EDGES of books are no doubt best preserved by being gilt, and this may be done either plain or ornamented. The former process being tlie easier and the more general, we will describe it first. Gilding Plain Edges.The fore edge of the book is first gilt. It is screwed as tight as possible between boards placed even with the edge in the laymg-press, and then the edge is scraped perfectly smooth with a steel scraper, round on one end and flat on the other, for the better execution of such parts as present slight inequalities of surface.
After the edge is well scraped, it must be burnished with the burnisher, then coloured over with red bole or chalk ground in soap, rubbed immediately dry with fine clean paper shavings, and again well burnished. This gives a deeper appearance to the gilding, and hides any slight defect that a white edge at times presents. The gold is next cut on the gold cushion to the sizes required, and each piece taken off with a small slip of paper folded with one smooth edge, or with an instrument called a tip, by rubbing it on the head and attaching the gold by gently pressing upon it. Sometimes a piece of tissue paper (very slightly greased) is used. This is much adopted by painters in lettering facias, &c. The size (prepared with the white of an egg in three times the quantity of water, well beaten together) must then be applied evenly on the edge with a large camel-hair pencil, and the gold immediately placed thereon. Should any breaks appear in the gold, other portions must be applied with a piece of cotton wool. A size made of writing parchment, applied warm, with six or eight drops of vitriol in a cupful of the size, is used by some gilders; but the former is more simple and equally effective. After the edge is dry, it must be burnished lightly and carefully, to avoid rubbing off any of the gold; and the better to insure this, a piece of tissue paper should be placed on the edge during the first operation, and the edge itself afterwards burnished until it is perfectly uniform and clear.
The head and tail of the volume must be gilt with the same precaution, the back towards the workman, The burnisher is worked across the leaves. Gilding a I’Antique.Should it be considered desirable to give the book the character of the period in which it was written, or an additional degree of beauty and elegance, the ornamentation of the edges may be pursued farther in the manner we shall now describe. After the edge is finished as directed, and before taking out of the press, ornaments, such as flowers or designs in compartments, may be stamped upon it in the following manner : A coat of size is passed quickly over with great precaution and lightness, and only once in a place, to avoid detaching any of the gold. When dry, rub the edge with palm oil, and cover with gold of a colour different from that of the first. Then, with tools used in gilding leather, warmed in the fire, proceed to form the various designs by firmly impressing them on the edge. The gold that has not been touched by the tools is then rubbed off with a clean cotton, and there remain only the designs the tools have imprinted, which produce a fine effect. This mode is, however, now seldom used, though almost all books in the original binding of the sixteenth century are so adorned.
Gilding Marbled Edges.
This edge, which Dr. Dibdin, in his Bibliographer’s Decameron, calls ” the very luxury, the ne plus ultra of the articleic art,” is one requiring great care and expertness in the execution. After the edges have been tastefully marbled, and not overcharged with colour, the book must be put in the press, and well burnished as before directed. The size must then be laid on lightly, to prevent unsettling the colours of the marble, and the gold immediately applied, and finished off as in other edges. “When dry, the marble is perceived through the gold.
Gilding Landscapes.When the edge is well scraped and burnished, the leaves on the fore edge must be evenly bent in an oblique manner, and in this position confined by boards tied tightly on each side, until a subject is painted thereon in water colours, according to the fancy of the operator. When perfectly dry, untie the boards and let the leaves take their proper position. Then place the volume in the press, lay on the size and gold, and, when dry, burnish. The design will not be apparent when the volume is closed, from the gold covering it, but when the leaves are drawn out it will be perceived easily. The time and labour required make this operation expensive, and, consequently, it is very seldom performed.
After the edges have been gilt by any of the foregoing methods, the rounding must be examined and corrected, and the book should be put into the standing-press for two or three hours, to set it. The whole of the edges should be wrapped up with paper to keep them clean during the remainder of the process of binding.
After the edges of the book are coloured with any of the self-colours already alluded to, whether mineral pigments or Judson’s or spirit dyes, a good effect may be given by sprinkling with a gold liquid, made in the following manner : Take a book of gold and 1oz. of honey, and rub them together in a mortar until they are very fine; then add half a pint of clear water, and mix them well together; after the water clears, pour it off, and put in more till the honey is all extracted and nothing left but the gold; mix one grain of corrosive sublimate with a teaspoonful of spirits of wine, and, when dissolved, put the same, with a little thick gum-water, to the gold, and bottle it, always shaking well before using. When dry, burnish the edges and cover with paper till the work is finished.