The Art of Bookbinding/Chapter 19

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The Art of Bookbinding by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf
Chapter XIX.


Preparing for Covering.

Nearly all modern books are bound with hollow backs, except where the books are sewn for flexible work or otherwise meant to have tight backs.

Much of the paper used at the present day is so hard, that the binder is almost forced to make a hollow back, in order that the book may open.

The head-band is first set with glue, if worked, by gluing the head and tail, and with a folder the head-band is made to take the same form as the back. This is to be done by holding the book in the left hand with its back on the press, then a pointed folder held in the right hand is run round the beading two or three times to form it; the silk on the back is then rubbed down as much as possible to make all level and even, and the book is allowed to dry. When dry it is pat into the lying press to hold it, and the back is well glued all over; some paper, usually brown, is now taken, the same length as the book, put on the back, and rubbed down well with a thick folder: a good sized bone from the ribs of beef is as good as anything. The overplus of the paper is now to be cut away from the back, except the part projecting head and tail. A second coat of glue is now put on the top of the brown paper and another piece is put on that, but not quite up to the edge on the left hand side. When this is well rubbed down it is folded evenly from the edge on the right side over to the left, the small amount of glued space left will be found sufficient to hold it down; the top is again glued and again folded over from left to right, and cut off level by folding it back and running a sharp knife down the fold. This is what is generally termed "two on and two off," being of course two thicknesses of paper on the back and two for the hollow; but thin or small books need only have one on the back and two for the hollow. Thick or large books should have more paper used in proportion to their size. Books that have been over-cast in the sewing should have rather a strong lining-up, so that there be not such a strain when the book is opened. When the whole is dry, the overplus of the paper, head and tail, is to be cut off close to the head-band.

I need hardly say that the better the paper used the more easy will be the working of it. Old writing or copybook paper will be found to be as good as any, but good brown paper is, as I have said before, mostly used.

The book is now ready for putting the bands on. These are prepared beforehand by sticking with glue two or three pieces of leather together or on a piece of paper, well pressing it, and then allowing it to dry under pressure. The paper must then be glued twice, allowing each coat to dry before gluing again. It should then be put on one side for future use, and when wanted, the proper thickness is chosen and cut into strips of a width to correspond with the size of the book. The book is now to be marked up, five bands being the number generally used, leaving the tail a little longer than the other portions. The strips of band are then to be moistened with a little hot water to cause the glue upon the paper to melt. Each piece is then to be fixed upon the back just under the holes made with the compasses in marking-up. This will be found to be a far better plan than to first cut the strips and then to glue them. By the latter plan the glue is liable to spread upon the side, where it is not wanted, and if the book has to be covered with light calf, it will certainly be stained black: so the coverer must be careful that all glue is removed from the back and sides before he attempts to cover any of his books with calf. It is rather provoking to find some favourite colour when dry, having a tortoiseshell appearance, which no amount of washing will take out. When dry the ends of the bands are to be cut off with a bevel, and a little piece of the boards from the corners nearest the back also taken off on the bevel, that there may not be a sharp point to fret through the leather when the book is opened. This is also necessary so that the head-band may be properly set. A sharp knife should be inserted between the hollow and should separate it from the back at head and tail on each side so far as to allow the leather to be turned in. Morocco may have the back glued, as it will not show through, and will facilitate the adhesion of the leather.

Flexible Work.—This class of work is not lined-up. The leather is fastened directly upon the book; the head-band is set as before explained, and held tight by gluing a piece of fine linen against it, and when quite dry, the overplus is to be cut away, and the back made quite smooth. The bands are then knocked up gently with a blunt chisel to make them perfectly straight, being first damped and made soft with a little paste to facilitate the working and to prevent the thread from being cut. Any holes caused by sawing-in, in previous binding, must be filled up with a piece of frayed cord, pasted. Any holes thus filled up must be made quite smooth when dry, as the least unevenness will show when the book is covered.

In "throw up" backs, or in "flexible not to show," a piece of thin linen (muslin) or stuff called mull is glued on the back first, and one piece of paper on the top. For the hollow, three, four, or even five pieces are stuck one on the other, so that it may be firm; whilst the book itself will be as if it had a flexible back. The bands, if any, are then to be fastened on, and the corners of the boards cut off. It is then ready for covering. "Mock flexible" has generally one piece of paper glued on the back, and when marked-up, the bands are put on as before, and the book covered.