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Book Binding

( Originally Published 1883 )



Book-binding.—When the sheets have been duly pressed in the hydraulic," they are passed into the bindery. Here they are taken in hand by the folders—generally girls—for the first operation in binding.

The folding consists of doubling the printed sheet so that the folios lie one upon another with absolute precision.

Any deviation in this accuracy produces a very unsatisfactory-looking book. The number of folds the sheet may require is of course dependent upon the size of the printed sheet, the sheet printed for an octavo book requiring more folds than that for a quarto, and a sixteenmo more than either.

The folded sheets are then piled in consecutive order upon the collator's table, and the collator takes the sheets, one at a time, in their regular order, beginning at the end of the book and finishing with the title sheet.

The folded and collated books having been put through the " mashing machine " to make them as compact as possible, are now taken to the " sawing machine " and several shallow cuts are made by circular saws in the back of the book. The book-sewer " now takes them, and seated be-fore an upright frame, called a " sewing press," she sews each folded sheet to perpendicular cords on the press, these being so arranged as to fit into the cuts made by the sawing machine. When the frame is filled the books are cut apart and the edges trimmed by a guillotine-cutting machine.

The book is now glued at the back and is then ready for "rounding" and "backing." The former operation is performed by pounding the volume with a hammer so as to produce the curved appearance to the back of the finished book. After this, the book is placed between two iron clamps, and a heavy roller is worked, backward and forward, over the back. The pressure of this roller forces a small portion of the back over the clamps the entire length of the book, thus producing the joints or grooves in which the cover of the book fits.

The back of the book is now again glued, a piece of muslin, about an inch wider than the back of the book, fastened to it, a piece of very stout paper covers this, and the book is then ready to be put into the cover or case.

The general system of cloth-binding in England and the United States differs in some essential particulars. In the former the cloth-binding of a book is, as a rule, considered as being merely a temporary covering, to be replaced very shortly by the individual owner's rebinding it in leather or " library " binding to suit his special taste. In consequence of this the English cloth-bound book is generally left with the edges uncut (that the fullest possible margin may be left for the prospective rebinding), while the work of sewing, case-making, and putting into covers is rarely as substantially or durably done as in the United States, where a well-bound cloth book is expected to answer as a permanency for the majority of readers.

The practice of ornamenting the covers of books with elaborate designs stamped in gold, or in colored inks, has grown to an alarming extent, and it cannot be said that such attempts are always an artistic success, the only idea in many cases apparently being to make the volume as showy as possible. Happily, a reaction in this direction is rapidly taking place, and publishers find that for a large portion of standard works issued, a plain, unpretentious cover is much more satisfactory to the buyer who possesses any good judgment in such matters. If it be possible to introduce, either upon the side or back of a volume, some small characteristic design, so much the better, but the elaborate and oftentimes meaningless stamps heretofore placed upon the side of books are certainly not ornamental, and the quicker such are banished from the better class of books the better.

Library Bindings.—Until the last few years but little taste was shown in the United States in what is known among the trade as " extra binding." Of late, however, much care has been given to this class of work, and there is no department of book-manufacturing showing a greater advance over old methods than the present styles of leather binding compared with the uncouth and badly-finished half-calf extra " and " half-calf antique " of ten or fifteen years ago. While the half-calf extra style—generally consisting of a light leather back and corners finished with gold " tooling, and marbled paper sides—is still used by publishers for their regular trade bindings, those booksellers who come in contact with the best class of buyers now find it to their advantage to exercise some individual taste in these library bindings, and a vast improvement in the character and the originality of such work is the result.

Calf, morocco (both " turkey " and " levant ") seal, and alligator leathers are now used in both " half," " three-quarter," and full " bindings, these designations expressing the amount of leather used, the sides of the book in half and three-quarter binding being covered with marble paper.

" Tree calf " binding was, a few years since, scarcely done at all in this country, while now much of this work executed in New York and Boston will compare very favorably with the finest grade of imported bindings. It is, however, in the general "finish " of the " extra bindings " and in the good taste shown in the " tooling " and lettering that so marked an improvement may be perceived in this department of book-manufacture. In this class of binding the work is all done by hand, and much therefore depends upon the skill and accuracy of the " finisher," while in cloth-binding, after the general design of the book has been decided upon, the execution of the work is mechanical.

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