The Printed Book

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

Book Bookbinding Part 9

More recenly color printing has been much resorted to for additional effect. At the present time much ingenuity and some taste are devoted to the production of attractive book covers, and extraordinary variety prevails, ranging from the plainest cloth to pictorial decoration in colors re-enforced with gilding. The possibility of end papers as a field for subsidiary decoration has also been exploited, and some of the papers specially designed for particular books undoubtedly harmonize and lend additional charm to the volume.

The binding of books in publisher's cloth, or edition binding as it is sometimes called, is a distinct branch of the trade. Instead of dealing with single volumes, hundreds or even thousands of copies are turned out at a time. Special machinery has been devised for dealing with every stage of the work, and to such a point has the process been perfected that in at least one large establishment the output is 2000 volumes an hour, with a possible total of nearly 200,000 a week. A book in publisher's cloth differs from a properly bound book chiefly in the method of connecting the book with the binding. In the bound book the ends of the cords on which the sheets are sewn are laced into the boards, which are thus fastened directly and strongly to the book before the covering material is put on. But with books in publisher's cloth the case is first made separately, and the book is then fastened into it, the two being connected only by a strip of thin muslin glued on to the back of the book and the inner edge of the boards. In better-class work the book is sewn on tapes, and the ends of these, as well as the muslin, are glued down on the inside of the boards. It is evident that a book bound in this manner-'cased' is the trade t~m-cannot be so strong as a properly bound volume; but the method has the great advantage of cheapness, and if the work is well done the book will stand a considerable amount of use. But, unfortunately, this is not always the case. Publishers take great pains over the component parts of a book, such as paper, type, illustrations, and the design of the cover, but they frequently fail to exercise the least care as to how it is put together: so long as the book looks attractive and does not go to pieces before it reaches the reader's hand, they seem to be satisfied.

This may suffice well enough for the many books which are of only temporary interest; but in the case of important works of more permanent value it is surprising that publishers do not, at the expenditure of a little trouble and an extra sixpence, see that the book is put together in a more satisfactory manner. In the first place the paper is mostly very poor stuff, without any fibrous quality; but, perhaps, under the present conditions of manufacture and the pursuit of low prices, this defect is not easily amended.