WE now come to the first step in the actual process of Bookbinding, viz., that of folding or re-folding; the first term applying to new work, the second to re-bound books. In new work, the binder receives the sheets of the book from the printer flat, and not folded, and his first duty is to fold them so as to bring the pages into order, with proper margins of plain paper all round.

sheet of folio

The manner of doing this will depend upon the number of pages in each sheet, and the manner in which the printer arranges (technically, ” imposes”) them. In the first place, if we take a sheet of white paper, of any size, and desire to have it occupied by four large pages. the printer will so arrange them that when the sheet is printed there will be the impression of two pages on each side of the sheet, as at Fig. 19 (this shows both sides of pages). Thus, one side will bear pages 1 and 4, and the other pages 2 and 3. This size is termed ” folio,” from the Latin word folium, a. leaf, and consists of two leaves only. Yery many of the ancient books were folio, as the size was convenient to the printer. This sheet only requires folding up the back, in such sort that pages 2 and 3 fall accurately on each other. To do this, a clean millboard is laid on the work-bench, and a pile of first sheets (or, as a binder would say, of ” section B”) is laid upon it with the inner pages upwai’ds, and the ” head ” on top of the pages farthest from the folder, page 2 being to his or her left hand, and page 3 to the right.

folding paper

The folder holds a bone ” folding-stick ” in his right hand. He slightly “fans” out the heap of sheets by a circular motion of his folding-stick or thumb nail on the top of the heap. This permits the respective sheets to be seized expeditiously. The folder now, with his right hand, turns the right-hand portion of the top sheet (pages 1 and 4) over on to the left (pages 2 and 3), slightly doubling over the head of the page where the head-line and page figure are (as at Fig. 20), bending it a little over the folding-stick. He then advances the folding-stick and paper with his right hand until he sees that he has got the head-line and page figure of page 3 exactly on, and over, those of page 2. When this is achieved, he gives the folding-stick a rapid sweep clown the centre of the doubled-over part (page 4), from head to tail, .

as at Fig. 21, and the sheet is folded. The sheet is now cut into halves, and doubled again up the back. It is then placed on the left, and a second sheet proceeded with. When all are finished, it is well to put the thumb of the left hand at the bottom of the back of the heap, and let the sections pass down severally, meanwhile working the edge of the folder along the back, as shown at Fig. 22. .

This presses the back fold close and tight, The next size to “folio” is the “quarto,” from the Latin word quartus, meaning ” four.” In this case, the printers put eight pages in a sheet, four on each side (as shown at Fig. 23).

sheet of quarto

This, of course, necessitates an extra fold. After the sheet is folded as in folio, it is turned with the fold away from the operator, and the right – hand side is brought over the left. Thus, pages 3 and 6 are brought down on pages 2 and 7, and the fii-st fold made. The partly-folded sheet is then turned to the second position, and page 5 is brought accurately upon page 4, and the second fold made. The quarto is also an old-fashioned shape, but still lingers amongst us for certain books, principally family Bibles, dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopaedias. The next size is the “octavo,” from the Latin word for ” eight,” of sixteen pages to the sheet, eight on each side .


(Fig. 24). If the octavo were folded again, it would give small square pages of thirty-two to the sheet, called ” 16mo,” but this is such an awkward shape that it is very seldom used. Still another fold gives a “32mo.” This is not infrequently met with for very small books. The next legitimate size to 8vo (or octavo) is ” duodecimo,” or ” 12mo,” with twenty-four pages to the sheet (Fig. 25). It will be seen that the principle of dividing the sheet is different from that before noticed. Here the third part of the sheet, with eight pages, is so arranged that it has to be folded down upon the other part of the sheet before the main fold of the sheet is made.


Let us now describe the folding. In folding the 8vo, the sheets are laid upon the bench, with the signature (which will be seen at the bottom of the first page) turned to the top of the table at the corner nearest to the left hand of the folder, and presents pages 2, 15, 14, 3, below, and above, with their heads reversed, pages 7, 10, 11, 6, reading from left to right. The sheet is then taken with the left hand by the angle to the right and creased with the folding-stick in the right hand, in the direction of the two point-holes made in the printing, taking care, by shading to the light, that the figures of the pages fall exactly one on another, which will be 3 upon 2, and 6 upon 7, and thereby presenting uppermost pages 4 and 13, aim above 5 and 12. The top part of the sheet is then brought down, with the left hand, upon the lower pages, 5 and 12, falling upon 4 and 13, directed properly, and again folded. The sheet then presents pages 8 and 9, which are then folded evenly, 9 upon 8, forming the third fold, finishing the sheet. In folding the 12mo (Fig. 25), the signatures, when placed before the folder, should be at the top at his left hand, and towards the table, the sheet presenting pages 2, 7, 11, 23,18, 14, 22, 19, 15, 3, 6, 10. On the right, pages 11, 14, 15, 10, are separated from the others by a large space, indicating that they should be cut off. The folder detaches this part with the folding-stick, and, bringing page 11 upon 10, makes a fold, and 13 upon 12, which will be uppermost, finishes the folding of what is termed the “inset,” which bears the signature of the sheet it has been separated from, with the addition of a figure or asterisk, as A 5 or A*. The remaining eight pages are folded in the same way as the 8vo, and, when done, the inset is placed in the centre of them, taking care that the headlines of both range correctly.

Books are sometimes printed in what are called ” half-sheets,” but they are folded the same, after being cut up. The next size (still diminishing) is octodecimo, or 18mo, with thirty-six pages to the sheet. There are a few books (principally Prayer-boots and devotional manuals) which are still smaller (48mo and less), but these do not come much in the way of the ordinary bookbinder. It must be understood that each of the preceding denominations and sizes applies to all sized sheets of paper, and hence the total number of book sizes is greatly enlarged. For example, demy (a sheet of which measures 21 1/4in. by 19 1/4in.) may be termed the usual or standard size of paper. Demy 8vo measures about 9 1/2in. by 5 1/2in., and is a very usual size for modern books.

All the reviews, and most of the magazines, are of this size. But there are also larger 8vos. Thus, the Leisure Hour, of the Tract Society, is an imperial 8vo, and much larger; Chambers’s Journal is a super-royal 8vo, aud also larger; while All ihe fear Round is a royal 8vo, only a trifle larger superficially than the demy Svo. The most important of the smaller-sized sheets is “post” or “crown.” The 8vo of this paper is much used, both in this country and abroad, for popular handbooks. “Crown” (or “post”) Svo is 4 1/4in. by 7in. per page, is a very popular and useful size, and is much used for novels and the generality of cheap French works.

Supposing the book to be bound is a volume consisting of monthly parts, you first see that they are in correct order, then take the wrappers off; next, go through them again, cut the thread that holds each part together, pull off the advertisement pages, take off the plates (illustrations), if any, and lay them, face downwards, in a pile in the order in which you remove them; and, lastly, pull all the ” sections” (sheets) of which the part is made up, apart, and lay them down in order, face downwards, proceeding thus through all the parts. The title-page and contents will usually be found at the end of the last part, and these must be placed at the beginning, before section B. When folding, you turn the pile of separated sections, with the title-page upward, and place them on your left hand. You then take up the first section (the title-page), and having cleaned off any glue which may have adhered to the back, by rubbing the edge of the folding-stick up and down it, from head to tail, a few times as it lies on the millboard, next, with the same tool, unturn any dog-eared corners, giving them afterwards a pinch with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand to make them retain their proper position; and, lastly, observe whether the sheet has been rightly folded, so that the lines of the title run straight across the page; if not, you alter their position and give the back a fresh crease with the folder. You then put this sheet down, face downward, 011 your left hand, and, taking up section B, proceed to treat it in a similar manner. If the section is thick and has been badly folded, you will often find it necessary to divide it into portions of four leaves each, and fold them separately, afterwards re-inserting them in each other, taking care that all the head-lines and pages fall upon each other, which can be seen by holding the opened section up to the light.

It will not unfrequently be found that when the head-line* are thus got to agree, the margin of plain paper above them is much more to some pairs of leaves than others.

This must be obviated, or when the book is “knocked up” all the edges will come to correspond, and then the head-lines will get ” out of register” (or correspondence) again. When you have got the head-lines right, therefore, and discover any pairs of leaves that have less margin than they should have, the middle of the back of the pairs of leaves inside these should be touched with, a pasty finger, so that the tiny portion of paste left on it will hold the short pairs of leaves down, with the head-lines in the right place. Half the surplus head margin on the other pages should then be cut off with a pair of scissors. When the whole of the sections have been re-folded, turn the pile (which will be rather higgledy-piggledy) again in a pilo at your right hand, with the title-page upwards, and, taking from the top a parcel of about twenty sections, proceed to ” knock-up ” these, i.e., to tap their heads (top edges) and backs upon the millboard, until they are all quite level. “When this is done, lay the parcel on the left, face downwards, serve the next twenty sections in a similar way, and so on, till the whole volume is perfectly level at the head and back, when it may be put aside on a shelf for rolling or beating, which must not be attempted until any paste used is quite dry. If any of the leaves of the book are torn, they may be mended by pasting small pieces of plain white printing paper (such as is used for the end papers) across the margin (on each side of the page) where the tear crosses it, as shown at Fig. 26.

mending paper

Some very dexterous menders can scrape away each of the edges of the tear with a sharp penknife, so that they resemble ?what carpenters call a ” scarf,” and cement them together with paste, so that no paper slips are required; but this skill is very rare, and only needed for valuable works. One of the menders employed by the celebrated Roger Payne was famoua for her dexterity at this work, and commanded high prices. Lastly, we come to the re-folding of books which have been previously bound. If these are cloth boarded, the two boards are first turned back, and held tightly in the left hand. The sections of the book are’now held in the right, and, by a sudden jerk, are forcibly torn away from the boards. It will now be found that the back of the book is covered by a piece of canvas and brown paper. This being pulled off, the back of the book will be exposed, as at Fig. 27. With a sharp knife, the tapes upon which the book is sewn (A, A), and the ” kettle,” or catch stitch, which secures the sewing (B, B), are now cut out, when the sections can be easily pulled apart. The glue is then cleared off, the thread taken out of the middle of each section, and any folding that may be required is effected. “With ” bound” books (those in leather) the procedure is nearly the same.

The boards are first removed, by cutting through the cords which secure them to the back. The leather and paper are then scraped off the back, the cords and kettle stitches cut out, and the sections pulled apart. Some old “tight back “books, sewn upon raised bands, may present trouble from the tenacity with which the lining of paper and the leather adheres. If very refractory, it will be well to plaster the whole back over with thin paste, leave it to soak for an hour or two, lightly screw up the book in the laying press by its fore edge, and then scrape off the softened leather and paper with a blunt knife. The back may then be rubbed clean and dry with a handful of shavings, the cords cut out, the sections taken apart while damp, and the other operations proceeded with as before.