Preparing for Finishing:
After the book has been brought thus far-that is, after the leather cover has been put on-the forwarding is complete and the book is ready to be “Finished.” This term includes many processes; each will be taken in order and briefly described.
As the book now lies before the worker, the inner sides of the covers have an irregular strip of leather around the edges of a greater or less Width. This must be trimmed to an exact width and the level of the board in the center brought up to the level of the leather at the edges. With the compass take the width of the narrowest part of the leather margin, and, fixing the legs of the compass firmly, a line is drawn along each edge and parallel to it, and by means of a straight edge and sharp knife, held perpendicularly, the leather is cut to the same width all around. The central portion of the board is now filled in with several thickness of a porous paper (called card middling), one pasted on top of the other until the level is brought up to that of the leather, so that when the finger is s-un over the joint there will be no apparent difference. The best way to do this filling in (these remarks apply to a book without a leather binge) is to ascertain by experiment just how many thickness of paper are needed for the purpose; then fold that number of sheets together to a size slightly larger than the space to be filled in (but not so large as the cover itself). The cover lying open on a finishing block, place these sheets over the space to be filled in, with a weight. at the center; the same compass (spaced for cutting the leather edges) is used to mark points around the edge which will correspond exactly with the width of the leather. The sheets are then removed to the cutting board, care being taken not to disarrange them, and all are cut at one operation; it will be found that they will fit the space exactly if this has been carefully done. Before pasting them in, however, it is necessary to allow for a small amount of expansion when they are dampened with the paste, and it is therefore necessary to cut a narrow sliver from the top or bottom. A little experimenting in this direction will show what is necessary. As the filling paper lies before the worker, it is cut squarely on three sides-that is, the head, the tail and the fore edge, and fits the space exactly. It should be wide enough to extend a quarter of an inch beyond the inside of the board itself. Each piece of paper, as it is pasted in place, should he thoroughly smoothed down with a folder (through another piece of paper). This smoothing down should be particularly well done at the inside edge of the board. After they have all been pasted, one on top of the other, the board should be left open for a few hours to dry thoroughly, so the filling in may draw the board enough to counteract the drawing of the leather on the outside. After it is thoroughly dry the paper will be found to be quite unyielding at the inside edge; take a sharp, pointed knife, and, running it along the inside edge of the board (edge up), the various thickness of the paper are cut through, making them quite square with the inside edge of the board. The book is now ready for the real work of “Finishing”.
The covers-especially if the leather be at all porous-should now be thoroughly “paste-washed” as follows: Mix a little paste with water, making a thin, milky solution which feels rather sticky to the fingers, and wash the leather once or twice and let it dry. This is done so that the minute interstices of the leather may be filled up, thus helping to render absolutely smooth the surface on which the gold is finally to rest. After it has dried it should again be sponged off with water, or preferably vinegar, to remove the pasty feel from the surface. Many leathers have a very rough surface, which surface it is necessary to render somewhat smoother before applying a design, particularly if the latter be composed of fine lines or elements. The leather, inside and out, should be moistened with water or vinegar and polishing tins placed inside the covers; the book should then be placed between a pair of polishing plates and put in the press. The amount of pressure to be used in this operation must be a matter of experiment with each individual worker, but not much pressure is to be used; the leather is not to be crushed, but rather flattened a little. It is not necessary to use much pressure nor to leave the book in any great length of time. Light pressure and a half hours time will answer the purpose. After coming from the press the book should be allowed to dry between a pair of plates with a small weight resting on it; this in order to prevent the boards from warping.