanent, it must be left to dry; but before doing this it is necessary to “tie up” the book, in order that these creases retain their shape. Open each cover slightly, slip a piece of thin, stiff water-proof paper (such as is used in copying letters), slightly larger than the cover, between each cover and the book, care being taken that it goes well up to the joint, but not enough to interfere with the final “tying up”. The only object in using the sheets of water-proof paper is to protect the leaves from contact with the damp, turned-in leather and the consequent “crinkling.” Laying the book on its side, with the back projecting over the edge of the bench, a piece of very fine linen thread is selected (long enough to pass around the book at least twice). Holding one end in one of these creases, the thread is run around the book snugly, so that it lies firmly in each one of the four creases made (at the joint). The first turn around will hold the loose end, and after taking one more turn at least, the other end is pushed under the threads and slipped down into one of the creases until it is firmly held also. The book may then be placed between two pressing boards, under slight pressure, or it may he stood up on its tail for this purpose; if placed between boards the result will be better, inasmuch as the covers will remain quite straight.

After an hour or two has elapsed, the thread is removed, one board opened at a time, to note whether the hinge is well set and works well. This should be carefully done and note taken whether, when opened almost flat, the inner edge of the board lies close to the edge of the joint, or whether it is raised up by the leather; if this is the case the inner edge of board should be thoroughly rubbed down with a heavy folder. (During the various processes of covering one should from time to time rub down the leather along the joints outside, as it is most important that it should stick tightly along the joint.) The rising up of the board may be due also to the leather not having been pared out enough; in other words, there is too much leather in the joint. This cannot now be remedied, except it may be well moistened on the outside and well-rubbed down as above. The joint may remain clumsier and stiffer than it should be. After each joint has been attended to in this manner the book should he run over again, smoothing the leather on the sides and back, pinching the bands, going over the folds of the head and tail. Now take the book carefully, the fore edge up, press the back (bands) on a flat stone and by moving the fore edge backward and forward roll the bands on the stone. This not only flattens out the damp leather on the bands and renders them more nearly square, but makes them (or should make them) all of the same depth. It should now be again carefully tied up. The forwarding now being completed, the book should be placed between pressing boards under slight pressure and left at least twenty-four hours to dry. Before putting the hook away to dry, it should be sponged off carefully to remove any paste which may be left.