The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Book Bookbinding Part 4

For ornamental bands a roll which repeats the design as it revolves is sometimes used; and straight lines are put in with a similar tool called a fillet. In the eighteenth century plain brown sheepskin was in general use for ordinary books, and is often found to be still in remarkably good condition. Roan, basil, and other modern forms of sheepskin are hardly likely to come out of the test so well, and should not be used for books of permanent value. Vellum, more in favor in the sixteenth century than in recent times, is not a kindly material for binding. Books, especially thin volumes, bound in vellum object to open freely and will not remain quiet when in use. Moreover it is much affected by atmospheric conditions, and generally requires ties or other inconvenient devices to keep the book properly closed and prevent it from warping on the shelf. Buckram, cloth, and what is called 'art canvas,' represent the cheaper class of coverings. They are the usual materials for publishers' bindings, but they are also invaluable to the bookman who desires to keep his shelves tidy. Provided the sewing and other structural work is sound, these materials are sufficiently durable and comely to serve the purpose of the lover of books who cannot afford the luxury of leather. The lettering on these books should always be on the binding itself, and not take the form of pretentious-looking leather lettering-pieces stuck on the back. Opinion is much divided as to the relative qualities of buckram and cloth, but those who elect to bind in buckram would do well to remember that the red colors are usually very fleeting.

A book entirely covered in leather is called whole or full-bound. A half-bound book has leather back and corners, and the sides are covered with cloth or paper. When only the back is leather, the book is said to be quarter-bound. A particular form of this style in which the back is of brown leather and the sides covered with crimson paper is called Roxburghe binding from its being the pattern adopted by the Roxburghe Club for its publications. Quarter leather with cloth sides and vellum tips to protect the corners makes a specially neat and useful binding for octavo books. With the covering of the book the forwarding

process is complete, and the volume is passed on to the finisher for lettering and decoration. Leaving aside publishers' cloth bindings, on which colored inks and pictorial designs often figure, lettering and external decoration is mostly worked in gold. For impressing the letters and ornaments on the leather the finisher employs wooden-handled brass tools on the end of which the letter or ornament is cut in relief. These tools are used heated to a certain temperature, the exact degree of which is a matter of experience. Armorial stamps and large ornaments which require heavy pressure are applied by means of a press; but lettering and decorative designs built up of separate small ornaments are worked in by hand.