Character of Modern Bookbinding

Character of Modern Binding.
It must not be supposed that the binding of books in individual copies, the covers of which are ornamented with particular devices, as seen con ne ensure y to antiquity. It is quite customary at the present day to bind books with covers to suit their owner or match the general bindings of his library. In fact, nearly all French and German books and a large number of those published in England are bound in paper only, so that the purchaser may have them placed in covers that satisfy his taste.
The designing of bookcovers, then, even at the present day, may require a theme that can be neither executed by hand on leather work or duplicated on the press. As the former is a higher branch of the art and is more closely allied with the practice of the past, it will be considered first, but let us look first into the general process of binding a book, as the designer of the cover must be familiar with the details through which the volume passes before it reaches his hands for completion.
Process of Binding.
In bookbinding there are two separate and distinct operations, usually termed forwarding and finislzing. Forwarding’ consists in the assembling of the leaves and the preparation of the book for its cover, the putting on of that cover and the completion of the book ready for its exterior decoration. Finishing’ consists in the decoration of the cover and of the back of the book; forwarding, therefore, is a mechanical process; finishing, an artistic one.
It has been expressed as the opinion of one of the most prominent binders of the day, that a book neatly and cleanly covered is in a very satisfactory condition without any finish ing or decorating, and that many people are in accord with this idea is evinced by the fact that so many books are bound in plain leather vvithout any decoration on their exteriors except a device or title by which they can be recognized. It will be remembered that the Jansen books, described in Art. 26, consisted simply of a well forwarded book with a minimum amount of gilding on its cover, and in some cases none at all.
Securing the Sheets.
In modern bookbinding, the first operation of the binder is to fold all the printed sheets into a section and to gather these sections together in regular order so as to form the volume. After this, the sections are taken one at a time, placed in a frame to hold them, and then sewed, with a continuous thread, backwards and forwards through their backs, thus uniting them and at the same time securing them to upright strings that are fastened in the sewing frame across the backs of the sections, as shown at a, Fig. 18.


As a matter of fact, after the completion of this process, the book is “bound,” and all that is subsequently done to it is for the purpose of protecting this binding. The decoration of the latter part of the work, to make it beautiful as well as useful, brings the element of design into bookbinding. The book is now ready for the forwarder, ‘who completes the work of binding to the pasting on of the cover. The back of the book b is made by him and rounded to shape; the millboards e that are to form the covers are carefully squared and secured by leather or cloth bands to the sheets that are sewed in. FIG. 18 The sides of the volume are thus protected by millboards, usually termed “boards” for brevity, which are themselves protected, as shown at f, by a covering of leather, vellum, or silk, as of old, or of linen or paper, in most modern work. The edges of the volume are protected by the projection of the boards, while the upper edge is cut smooth, and sometimes gilded to prevent damage from the accumulation of dust.
Classification of Bindings.
This protecting cover over the boards, and the extent to which it is subsequently decorated, determines the character of binding under which the book is classified. In modern binding there are four classes-cloth binding, half binding, whole binding, and extra binding. In cloth binding, the cover is made separately from the book and encloses it after the entire book is sewed. In half binding, the cover is made for each individual book as before, but the boards are not entirely covered with the leather, silk, or other material that protects it, but the forepart is covered with something else; books bound in this manner are usually termed half morocco or half calf, according to the material. In whole binding, the boards are entirely covered with the leather or other material of the binding and are commercially termed full morocco or full calf. In extra binding, the whole surface, or such a portion of it as is desirable, is decorated in gold or enamel color. Where a book is to be extra bound, the processes tending to the assemblage of its parts are gone into somewhat more in detail. After the sections are folded, the end leaves g/ at the front and back of the volume are added to protect the most exposed pages. Then the sections are sewed, as before, and the volume passed into the hands of the forwarder, who makes and shapes the back of the book, attaches the boards, and laces them to the ends of the strings a to which the forms have been sewed. After the edges have been colored or gilded, which is usually done at this stage, the head-band It is sewed in at the head and tail, and the back k lined with cloth or leather to keep the headband in place and strengthen the back.
The Covering Material.
If leather is now applied to cover the book, its edges must be carefully shaved off in order to make no ridge at I where the edges fold over on the inside; and after being pasted securely to the cover, the depression caused by the overlap is filled with an evenly cut piece of paper so that it may be perfectly smooth to receive the first or last end paper which is cut to shape and pasted down, leaving only the leather borders of the boards uncovered. This completes the forwarding of the volume; the finishing on the leather consists of a decoration, in gold, with the tools that have been described.
Decorating the Cover.
The method of operating the tools and applying the decoration is very simple. The pattern, having been drawn on paper, is marked on the leather after it has been washed with vinegar and water. The white of an egg, which has been well beaten up and allo,ved to stand, is carefully penciled over the pattern, after which it is generally wiped with oil. Gold leaf is now applied with a pad of cotton wool, and the pattern, plainly visible through the gold leaf, is pressed into the leather with the tools heated to a temperature of a little over 200 degree celsius, the waste gold is then removed by rubbing with an oiled rag.
Character of the Cover Design.
The design must be one that can be executed conveniently with the means at the finisher’s command; that is, by means of the tools with which he does the embossing. It is an unfortunate fact that at the beginning of the 20th century nothing has been developed toward a new style of bookbinding characteristic of the present age. Grolier lived in the 16th century and Le Gascon in the 17th century, and even in the 18th century we have the mosaic borders of Padeloup and the heavy lace work borders of Derome borrowed from or inspired by wrought iron, and yet the most beautiful bindings that we find executed in the 19th century are simply imitations of those that preceded them, Even in France, where bookbinding was developed and has flourished to such an extent, we have nothing worthy of consideration during the past century, for the French Revolution and the long succeeding wars not only prevented further development of the art, but even caused the traditions to disappear.
The foremost bookbinder of the 19th century was Trautz, a German; his work cansed the French to regain some of their former enterprise. The chief beauty of the work of Trautz is its conscientiousness; he always did his best, and being a student of ancient methods, revived the tools of Le Gascon, Derome, and Padeloup.
Modern Designs.
In individual bookbinding of the present day, it is very hard to direct the student on what lines to follow. Many binders are content to follow identic?ally the styles of Grolier, Padeloup, and Derome, but this is altogether , so long, as they are out of sympathy with modern advancement. They may be more perfect in design than anything that has recently been created, but to persist in using them is as unreasonable as to confine our designs of art and architecture to the early Greek, for a man’s residence today is a thing he requires for his modern wants, however imperfect it may be, and is far better than the style of the early Greek, which is unsuited to his purpose, though beautiful.
Propriety of Design.
It should always be borne in mind that there should be some propriety of scheme in the design of a binding, and though it is not necessary that a volume on botany should be decorated with floral forms, it is proper that there should be some association between the title, the binding, and the interior of the book. One expensive volume on the subject of glass making was once bound in covers that contained glass panels enameled in color; this is carrying the subject of harmony between title and cover to an extreme that is ridiculous, as glass is naturally highly inappropriate for a bookcover.
Revival of the Jansen Style.
In a majority of books bound, the Jansen idea of morocco seems to prevail, and few persons except those that are the fortunate pos?sessors of an elaborate library care for individual designs. The demand is growing, however, and the propriety of mate?rials should always be considered. American binders have taken the lead, to a certain extent, in giving a variety of leather to bookbinding and other pnrposes, but they have not given altogether proper thought to the propriety and application of the leather to the book bound. The binding of prayer books in snake skins is certainly not a very appro?priate combination, although this material would be very suitable to the weird uncanny tales of Edgar Allen Poe. The use of alligator, kangaroo, dog, cat, rabbit, fox, sheep, bear, and such skins gives a variety from among which will be found some one more appropriate than all others, as there are over a hundred kinds of leather that at present are used in the manufacture of pocketbooks, bags, card cases, etc., and all may be used in the binding of books.
Materials for Covers.
Bookcovers need not necessarily be confined to leathers either. Fragments of tapestry, old silk, brocades, velvets, etc. will enter with great propriety in the designs of certain bindings. A treatise on the upholsteries and decorations of certain periods of art may be suggestively bound in some of the prevailing brocades that were used for upholstery work. The history of tapestry and tapestry weaving suggests some ideas for the cover highly appropriate for this work, and the consideration of the history and development of lace making not only suggests a material that might appear in the cover design, but also suggests a pattern that could be traced out on a leather cover and tooled as in the old methods. A treatise on book plates or bookbinding should certainly be bound in a material that is in harmony with this subject, and a design after the pattern of Le Gascon, or the earlier practice, as seen in results from the Aldine press, would certainly be suitable to the occasion if not carried too severely on the lines of the original. In the same manner, the mosaic bindings of Padloup and the heavy wrought-iron suggestions of Derome may each be pressed into service to be appropriated on cert-ain occasions and for certain purposes and used intelligently in their places.
Cheaper Bindings.
Leather is very little used for modern bookbinding, and consequently the designers of bookcovers must, as a rule, take into consideration the adaptability of another material. Stamped cloth is the more common material for this purpose novadays, and the old leather-work designs have been superseded by free and tra?ditional ornament in some way associated with the subject of the volume. There is practically no limitation in the execution of the designs, inasmuch as machinery has been so improved that a pattern may be stamped on the side and back of a bookcover in as many colors as the designer can use to advantage or the publisher is willing to pay for. A modern bindery with steam power is capable of binding the entire edition of anyone work–amounting even to several thousand copies-in the course of 24 hours.
Hand and Machine Binding.
Here, then, is one strong and essential difference between hand bookbinding and machine bookbinding. In the former the book is bound and then decorated by hand, while in the latter the cloth or other material that is to form the cover is made and decorated apart from the book itself and afterwards fastened in place. Hand work is a slow process, and machine work is a rapid one; in the former the designer really executes the design on the cover, while in the latter he may never see the cover, and simply designs the dies to be used.
Novelty of Design.
In the attempt to secure novelty of design, a great effort has been made to find special cloths for covering materials for special books, and canvas, burlap, calico, and silk have each been used to advantage, under some circumstances. The special fitness of the association of certain goods, or of the pattern of them, has been used to advantage for certain bookbindings. A book entitled “Gowns and Frocks in Colonial Days” was very appropriately bound in the figured calico characteristic of that period, -while another book devoted to the interests of yachts and yachting ,vas bound in ordinary sail canvas, on which was imprinted a line of signal flags bearing the devices of the different yachts of prominence described in its pages. Here, at once, are suggested two styles of treatment-one, wherein the binding material itself is suggestive of the propriety of its use, and the other, where this suggestion is added or increased by the printing on the material of certain characteristic devices, as the signal flags above referred to.
Paper Covers.
Paper-covered books are of two kinds-one where the edition is valuable and the paper cover is simply put on to protect the volume until its owner shall decide to bind it in leather or other permanent material, while other paper-covered books are usually so bound for cheapness, and particularly books of the fiction class that are usually read and tossed aside after one reading. From a commercial standpoint, however, the covers of these latter are of as much importance to the designer as the most elaborately tooled leather cover designed in the style of the 16th century.
Magazine Covers.
Paper covers, in the case of a magazine, must be so characteristic that the magazine is readily recognized by its cover; in the case of a novel, it must be striking in order to catch the eye of the purchaser as it lies on a stand; in some cases it is highly important that it should be symbolic, especially where the subject treated is a religious or political one, in order that the person interested may, from a glance at the design of the cover. form some idea of the material within. In each case, it lies entirely with the designer to decide and settle the material, color, design, and treatment in each individual case, and on the judicious decision of anyone of these points frequently depends the success or failure of the entire design. The styles of design that publishers take to can only be learned by experience, but in cost of production there is little difference between one design and another, except ,vhen color is used. A complicated design in black and white will cost no more to print than a simple one, but if one or more colors are introduced, the entire edition will have to go on the press a second time, and perhaps a third, while a die will have to be cut for each printing, thereby increasing the expense accordingly.