PLACING PLATES, BEATING AND PRESSING BOOKS.
WHEN the books arc folded or refolded, as the case may be, the next step is to place the plates (if any) in their proper positions. To aid the binder, there is always a printed list of plates, attached to the contents. Guided by this, the binder finds the place, and, having ” squared ” the first plate, dips his forefinger in some thick paste, and pastes the back of the plate for about an eighth of an inch in, and then puts it in its place and rubs it down with the back of his finger. The ” squaring” consists in seeing that the margin of the plate at the back and head is uniform in quantity along the plate, or otherwise it would be out of the straight when the book is cut.
For instance, let Fig. 28 represent a plate printed on a piece of paper, of which the edges are represented by the black lines. It is obvious that, if it were pasted and fixed by the edge, B, D, it would be out of the square. Consequently, the binder cuts off the superfluous portion at the back along the dotted line B, A, and then makes another cut, at right angles with this, at the head, along the line E, C. This is generally done by eye with a pair of long-bladed scissors or shears, but sometimes the binder places the plate on a smooth cutting-board, and, placing a thin straight-edged board, called a ” trindle,” along the line he wishes to cut, draws a keen knife along the edge of the trindle, and then, trims the head in the same manner.
If the plates are numerous, he will sometimes, instead of pasting each separately as he squares it, square a number, and then lay them down on a board one over the other, leaving about an eighth of an inch of the back of each uncovered, as at Fig. 29, then place a board, A, over the top one, and, holding this down firmly with the fingers of his left hand, draw the paste-brush over all the exposed edges. It must be borne in mind that the plate must always be pasted at a back (behind the side of the printing) edge; also that plates printed the long way of the paper must always be so fixed that the ” inscription” line or title of the plate must be on the right hand of the page, as at A (Fig. 30), never reversed, as at B (in same figure).
This is done in order that when the book is inspected the reader shall not have to reverse it in looking at such plates, and is de rigueur. In books consisting wholly of plates on plate paper, it is far best to square them with the boards, and, if folios, it is well to mark off the margin accurately with the compasses before cutting. Maps or doubled plates should be “mounted” by pasting a slip of stout cartridge paper up the fold, leaving about half an inch of the paper to paste to. Maps or plates should never be folded in several folds to get them in. This is a clumsy expedient, and, after the book has been used a little, the folds are sure to get out of order, and the fore edge of the maps, &c., to protrude, causing the book to ” gape ” and look most unsightly. When all pasted places are dry and hard, the books are ready for ” beating ” or ” rolling.” Beating the book with a heavy hammer is of great antiquity. In one of the quaint sketches which the Dutch designer, Jost Amman, has left us of contemporary trades, is one of a bookbinder at the operation of beating. Unlike the modern, who always stands at the stone, the operator is comfortably seated on a cushioned stool. Unlike, too, the bookbinder of the present day, his ancient prototype grasps his hammer as a smith might do, and, raising it above his head, brings it down with the full force of his muscular arm. We gave an illustration of the hammer in a previous chapter.
Let us now speak of the manner of holding it. As the hammer rests on the stone, the binder grasps its short handle firmly with his right hand in such a manner that his knuckles point to the stone, and his nails are upwards, the outer side of his forefinger resting against the inside of the head of the hammer (Fig. 31, as seen from above). The hand is then swung over from the wrist, so that the operator can see the face of the hammer (Figs. 32 and 33).
This peculiar action, with the back of the hand downwards, insures that the face of the hammer always descends perfectly flat, which is essential, or the paper would be cut or bruised.
The learner should practise on a packet of waste paper, and must not be disheartened if, at his first essays, the paper be full of hills and holes, and perhaps with half a dozen long sharp cuts through it, where he has permitted the edge of the hammer to fall first. As he acquires dexterity and his wrist gains strength, he will soon get the ” hang” of it and find iteasy enough. The book or paper is held by one corner with, the left hand, and moved about so that all its surface is successively brought under the action of the hammer. The operation is shown in side view at Fig. 32. The number of sections taken to a “beating” must be left to the discretion of the operator. If it is a re-bound book, care should be taken that the projection at the back of the section, where the former ” joint” has been, should be well levelled. Perhaps it will be safest for the tyro to go over this with the backing hammer. The number of strokes necessary for each ” beating ” must be left to the judgment of the workman. The work looks very laborious, but is really not so when the knack is acquired, for we can well remember that in our apprentice days we have often stood at the beating-stone for three or four hours at a stretch. A piece of plain waste paper or part cover should be placed oa each side of the beating, to preserve the first and last section from actual contact with the stone or the hammer. Before commencing to beat a book, the operator should refer to the date at the foot of the title-page, to ascertain when it was printed.
This is necessary, because, if recently-printed books are exposed to very heavy beating, they will probably “set-off”; that is to say, the ink lines will be partly impressed on the opposite pages, thus rendering the printing more or less illegible, and much impairing the appearance of the book. New books should be beaten very cautiously. If the amateur has not provided himself with a beating-hammer and stone, he may make shift by screwing up the knocking-down iron in the end of the laying press, as at Fig. 34, and beating his books thereon with the “backing hammer.”
This is, of course, only a very inferior makeshift; still, the work may be done so. In all tolerably large establishments the rolling-machine has superseded the beating-hammer for many years past. Of this machine we have given an illustration. It consists essentially of two large smooth-surfaced iron cylinders, between which the books are passed; it is provided with an apparatus by which the rollers or cylinders can be brought together or set further apart; it does its work well and quickly. The operator sets the rollers at what he considers a suitable distance asunder, then takes a number of sections and places them between a pair of tin platea of corresponding size, and puts them to the rollers, while an assistant turns the handle.
The plates and sections are caught by the rollers and drawn between them, and are received by the assistant as they emerge at the other side. Precautions against ” setting-off ” are as necessary with the rolling-machine as with the beating-hammer. We may here remark that of late years a new kind of book illustration has come into vogue which needs special precautions. We allude to the “chromo” plates, such as those issued with the Leisure Hour, Sunday at Home, &c. The coloured inks and oil colours used in printing these are very slow in drying. This is especially the case with the dark brown used in the shadows (probably asphaltum), which seems as if it would never dry; and if such a plate were inserted in its place before the book were beaten or rolled, it would be found to have adhered to the opposite page so tenaciously that it would be impossible to separate them. These plates must, therefore, never be ” placed ” until the book has been through these operations; but this is not all. They will even ” stick ” from the other ordinary pressure the book will have to go through. It is, therefore, necessary that, after each plate is placed, the binder put a piece of waste paper in front of it, to guard against sticking; though, in all probability, when the book is bound, he will not be able to get even this waste paper off without the use of moisture, which is objectionable. Perhaps, proper-sized pieces of the ordinary oiled tracing paper would answer better, although we have not personally made the experiment.
The whole of the ” batch ” of books which the binder has undertaken to ” forward ” together being now beaten or rolled, it is next usual to put them in the standing press and leave them there at least a night, to render them still more compact and level. “We have given an illustration of the common screw standing-press, and also of the Athol and Boomer presses. The manner of ” blocking up ” is similar in all. The binder is provided with a number of pressing-boards of all the various sizes, and he begins by dividing each volume into several parcels, and putting in the largest first. Thus we will suppose the binder has several volumes of the Graphic (folio), two of Cassell’s Bibles (4to), and twenty Quarterly Reviews (8vo). He first puts the Graphic in the folio boards, a board between each parcel, taking care to” place it in the centre, then cautiously lifts them on to the bed of the press and takes care they occupy the centre of it. This may be effected by measuring the distance from the ends of the boards to each cheek of the press, and making this uniform on both sides; then, standing outside the left-hand cheek of the press, he judges by eye if the pile of boards and books occupies a central position as aligned against the inside of the other cheek. This should be done very carefully. The binder now divides the Bibles into parcels and places them between a suitable number of quarto boards, then lifts these on to the folios already in the press, taking care that they stand in the centre of the uppermost folio board. Next the reviews are placed between octavo boards, and lifted in with similar precautions.
Now, upon the top octavo board is put an octavo pressing block, which is a piece of deal or pine, about Sin. thick, planed level and square. Then, while the blocker upholds the pile of books and boards steady and upright, an assistant lowers the “platen” or “follower” of the press by turning the screw. When he can cause it to revolve no longer, he takes out the wooden peg, and, putting in the shorter iron press-pin, pulla down as long as he can from right to left. When this pin will actuate the screw no longer, the long pin is substituted, and one man pulls while the other pushes, till all is done that their united strength can achieve, when the shorter pin is placed in one of the screw holes in such a manner that one extremity rests against the right-hand cheek.
This is done to prevent the screw from receding during the night, and consequently relaxing the pressure, which a well-oiled iron screw will not infrequently do. The binder should examine the pile of books with his eye frequently as the “pulling down” goes on, not only from the front, but also from the sides?indeed, most from the latter; for, if he has not blocked up the press truly perpendicularly, he may find his pile bend or bulge, and, as the pressure increases, presently shoot out pell-mell, either behind or before the press. It is not advisable that there should be too great disparity in the sizes of the books put into the press at one time. If it begins with folios, it is better to end with octavos, and reserve the smaller sizes for another blocking up, or even, if there are only two or three, screw them firmly up in the laying-press.