Rounding and Backing



AFTER the book is sewed, the next operation is to affix the end papers. The “end papers” are those blank leaves which are found at the beginning and end of every bound book, and are popularly termed “fly leaves.” The number and style of these differ, to some degree, in various establishments, but we will describe the more usual. In making the end papers, various kinds of paper are employed, viz.: Marbled paper is used both for half-bound, extra, and whole-bound books, principally the latter. The making of marbled paper originated in the Low Countries, but was subsequently introduced into this country, and our marbled papers are now equal to any. Marbled paper ranges in price from 2s. 6d. per quire upwards, and is generally royal or super-royal in size. Marbled paper of every description can be obtained of Messrs. Eadie, Great Queen-street, Lincoln’s Inu-fields, and Mr. Corfield, St. Bride’s-street, E . Cobb paper, so-called from the binder who invented it, is used for ordinary half-calf work. It is a self pulp-coloured paper, a reddish-brown and an olive being the favorite hues. Surface paper is that which has one side coloured by pigment spread on with a brush. A pale yellow or buff is the usual tinge, but darker colours (as olive) are used for Bibles, and of late a chocolate has been popular for general work. Fancy printed papers of various kinds are much used as end papers by the French binders, and sometimes in this country. They generally consist of small patterns printed in gold and colours, some being very elaborate. When used for new cloth work, there is often a tablet in the centre, in which the publisher’s advertisements are inserted. Paste paper is often used in Germany, and can be made by the binder for himself. Any pigment that may be selected is mixed with paste and a small piece of soap until it is about the thickness of cream, or a little thicker; it is then ground on the slab by the muller. One side of each of a couple of sheets of white paper is then covered with the colour by the aid of a brush. The two coloured, surfaces are next placed together, and when pulled apart there will be certain marks, bearing some resemblance to a pattern. These sheets should then be hung up over strings to dry. “When dry, they may be polished by passing a hot flat iron over them; but a better polish will be got by rubbing them with a hot polisher such as bookbinders use.

End papers are cut from sheets of paper of the same size as that on which the book is printed (sometimes a size larger), and are of ordinary white printing paper, of pale yellow surface coloured paper, of the self-coloured brown paper, technically called ” Cobb,” and of marbled paper. Say it is desired to prepare ” Cobb” end papers for eight demy octavo volumes : take four sheets of 201b. white printing demy paper, cut them carefully down the back fold, fold them again carefully with the folding stick, so as to bring them to quarto size, and cut them along the fold. You will now have sixteen pieces of paper of quarto size. Next take four sheets of ” Cobb,” and cut them in a similar manner, and you will have sixteen quarto pieces of brown-coloured paper. These are next to be pasted together in pairs. Lay the white (or brown) papers in a heap, one on the other, and paste the top one carefully over with a large brush and thin paste. If any lumps of paste or hair from the brush are seen on the pasted surface, remove them with the finger nail. Now lay one of the white pasted pieces on one of the ” Cobb ” pieces, or vice versa, and rub it well down with the palm of the hand, so that the two adhere everywhere, and there are no “blisters ” or air-bubbles. The rubbing or pressing should proceed from the centre of the piece of paper to the edges, so as to drive out the air systematically. Proceed thus with the other pieces, so that you have at least eight pasted pieces, which will, of course, be white on one side and brown or olive on the other. Now fold each one down the centre, with, the’ coloured side inwards; this will bring them to octavo size. Take another sheet of white demy and cut it into single octavo leaves. Paste one of these to each of the double sheets, by pasting the edge of the latter for about 1in. at the back and attaching the single leaf to it. Place all of them under a few millboards to ensure their drying flat.

There is another method of making end papers, followed by many binders. Suppose they are for demy octavo: the sheets, both white and coloured, are cut into quarto, and then doubled up the middle to octavo (in the case of marbled paper the coloured side is folded inside). A folded white paper is now laid on the pasting board, and evenly pasted over with thin paste, then one side of one of the coloured pieces is laid to this, and well pressed down. By this means half the white end paper will adhere to half the marbled or coloured one. When all required are thus made, they should have a nip in the press, and then be hung up on strings to dry. In pasting, do not load the brush with paste. Draw the brush over all the surface of the paper, and from the centre to the sides. Do not remove the brush until it reaches the side. Lay the paste on evenly. As we are now beginning to deal with the use of paste and glue, it will be well to speak of the preparation of the same. Thick Paste.–Fill a small iron saucepan half full of water, and throw into it a teaspoonful of powdered alum; let it melt; now add as much good wheaten flour as, when well stirred in, will make a thin batter. Get a few sprigs of birch (from a new broom), and tie them into a small bundle. Place the saucepan on a clear fire, and stir the paste continually (in one direction) with this brush. By-and-bye you will find it get so thick that you cannot stir it with the birch brush; take it out and use instead a smooth stick about the size of the finger, and 15in. or 18in. long. Let the paste continue to boil (never intermitting the stirring, or it will burn) until you can hardly stir it, then empty it. The best vessel to keep it in is a small oaken tub (which you can purchase at a cooperage); or, next to that, one made of leather, which any harness maker will construct for you. Earthenware or metallic vessels cause the paste to become thin, watery, and useless. It is well to keep it covered for the prevention of mould.

Thin Paste.

In a glazed vessel or basin mix good wheaten flour and water to about the consistence of a batter for batter pudding or pancakes, adding a teaspoonful of alum. Put a kettle of water on the fire. Now, with a spoon, beat up the batter until it is perfectly smooth, with no kind of lumpiness about it. By this time we will suppose the water is boiling. Hold the kettle in your left hand, and pour the contents on the batter, stirring the latter round meanwhile with the spoon in your right band. If all has been managed rightly, the batter will for some time continue to get thinner; but when a certain amount of the boiling water has been added it will begin to thicken.

brush for thin paste

When it is thick enough (which must be learnt by experience), leave off adding the boiling water. This paste may be kept in the earthen pan in which it is made. The alum is added in both cases, because it is supposed that its astringent qualities prevent blisters or wrinkles in the paper, &c., pasted. A small ” sash-tool” (such as painters use) is the best tool for thick paste, which is principally used for leather. A large and less stiff tool does well for the thin paste, which is used for paper. A small whitewash brush (see Fig. 57) will do.


Glue is manufactured from the cuttings and parings of hides, bones, &c., and varies much in quality. Scotch glue is generally esteemed the best. The very thin amber-coloured glue is the most superior ; but this is rarely used., save by cabinet-makers in veneering. As a rule, price is the criterion. If you go to a good house, and give a good price, you will generally receive a good article. The binder requires glue of two descriptions, and should therefore have a couple of gluepots, with brushes. One, a small pot, must contain thick glue, for lining, &c. ; the other, much larger, thin glue, for glueing cloth, &c. The tyro will receive his glue in good-size; cakes, as it came from the drying-nets, and. the just thing is to reduce it to small pieces, of about 1in. each. If the glue be dry and hard, as it is in one weather, the most ready way of electing this is to wrap up a few pieces in thick brown paper and pound vigorously upon them with the backing hammer : they should soon break up. Should it, however, be soft from moisture, this plan would fail. Instead, screw up the millboard shears in the laying-press, and you will find that you can readily cut the glue up into pieces somewhat resembling jujubes. If necessary, holding a piece to the fire for a minute will tend. to soften it. Good glue should contain no specks, but be transparent when held up to the light. When you have broken up the glue, place it in an earthenware pipkin, and pour on as match soft water as to cover it. Let it soak for from twelve to twenty hours, and then place it in the inner pot of the gluepot, add some water, fill the outer pot with water, and place the whole on the fire, and gradually raise the temperature until all is dissolved, stirring frequently when melting. If the outer pot boils over, lift the inner one up, and, removing the whole from the fire, replace it on a duller place. It does not require boiling. Prepared in this way, it cools down into a thick jelly, which requires only a little warming to it it for use. The glue for putting cloth on should. be thin and well melted.

Take the brush out and stamp down its hairs on a piece of dry rough brown paper, with the handle upright ; place the palms of both hands on either side of the handle, and rub them backwards and forwards, so as to cause the blush to rotate briskly. After doing this a few moments, put the brusk back in the same position in the gluepot, and revolve it in the same manner. Presently, a slight foam or froth should appear on the top of the glue, which should increase till the pot becomes well-nigh filled with glue froth. It is now in good order for spreading on the cloth, and should look white and frothy when applied. Some binders believe in mixing tallow, &c.; but all that is really necessary is to cause the brush to revolve briskly upon a rough surface for a short time, which initiates the tendency to froth. When the end papers are dry, they are pasted to the sewed book, one at the beginning and one at the end. The end papers are laid over each other, leaving about ^-in. of the back on the side where the single leaf is, and the exposed part pasted with thick paste. The pasted end-paper is then placed at the beginning or end of the book, with its pasted portion next to the book, and level with the back and head, and carefully rubbed down.

reducing back

Take the books that you have sewn, one by one, and, holding in the right hand, beat the back against the laying-press, so as to bring up the backs of all the sections perfectly level. If they will not come up readily, lay the book down flat and work them up level with the fingers and thumb. Next, take the book in the left hand, head towards you, and smooth down the cords in tne last section; place a backing-board level with the back, at about Jin. therefrom (Fig. 58). Then turn the book, tail to you, and place another board similarly on the other side (but leaving the cords free here). Holding the boards and book tightly in the left hand, lower it carefully into the laying-press and screw it up with the hand. Take a pair of backing-boards (or cutting-boards), one in each hand, and strike each side of the back simultaneously (see Fig. 59), until the sections are driven close together, and the swell of the back is lessened.

reducing back

Some binders simply place the book on the laying-press, and beat it up the back with the backing-hammer until the back becomes thinner. Others flatten the book in the laying-press, leaving the back out. The press is then screwed up tightly, a knocking-down iron held against the projecting portion of the back at the left side, and the back hammered on the right. It is usual to paste the first and last sections to those next them. Place the book on the laying-press, turn the top section back; lay a slip of paper along the section at about i-in. (more for large books) from back of section to waste paper, paste along it, take waste paper away, and replace section, rubbing down with the finger; serve last section at other side of book similarly. The middle finger of right hand is best for pasting with. When all the end-papers are pasted on and dry, the next step is the ” glueiing-up.” There are different ways of accomplishing this. Some binders place one or more volumes between a pair of pressing-boards of proper size, and, holding them between the palms of the hands, as at Fig. 35, beat the backs and heads on the cheeks of the laying-press until they are quite square; then draw the boards about lin. down from the back, lower the books and boards into the laying-press, and screw them up by the handis.

Lastly, having the pot of glue hot, the brush is dipped in, and the whole of the back well glued over, working the glue in between the sections, but taking care that none smears over the end-papers nor on the bands. Thin glue is employed. Other binders knock each volume up at back and head while it is held in the right hand, and then pile them upon each other on the right hand cheek of the laying-press, with the backs projecting over on the right hand, the largest size book being laid down first. When a tolerable number have been thus piled up, a board is placed on the top, and the pilo is held down and kept steady by placing the left hand on this board. The brush, well replenished with glue, ia now worked over the backs, beginning with the top one. This operation should be performed expeditiously but carefully.

bad gluing up

The first plan is the safer, but the second is the quicker. It must be understood that it is indispensable that the sections be well up at the back, and that the head be quite square. If this last requirement be not attentively observed, the head of the .book may present a “nose” on one side, as at Fig. 60, and, of course, when the edge is cut more will be removed from this portion than from the other. The books are now left for the glue to set, and meanwhile the millboards are cut out on the same principles as the endpapers were. The millboards are made to regular sizes, like sheets of paper. They are divided as desired by the aid of a large pair of Lancashire compasses, and then marked off with a bodkin, drawn along the side of a straight edge, held from one compass mark to another. Thus, Fig. 61 represents a millboard marked off to octavo size. The boards are generally cut up wittt the millboard shear.

marked millboard

These are screwed up in the end of the laying-press nearest to the operator, and, the millboard being placed between the jaws, the edge of the upper jaw coinciding with the mark upon the board, the upper handle is worked by the right hand, and the board is readily and quickly cut. The millboard is held in the left hand during the operation. In most regular establishments of any pretensions, the shears are now almost superseded by the board-cutting machine. This consists essentially of a long, slightly curved blade, working against au iron edge, while on the right hand is a gauge (Pig. 62). With this, in the first place, a pattern piece or size pattern is prepared, having the exact size and form of the boards to be cut.

jacques shear

The machine is then adjusted by setting a movable grooved and raised edge at a certain distance from the place where the knife works (Fig. 62). The arrangement of this machine enables the pieces to be cut with perfect accuracy, both as to size and rectangular form. In order to have boards of the right thickness, it is sometimes necessary to “make” them. This is effected by pasting one board over with thin paste, laying it on the other to which it is to be attached, and screwing them up in the press for a short time. In placing them to the book, the side formed of the thinnest board should go next to the book. This is done in order that the boards should bend to the book, not from it. With the same object, it is sometimes usual to paste a wrapper or piece of paper on the inside of a board, or a couple of crossed strips, as shown at Fig. 63: these will cause the board to warp towards them.

paper slips

Let us return to our glued-up books. The glue should now be nearly dry; it must not be quite dry, but so nearly so that it does not retain any ” tackiness,” or it will stick to the hammer. We have now to round the book, that is to say, impart a curvature to the glued back. This is effected PAPER SLIPS by laying a volume on the cheek of the laying-press, placing the thumb of the left hand against the fore edge, and with the fingers of the same hand drawing the top end-paper and sections towards the workman, who, while he is performing these movements, gently strikes the edges of the back of the book with the backing hammer (Fig. 64).

position for rounding

This is done to both sites, and. is an important operation. Many people (not practical) have conjectured how the graceful concavity of the fore edge of a book is produced, and why it should correspond. so perfectly with the convexity of the back. The secret lies in the present operation and one or two others about to be described. We have said nothing about the proper thickness of board for each description of binding, because no useful rule can be given. This must be a matter of individual judgment. A halfbound book requires a thicker board than does cloth, and whole-bound thicker than that for half ; also, as a matter of course, a large book requires thicker boards than a small one, and a thick book thicker boards than a thin book. Here let me impress upon the amateur binder the importance of closely inspecting every well-bound book that comes into his hands, whether in libraries or booksellers’ shops. He may thus learn much of the minutiae of good work, the proper thickness of boards amongst them. A little thought will show that when the hoards are placed to the book, those of thorn that are thick will project beyond the back, and make a stiff and awkward hinge. To obviate this, the book must be ” backed”; that is to say, a groove must be formed at the back for the board to repose in.

placing backing board

For this purpose, the book is held in the left hand, tail from operator, and a backing-board placed at its side, at a suitable distance from the back to make a groove of sufficient depth for the millboards (Fig. 65). The book is then turned, and another backing-board placed to it in the same manner. The book and boards must now be carefully lowered into the laying-press, keeping the relative position of book and boards unaltered, until the outer edges of the backing-boards are level with the cheek of the press. The inner side of the board is the straight one (A, Fig. 66), and this, in all cases, goes next the book; the sloping side (B) going towards the cheek.

backing board

If the tyro finds the boards slip or change their position on the book, he may obviate this by expectorating slightly upon them before placing. The laying-press should now be screwed up with the press-pin as tightly as possible, and the workman, taking the backing-hammer in liis right hand, proceed to ” back.” This is effected by hammering the back smartly down each side, so that a portion of the back of the outside sections is hammered down on the top surface of the backing-boards, and forms a clear and well-defined groove. This is an operation that looks very simple, but, as a matter of fact, it requires both ” nous ” and knack. In the first place, the hammer must not be brought down edgeways on the portion of the book hammered down on the backing-board, or it will cut through it. Next, although the book should be mainly struck down the sides, an occasional tap nmst be given to the middle, or the book will be ” rabbit-backed,” as shown in section at Fig. 67, which is very objectionable.

rabbit back

Lastly, the process must be so regular and careful, that no creases along the back of the section shall be seen when the volume is opened (Fig. 68). When the sheets are beaten in one direction, they should not be knocked back again.

creases in back

The hammer should be so manipulated that it always strikes away from tlie centre of tlie back, and that the course of the head should be circular. The right shape of the back (in section) is about (Fig. 69) one-third of a circle, or more, according to present taste.

shape of back

We gave an illustration of a backing-machine in a previous chapter; but its use is not to be recommended, as it is rather liable to cut the work.