Work for blocking in gold does not require so much body or preparation as if it were gilt by hand. Morocco can be worked by merely washing the whole surface with a little urine or weak ammonia, but it is safer to use a coat of glaire and water mixed in proportion of one of the former to three of the latter. The heat should not be great, and slowly worked.
Calf should have a coat of milk and water or thin paste-water as a ground, and when dry another of glaire. Both should be laid on as evenly as possible; but if only portions are to be gilt, such as a centre-piece, and the rest dead, the centre-piece or other design should be pencilled in with great care. The design should be first slightly blocked in blind as a guide for the glairing. The edge of the glaire generally leaves a black or dark stain. The heat required for calf is greater than for morocco, and the working must be done more quickly.
Cloth requires no preparation whatever, the glue beneath and the coloured matter on the cloth gives quite enough adhesiveness when the hot plate comes down for the gold to adhere.
A great deal of taste may be displayed in the formation of patterns in this branch, but as publishers find that books that are tawdrily gilt are better liked by the public, they are, of course, very well satisfied if their books are well covered with gold. It would be well if those who have the principal charge of this work would strive, by the cultivation of elegant design, to correct the vitiated taste of the public, and seek by a study of classic ornamentation to please the eye and satisfy the judgment rather than to attract the vulgar by glitter and gaudy decoration.
However, of late years a great advancement has been made with publishers' block work; the samples given in the trade paper ("The Bookbinder" now "Bookmaker") will prove this.