The Art of Bookbinding/Chapter 23
Finishing is the art of embellishing the covers of books with different designs. Finishing comprises the embellishment of the covers either with blind work, gold, silver or platina leaf, or with metal ornaments fastened through the boards, or by only a lettering on the back of the book.
The art of finishing does not comprise any embellishment done with the "blocking press." Therein the art is more that of the block or tool cutter, who, working in concert with the artist who drew the design, cuts the metal accordingly. The binder's use of these blocks is mechanical only.
The monks who cultivated all the arts, and enriched their Hours and their Missals with marvellous miniatures, gave great zeal to the occupation of binding. So charmingly were the bindings ornamented with tools and small blocks reproduced from the text, that we must regret that so few of these monastic bindings are now left to us.
A great number of these books were executed in Germany, where this mode of decoration remained a long time in use; and we find that other countries borrowed from the printer this primitive mode of decoration. As the art progressed the binder's mark was impressed on the cover as an ornament, or as a distinction, such as we find at the present day at the end or after the title of books to denote by what printer the work was executed. Later on, when the Renaissance shone in all its glory and beauty, we find that it freed itself from this limited practice. A new mode of decoration came into use, which we may well study, even at the present day; a style at once rich and varied.
Monastic Tools. If we follow the bold interlacing lines which form the skeletons of those infinite and varied designs, we catch the imaginative caprices of their authors; and the details of their transformation gives us a guide to the different schools and art of their time. The execution of these linear designs is extremely difficult. It can be easily seen that they have not been done by a block engraved in one piece, but with small segments. The art of putting together these small pieces, so as to form one complete and artistic pattern, is the skill of the finisher. Many books are now finished by means of the blocking press; but on close examination, these imitations may be readily distinguished. A blocked cover never has the life and spirit that a hand-finished one has. Of blocking I must speak in subsequent pages.
ANTIQUE WITH GOLD LINE
From Le Gascon's period the tools became thicker and thicker, until we have the heavy tools of Derome, which are much in keeping for books of a serious character. They are original in shape, but their employment was only in borders, leaving the centre of the book free from ornament. I do not pretend to give a history of the various masters, but rather a practical description of the art of bookbinding. Much has already been written about the various works executed by these grand old masters; my endeavour has been to show, that whilst the various masters of the art of bookbinding worked with tools but little altered from their original forms, they so modified and changed them in their character and use, as to form a distinctive mark of style for each artist, by which his work may be recognized.
A pamphlet, published in Paris, 1878, says: "One of the branches of artistic industry in which France possesses unquestionable superiority is certainly bookbinding; the International Exhibitions, and still more the sales of private or other collections, have each day given evident proof of this. Italy, which initiated herself so perfectly in the Renaissance style, and Holland, once her rival in the 17th century, have long ceased to produce any work worthy of remark; everywhere books are being bound, but the 'art' of bookbinding is practised only in France."
I cannot agree with its authors that one must go to France now to have a book bound properly. The method of bookbinding is quite differently managed and worked there than it is here. I have witnessed both methods, and prefer the English one as being more substantial.
Hand-finishing.—We were first taught to work the gold leaf on books by a method not now employed, except, perhaps, by a novice, who wishes to get his books done before his glaire has dried. This method was to damp the cover well with water, either with a wet sponge or by other means. The gold leaf was then laid on, and the tool worked rather warm on the gold. Through the heat or steam generated the gold was burnt in, and the overplus washed off with a damp sponge or rag, the gold being left only in the impressions. If, however, any block or centre was used, it was impressed with heat upon the side in a small lying press in use at the period. This press was known then as an arming press, because used commonly for impressing armorial bearings and monograms on the sides. The term arming press is still used for the lighter kinds of blocking presses.
Hand-finishing, as before stated, is really an art. The finisher should be able to draw, or at least have some knowledge of composition, and also know something about the harmony of colours. The workman not having any knowledge of drawing cannot expect to be a good finisher; because he cannot possibly produce any good designs, or by a combination of the small tools form a perfect and correct pattern. Taste has no small influence in the success of the workman in this branch of the art. It is better to finish books plainly, rather than put on the least portion of gold more than is necessary. If the intentions of the books’ owner is to put some special style or design into his bookcase, it will be well to think over the various styles before deciding upon any particular one. Before going thoroughly into the working details a few preliminary words may be permitted.
Let the tools be always in keeping with the book, both in size and character. Large ones should be used only on a large book, and those of less size for smaller works. A book on Natural History should have a bird, insect, shell, or other tool indicative of the contents. A flower should be used on works on Botany, and all other works be treated in the same emblematical manner; so that the nature of the book may be understood by a glance at the back. In lettering, see that the letters are of a size proportionate to the book—legible, but not too bold. They should neither be so large as to prevent the whole of the title being read at one view, nor so small as to present a difficulty in ascertaining the subject of a book when on the shelf. Amongst a large number of books there should be an agreeable variety of styles, so that the effect may be in harmony with the colours around, and produce as pleasing a contrast as possible.
Tools and Materials required for Finishing.—Rolls, fillets, pallets, centre and corner tools of every possible class and character; type of various sizes for the lettering of books or labels.
The type may be either of brass or of the usual printer's metal; if the latter be chosen, care must be taken that it be not left at the fire too long, or it will melt. Type-holders to hold the type, which are made to fit the respective sizes are necessary, but one or two with a spring side, adjusted by screw at the side, will be found convenient for any sized type. In England it is the custom to letter books with hand letters, each letter being separate and fixed in a handle. I have, however, little doubt that these will in time be laid aside, and that the type and type case will be found in every bookbinder’s shop.
Polishing irons. Of these two are necessary—one for the sides and one for the backs. There is generally a third kept for polishing the board end papers when pasted down, which should be kept for this purpose only.
A gold-rag, to wipe off the surplus gold from the back or side of a book. It should have a little oil well worked into it, so that when it has been wiped over the back or side the gold may adhere and remain in it. This rag when full of gold will be of a dirty yellow, and may then be melted down by any of the gold-refiners and the waste gold recovered.
India-rubber, cut up very small—the smaller the better—and steeped in turpentine, so as to render it as soft as possible, to be used for clearing away any gold not taken off by the gold-rag. This should also be melted down when full.
Gold-cushion, for use as explained in Chapter XVII.
Gold leaf. The best should be used, it keeps its colour better, and is much more easy to work than the commoner metal usually sold.
Sponges, both large and small—the large ones for paste-washing, the smaller for glairing and sizing.
Glaire may be purchased already prepared, or it may be made from the white of egg, which must be very carefully beaten up to a froth with an egg whisk. In breaking the egg care must be taken not to let any of the yolk get amongst the white. A little vinegar should be mixed with the white before beating up, and a drop of ammonia, or a grain or two of common table salt, or a small piece of camphor, will in some measure prevent it from turning putrid, as it is liable to do. Some workmen always have a stock of “good old glaire,” as they term it, by them, fancying that it produces better work, but this is a mistaken notion, often productive of annoyance, and destructive to the comfort of the workmen. I advise the finisher to beat his glaire from an egg as he may require it. When well beaten, allow it to stand for some hours, and then pour the clear liquid into a bottle for use. I have had some dried albumen sent me, but its working has not given me such satisfaction as that freshly prepared; it may answer the purpose in other hands, but with me the gold appears to have been burnt in.
Cotton wool, for taking up the gold leaf and pressing it firmly on the leather.
Varnish should always be used on that part where glaire has been applied, after it has been polished; the object being to retain the brilliancy, and to preserve the leather from the ravages of flies and other insects which are attracted by the glaire; these pests do great damage to the covers of books which have been prepared with glaire, by eating it off. They also take away the surface of
Leo’s Oil Finishing Stove. the leather and spoil the good appearance of the books. Varnish may be purchased at all prices: use only the best, and be very sparing with it.
A small pair of spring dividers, some lard, sweet oil, and lastly, but most important, the finishing stove. Before gas was introduced the finishing stove in use was the now almost extinct charcoal fire. A bookbinder’s gas stove can purchased at almost any gas-fitter’s shop or bookbinders’ material dealers. The price varies according to size.
A stove burning paraffin oil may now be had from Leo of Stuttgart, which he guarantees smokeless and free from soot; where gas is not obtainable, this will be found very handy.
Many still prefer the charcoal fire. To such a stove a pipe should be fixed to conduct the fumes away into the open air or up a chimney. To make such a stove any old tin may be utilized. Make a number of large holes through the sides; fill it with some live charcoal, and place a perforated tin plate on the top. It will keep alight for hours, and impart quite enough heat for any purpose required. This primitive stove, however, must be placed on a stand or on a piece of thick iron, lest it become dangerous. A finishing press is a small press, having two sides of solid wood with
wooden screws at each end, the cheeks should be of width enough to allow the sides of a book to be finished comfortably when the boards are extended, the book itself being held by the press which is screwed up tightly. The press should, however, be light enough to enable the finisher to easily turn it round, as it frequently must be, while finishing a book.
Mr. Leo has a press (patented) which he claims gives more freedom for finishing a book, but with it one can only finish the back of a book; there are, however, many good points that our English makers may well study.
Finishing is divided into two classes—blind or antique, or, as it is sometimes called, monastic and gold-finished.
The term antique is mostly known in the trade; and when morocco antique or calf antique is mentioned, it means that the whole of the finishing is to be done in blind tooling. Not only this, but that the boards should be very thick and bevelled, and the edges either dull gilt or red, or gilt over red. This class of work is used extensively for religious
Leo's Finishing Press. books. A gold line introduced and intermixed with blind work gives a great relief to any class of antique work.
It is not necessary that a special set of tools be kept for antique work, although some would look quite out of keeping if worked in gold. As a general rule antique tools are bold and solid, such as Venetian tools, whilst those for gold work are cut finer and are well shaded. The greater number work equally well in gold and in blind, but when a special style has to be followed the various tools and their adaptation to that style must be studied.
The general colour of the blind work is dark brown, and the proper way of working these antique tools is to take them warm and work them on the damp leather a number of times, thus singeing or burning as it were the surface only, until it has assumed its proper degree of colour. Antique work, as a decoration, requires quite as much dexterity and care as gold work. Every line must be straight, and the tools must be worked properly on the leather, both in colour and depth; and as the tools have to be worked many times on the same spot, it requires a very steady hand and great care not to double them. Some consider blind work as preparatory to gold work, and that it gives experience in the method of handling and working the various tools, and the degree of heat required for different leathers without burning them through. The leather on which this work is mostly executed is morocco and calf.
In finishing the back of a book it must always be held tightly in the "finishing press." When in the press, mark the head and tail as a guide for the pallets by running a folding-stick along the edge of a piece of parchment or vellum held by the finger and thumb of the left hand against the sides of the volume across the back at the proper place. When two or more books of the same character and size are to range together, the backs must be compassed up so that the lines head and tail may run continuous when finished. In using the pallet, hold it firmly in the right hand, and let the working motion proceed from the wrist only, as if it were a pivot. It will be found rather difficult at first to work the pallets straight over the back and even to the sides of the bands, but after a little practice it will become easy to accomplish.
Morocco. Flexible work, as a rule, has blind lines, a broad and a narrow one, worked close to the bands. Damp the back with a sponge and clean water, and work the moisture evenly into the leather with a hard clean brush. Take a pallet of a size suitable to the book, warm it over the stove, and work it firmly over the back. As the leather dries, make the pallet hotter; this will generally be found sufficient to produce the required dark lines. Sometimes it will be necessary to damp the different places two or three times in order to get the proper colour in the blind tooling.
The tools may have a tendency to stick to the leather and possibly burn it. To obviate this, take 11⁄4 oz. of white wax and 1 oz. of deer fat or lard, place them in a pipkin over a fire or in a warm place, so that they may be well mixed together; when mixed allow them to cool. Rub some of this mixture upon the rough or fleshy side of a piece of waste morocco, and when working any tools in blind, rub them occasionally over the prepared surface. This mixture will be found of great service in getting the tools to slip or come away from the leather in working. Lard alone is sometimes used, but this mixture will be found of greater service to any finisher, and the advantage of adding the wax will be apparent.
The lines impressed on the back must now have their gloss given to them. This is done by giggering the pallets over them. Make the pallet rather hot, rub it over the greased piece of leather, and work it backwards and forwards in the impression previously made. Great care must be taken that the pallet be kept steadily in the impressions already made, or they will be doubled. The back is now ready for lettering. This will be found further on, classed under gold work.
To blind tool the side of a book it must be marked with a folder and straight edge, according to the pattern to be produced, and as a guide for the rolls and tools to be used. These lines form the ground plan for any design that has to be worked. Damp the whole of the side with a sponge, and brush it as before directed; then work the fillets along the lines marked. Run them over the same line two or three times. When dry, make the fillet immovable by driving a wooden wedge between the roll and fork, and gigger it backwards and forwards to produce the gloss. If tools are to be worked, make them slightly warm, and as the leather dries make the tool hotter and hotter. This must be repeated as often as is necessary, until the desired depth of colour and gloss is obtained. In using a roll that has a running or continuous pattern, a mark should be made upon the side with a file, at the exact point that first comes in contact with the leather, so that the same flower, scroll, or other design, may always fall in the same place in the repeated workings. It is impossible for a roll to be cut so exactly that it may be worked from any point in the circumference without doubling the design. All blind work is done in the same manner, whether in using a small or a large tool, viz., the leather must be damped and repeatedly worked until the depth of colour is obtained. It is then allowed to dry, and re-worked to produce the gloss. The beauty of blind work consists in making the whole of the finishing of one uniform colour, in other words, avoiding the fault of having any portion of the work of lighter tint than the rest.
Gold Work is far more complicated than blind or antique work, so that it will be better if one practises upon some spare pieces of roan, calf, or morocco before one attempts to finish a book. Gold work is not more difficult than blind tooling, it is only more complicated. The different kinds of leather require such different degrees of heat, that what would fail to make the gold adhere upon one leather would burn through another. The various colours each require their different degrees of heat; as a rule, light fancy colours require less heat than dark ones. The finisher has not only to contend with these difficulties, but he must also become an adept in handling the gold leaf and in using the proper medium by which the gold is made to adhere to the leather. This medium is used in two way—wet and dry. The wet is used for leather, the dry for velvet, satin, silk, and paper.
The wet medium is again divided into two classes, one for non-porous and another for porous leather. Morocco is the principal of the non-porous leathers, with roan and all other imitation morocco.
The porous varieties consist of calf of all kinds, russia, and sheep.
The non-porous leathers need only be washed with thin paste-water or vinegar, and glaired once; but if the glaire be thin or weak it will be necessary to give them a second coat.
The porous varieties must be paste-washed carefully, sized all over very evenly, and glaired once or twice; care being taken that the size and glaire be laid on as evenly as possible.
All this, although apparently so simple, must be well kept in mind, because the great difficulty that apprentices have to contend with is, that they do not know the proper medium for the various leathers, and one book may be prepared too much, while another may have a deficiency, and as a consequence, one book will be spoilt by the preparation cracking, and the gold not adhere to the other. By following the directions here given the finisher will find that his gold will adhere without much trouble, beyond the practice necessary in becoming accustomed to an accurate use of the various tools.
Suppose that a half morocco book is before us to be neatly finished and lettered. Take a broad and narrow pallet of a suitable and proper size, and work it against the bands in blind as a guide for finishing in gold. As the impression need be but very slight, warm the pallet on the gas stove but very little. Choose some suitable tool as a centre piece to go between the bands. Work this also lightly on the back exactly in the centre of each panel. This must be worked as truly as possible and perfectly straight. A line made previously with a folding-stick along the centre of the back will greatly assist in the working of a tool in its proper position. Now wash the back with vinegar, and brush it well with a hard brush to disperse the moisture and drive it equally into the leather; some use paste- water for this purpose instead of vinegar. Paste-water has a tendency to turn grey in the course of time, and this is avoided in using vinegar; vinegar also imparts freshness to the morocco, and keeps it moist a longer time, which is very desirable when finishing morocco.
The impressions made by the broad and narrow pallet and the centre tool are now to be pencilled in with glaire; when dry, pencil in another coat; allow this again to dry, then rub them very slightly with a piece of oiled cotton wool. Take a leaf of gold from the book and spread it out evenly on the gold cushion; cut it as nearly to the various shapes and sizes of the tools as possible. Now take up one of the pieces of gold upon a large pad of cotton wool, previously greased slightly by drawing it over the head. (There is always a sufficient amount of natural grease in the hair to cause the gold to adhere to the cotton when so treated.) Lay the gold gently but firmly on the impressed leather. See that the whole of the impression is covered, and that the gold is not broken. Should it be necessary to put on another piece of gold leaf, gently breathing on the first will make the second adhere. When all the impressions are covered with gold leaf, take one of the tools heated to such a degree that when a drop of water is applied it does not hiss but dries instantly; work it exactly in the blind impressions. Repeat this to the whole of the impressions, and wipe the overplus of gold off with the gold rag. The impressions are now supposed to be worked properly in gold; but if there are any parts where the gold does not adhere, they must be re-glaired and worked in again. A saucer should be placed near at hand, with water and a piece of rag or a sponge in it, to cool any tool and reduce it to its proper heat before using. If the tool be used too hot, the gold impression will be dull; if too cold, the gold will not adhere. To use all tools of the exact degree of heat required is one of the experiences of the skilled workman. The back is now ready for the title. Set up the proper words in a type-case, of a type sufficiently large and suitable to the book. The chief word of the title should be in somewhat larger size than the rest, the others diminishing, so that a pleasant arrangement of form be attained. In order to adjust the length of the words, it may be necessary to space some of them—that is, to put between each letter a small piece of metal called a space. Square the type, or make the face of the letters perfectly level, by pressing the face of them against a flat surface before tightening the screw. They must be exactly level one with another, or in the working some of them will be invisible. Screw up the type-case, warm it over the finishing stove, and work the letters carefully in blind as a guide. Damp the whole of the lettering space with vinegar. When dry, pencil the impressions in twice with glaire. Then lay the gold on and work them in gold.
But with lead type and a spring type-case (a method more suitable for some binders on account of its relative cheapness and the convenience of the case fitting itself to the different sizes of the type, of which the binder will want a selection of various sizes), the type-case must be warmed before the type is put in. The heat of the case should impart sufficient heat for the type to be worked properly. If the case and type be put on the stove, the type will probably be melted if not watched very narrowly. Hand letters are letters fixed in handles, each used as a single tool. The letters should be arranged in alphabetical order round the finishing stove, and as each letter is wanted it is taken from the order, worked, and replaced. They are still very much used in England, but where two or more books are to have the same lettering, brass type is very much better. It does its work more uniformly than hand letters, however skillfully used.
When this simple finishing can be executed properly and with ease, a more difficult task of finishing may be attempted, such as a full gilt back. This is done in two ways, a "run-up" back and a "mitred" back. As a general rule morocco is always mitred. Place the book on its side, lift up the mill-board, and make a mark head and tail on the back, a little away from the hinge of the back. Then with a folder and straight edge mark the whole length of the back: this is to be done on both sides. Make another line the whole length down the exact centre of the back. With a pair of dividers take the measurement of the spaces between the bands, and mark the size, head and tail, for the panels from the top and bottom band; with a folder and strip of parchment make a line across the back, head and tail, at the mark made by the dividers. Work a thin broad and narrow pallet alongside the bands in blind. Prepare the whole of the back with vinegar and glaire, as above described, but lay the glaire on with a sponge. When dry, lay the gold on, covering the whole of the back with it,mending any breaks. For mitreing, take a two-line pallet that has the ends cut at an angle of 45°, so that the joint at that angle may be perfect. Work this on the side at the
Showing progressive Stages of Finishing.
Cut showing the use
of Mitrepiece. the centre, and large enough to fit the panel. Work these from the sides of the square made, or from the centre of the panel, as will be found most convenient, according to the thickness of the book and style of finishing, and then fill in any small stops. When the whole is done, rub the gold off with the gold-rag, and use the india-rubber if necessary. The title has now to be put on, which is done in the same manner as before described.
It is not always necessary that the finishing be done in blind first. I have explained it, and advocate its being so worked first as easier for a learner. One who is accustomed to finishing finds that a few lines marked previously with a folding-stick is all that is required. When working the title, a thread of silk drawn tightly across the gold produces a line sufficient, and is the only guide that an experienced workman requires.
To finish a side, make a mark with the folder and straight edge as a guide for any rolls or fillets. Prepare the leather as before described where the ornamentation is to come; but if the pattern is elaborate it must be worked first in blind. As a greater facility, take a piece of paper of good quality and well sized. Draw the pattern you wish to produce on the paper, and if any tools are to be used, hold them over the flame of gas; this will smoke them so that they may be worked on the paper in black. When the pattern is complete in every detail, tip the four corners of the paper with a little paste, then work the pattern through the paper on to the leather, using the various sized gouges as the scrolls require, and a single line fillet where there are lines. Work thus the complete pattern in blind. This being done completely, take the paper off from the four corners, place it on the other side, and work it in the same way. Prepare the leather with vinegar, and pencil out with glaire the whole of the pattern. If the whole side be glaired with a sponge it will leave a glossy appearance that is very undesirable. The whole of the side is now to be laid on with gold, and the pattern worked again with the warm tools, in the previous or blind impressions.
The inside of a book is generally finished before the outside. This should be done as neatly as possible, carefully mitreing the corners when any lines are used. Most frequently a roll is used, thus saving a great deal of time. A style was introduced in France called "doublé," the inside of the board being covered with a coloured morocco different to the outside, instead of having board papers. This inside leather was very elaborately finished; generally with a "dentelle" border, while the outside had only a line or two in blind. It is a style which, although very good in itself, is not now in great request, many prefer to have the finishing outside rather than to have it covered up and not seen when the book is shut.The edges of the boards and the headbands must be finished either in gold or blind, according to fancy, but in keeping with the rest of the embellishment. A fine line worked on the centre of the edge of the board by means of a fillet looks better, and of course requires more pains than simply running a roll over it. If it is to be in gold, simply glairing the edge is sufficient. Lay on the gold and work the fillet carefully. Place the book on its ends in the
Imitation morocco is generally used for publishers' bindings, where books are in large numbers and small in price, and the finishing is all done with the blocking press; To finish this leather by hand, it is advisable to wash it with paste-water and glaire twice.
Roan is generally used for circulating library work, and is very seldom finished with more than a few lines and the title across the back. This leather is prepared with paste-wash and glaire, and, when complete, varnished over the whole surface.
Inlaid Work.—Inlaid, or mosaic work, is used only in the higher branches of bookbinding. Formerly books were not inlaid, but painted with various colours. Grolier used a great deal of black, white, and green. Mr. Tuckett, the late binder to the British Museum, took out a patent for extracting one colour from leather and substituting another by chemical action. This method, however, was in use and known long before he turned his attention to the subject, although he improved greatly upon the old practice. As the patent has long expired, it may not be out of place to give an extract from the specification: "Take dark chocolate colour, and after the design has been traced thereon, it is then to be picked out or pencilled in with suitable chemicals, say diluted nitric acid; this will change the chocolate, leaving the design a bright red on a chocolate ground." But to lay on the various colours with leather is, no doubt, by far the better plan. Paint has a tendency in time to crack, and, if acids are used, they will, to a certain extent, rot or destroy the leather; but if leather is used it will always retain both colour and texture. To choose the proper colours that will harmonize with the ground, give tone, and produce a pleasing effect, requires a certain amount of study. Morocco is the leather generally used, but in Vienna calf has been used with very good results. If the pattern to be inlaid be very small, steel punches of the exact shape of the tools are used to punch or cut out the patterns required. To do this, work the pattern in blind on the side of the book; take morocco of a different colour to the ground it is required to decorate, and pare it down as thin as possible. Lay it on a slab of lead. Lead is better than anything else on account of its softness; the marks made by the punch can always be beaten out again, and when quite used up it may be re-melted and run out anew. Now take the steel punch of an exact facsimile of the tool used that is to be inlaid, and punch out from the leather the required number. These are to be pasted and laid very carefully on the exact spot made by the blind-tooling; press each down well into the leather, either with a folding-stick or the fingers, so that it adheres properly. When dry, the book should be pressed between polished plates, in order that the pieces that have been laid on, may be pressed well into the ground leather. When it has been pressed, the whole of the leather must be prepared as for morocco, and finished in gold. The tools in the working will hide all the edges of the various inlaid pieces, provided they are laid on exactly.If interlacing bands are to be of various colours, the bands must be cut out. Pare the leather thin, and after working the pattern through the paper on to the sides of the book, lay it on the thinly pared leather; with a very sharp and pointed knife cut through the paper and leather together on a soft board. Or the design may be worked or drawn on a thin board, and the various bands cut out
Another method is to work the pattern in blind on the sides. Pare the morocco thin, and while damp place it upon the portion of the pattern to be inlaid, and press it well with the fingers, so that the design is impressed into it. Lay the leather carefully on some soft board, and cut round the lines made visible by the pressure with a very sharp knife. When cut out, paste and lay them on the book and prepare as before, and finish in gold. I do not recommend this last method as being of much value; I give it only because it is sometimes chosen; but for any good work, where accuracy is required, either of the plans mentioned previously are to be preferred.
The Viennese work their calf in quite a different manner, in fact, in the same way that the cabinet-makers inlay their woodwork. With a very sharp and thin knife they cut right through two leathers laid the one on the other. The bottom one is then lifted out and replaced by the top one. By this method the one fits exactly into the other, so that, if properly done, the junctions are so neatly made that no finishing is required to cover the line where the two colours meet.
The frontispiece to this treatise is a copy of a book bound by my father for one of the Exhibitions. The ground is of red morocco, inlaid with green, brown, and black morocco. The pattern may be called "Renaissance." The inside of the boards are "Grolier," inlaid as elaborately as the outside. Seven months' labour was expended on the outside decoration of this volume.
Porous.—Calf, as before described, requires more and different preparation than morocco, on account of its soft and absorbing nature. As a foundation or groundwork, paste of different degrees of strength is used, according to the various work required.
Calf books have generally a morocco lettering piece of a different colour to the calf on the back for the title. This is, however, optional, and may or may not be used, according to taste. Leather lettering pieces have a great tendency to peel off, especially if the book be exposed to a hot atmosphere, or if the paste has been badly made, so that it is perhaps better if the calf itself be lettered. There is no doubt that a better effect is produced in a bookcase when a good assortment of coloured lettering pieces are placed on the variously coloured backs, and the titles can be more easily read than if they were upon light or sprinkled calf; but where wear and tear have to be studied, as in public libraries, a volume should not have any lettering pieces. All such books should be lettered on their natural ground.
For lettering pieces, take morocco of any colour, according to fancy, and having wetted it to facilitate the work, pare it down as thin and as evenly as possible. Cut it to size of the panel or space it is intended to fit. When cut truly, pare the edges all round, paste it well, put it on the place and rub well down. Should the book require two pieces—or one for the title, and one for the volume or contents—it is better to vary the colours. I must caution the workman not to allow the leather to come over on to the joint, as by the frequent opening or moving of the boards the edge of the leather will become loose. A very good plan as a substitute for lettering pieces is to colour the calf either dark brown or black, thus saving the leather at the expense of a little more time. When the lettering pieces are dry, mark the back, head and tail, for the pallets or other tools with a folding-stick. Apply with a brush paste all over the back. With a thick folding-stick, or with the handle of an old tooth brush, which is better, rub the paste into the back. Before it has time to dry, take the overplus off with rather a hard sponge, dipped in thin paste-water. The learner will perhaps wonder why paste of full strength should be used for the back, and only paste-water for the sides. The reason is, that through the stretching of the leather over the back in covering, the pores are more open, and consequently require more filling up to make a firm ground. Much depends upon the groundwork being properly applied; and a general caution with regard to the working in general may not be here amiss. Finishing, above all other departments, demands perfect cleanliness. A book may have the most graceful designs, the tools be worked perfectly and clearly, but be spoiled by having a dirty appearance. See that everything is clean—paste-water, size, glaire, sponges, and brushes. Do not lay any gold on until the preparation be perfectly dry, or the gold will adhere and cause a dirty yellow stain where wiped off.
Should the calf book be intended to have only a pallet alongside the bands, it is only necessary, when the paste-wash is quite dry, to glaire that portion which is to be gilt: this is usually done with a camel's hair brush, by laying on two coats. When dry, cut the gold into strips, and take one up on the pallet and work it on the calf. This is what is termed calf neat. The band on each side is gilt, leaving the rest of the leather in its natural state. Some binders polish their backs instead of leaving them dead or dull. This, however, is entirely according to taste, whether so large a space be left polished only.Full Gilt Back.—Run-up. Make a mark up the back on both sides a little away from the joint with a folder and
Samples of Backs suitable for Calf Work.
Calf requires very quick working. The tools should not be held over the various places too long, or the heat will destroy the adherent properties of the albumen. With morocco time does not signify so much, as the heat used is not so great.
Mitred back must be prepared the same way as for "run-up back," and the mitreing is to be done as explained in working morocco. As before stated, this is superior work and requires more skill; takes longer, but looks much better: each panel should be an exact facsimile of the rest. If the tools do not occupy precisely similar places in each panel, the result will be very unsatisfactory, and an evidence of a want of skill. When the backs are finished, rub the gold off with the gold-rag, and clear off any residue with the india-rubber. Be very careful that every particle of the surplus gold be cleaned off, or the delicate lines of the ornaments will be obscure and ragged in appearance.
The book is now ready for lettering. Set the type up in the case, and work it carefully in a perfectly straight line over the back. The whole of the back is now to be polished with the polishing iron, which must be perfectly clean and bright before it is used. Prepare a board from an old calf binding, by rubbing some fine emery or charcoal and lard over the leather side of it. By rubbing the iron over this prepared surface it will acquire a bright polish. It must be used over the back by holding it lightly, and giving it an oblong circular motion. Go over every portion of the back with very even pressure, so that no part may be made more glossy than another. The polishing iron should be used rather warmer than the tools. If the iron be too hot the glaire will turn white; if too cold the polish will be dull. The grease upon the leather will be quite sufficient to make the polisher glide easily over the surface, but the operation must be rapidly and evenly done. All light and green calf require less heat than any other kinds. These will turn black if the iron be in the least degree too hot.
It is in finishing the sides that the workman can show his good taste and skill. The sides should be always in keeping with the back; or, more strictly speaking, the back should be in keeping with the sides. Before the sides can be finished, the inside of the boards must occupy our attention. With a "run-up" back, the edge of the leather round the end papers is to be worked either in blind or have a roll round it in gold. In any case it should be paste-washed. If for blind, the roll is to be heated and worked round it; if for gold, it must be glaired twice. The gold, cut into strips, is to be taken up on the roll and worked, and the overplus taken off with the gold-rag as before directed. Extra work, such as mitred work, should have some lines, or other neat design impressed. Paste-wash the leather, and when dry glaire twice. When again dry lay on the gold all round, and work the roll or other fillets, or such other tool that may be in keeping with the exterior work. When the gold has been wiped off, the leather should be polished with the polishing iron.
The outside must now be finished. Are the sides to be polished, or left plain? If they are not to be polished, paste-wash the whole of the side up to the edge of the back carefully, then glaire only that portion which is to be gilt. Generally a two-line fillet only is used round the edge, so that the width of the fillet or roll must determine the width to be glaired. When glaired twice and dry, take up the gold on the fillet or roll and work it evenly and straightly round the edge. The comers where the lines meet are next to be stopped by working a small rosette or small star on them. Clean off any gold that may be on the side, and work a small dotted or pin-head roll at the edge of the glaire. This will cover and conceal the edge.
Extra calf books generally have the sides polished. Paste-wash the sides all over, and when dry size them. Hold the book, if small, in the left hand, if large, lay it on the press and work the sponge over the side in a circular direction, so that the size may be laid on as evenly as possible. Be very careful that it does not froth; should it do so, squeeze the sponge out as dry as possible, and fill it anew with fresh size. Some workmen work the sponge up and down the book, but if this be not done very evenly it produces streaks. The finisher will find he can lay a more even coating on by using the sponge in a circular direction. Allow this to dry by leaving the book with boards extended. When perfectly dry glaire once. This will be found sufficient, as the size gives body to the glaire. When sizeing and glairing, be assured that the book be laid down with the boards extended on a level surface: if the book be not level, the size or glaire will run down to the lowest portion of the surface, and become unequally distributed. The gold is now to be laid on the respective places, either broad or narrow, according to the nature of the finishing or width of the rolls. As a general rule, the sides of the better class of calf books have nothing more than a three-line round the edge and mitred in the corners. This is, however, quite a matter of taste. Some have a border of fancy rolls, but never any elaborate pattern as in morocco work. To finish the sides, place the book in the finishing press with the boards extended, so that they may rest on the press. This will afford greater facility for working the fillets, rolls, and tools necessary to complete the design on each side. The finishing press being a small one, can be easily turned round as each edge of the border is finished.
To polish the sides, place the book on its side on some soft surface, such as a board covered with baize, and kept for the purpose. Use the large and heavy polishing iron, hot and clean. Rub or work the iron quickly and firmly over the sides, first from the groove towards the foredge, and then in a contrary direction, from the tail to the head, by turning the volume. The oil or grease applied to the cover previous to laying on the gold will be sufficient to allow the polisher to glide easily over the surface. Polishing has also the effect of smoothing down the burr formed on the leather by the gilding tools, and bringing the impressions slightly to the surface. The iron must be held very evenly, so that the centre of the iron may be the working portion. If held sideways the edge of the iron will indent the leather. The heat must be sufficient to give a polish. It must be remembered that if the iron is too hot it will cause the glaire to turn white. The temperature must be well tested before it be applied to the cover. A practised finisher can generally tell the proper heat on holding the iron at some little distance from his face, by the heat radiated from the iron. Calf books should be pressed, whether polished or not.
Pressing.—Plates of japanned tin or polished horn are proper for this purpose. Put pressing tins between the book and the mill-boards: the tins must be up to the joint. Now place one of the japanned plates on the side level with the groove; turn book and japanned plate over carefully together, so that neither shifts; place another of the polished plates on the top of the book, thus placing the book between two polished surfaces. Put the book into the standing press, and screw down tightly. Leave in for some hours. "When pressed sufficiently, take the book out, and if the sides be polished, varnish them.
Make a little pad of cotton wool, saturate the lower portion with varnish; rub it on a piece of waste paper to equalize the varnish, then work the pad over the side as quickly as possible in a circular direction. Renew the wool with varnish for the other side. Enough must be taken on the pad to varnish the whole side, or the delay caused by renewing the varnish on the cotton will cause a streaked surface. When the varnish is perfectly dry—a few minutes will suffice—the book must be again pressed. To do this, rub the gold-rag, which is greased, over the sides, this will prevent the sides from sticking to the polished plates. Place the book between the plates as before, leaving out the pressing tins, and place in the standing press. Only little pressure must now be given; if the press be screwed down too tightly the plates will stick to the. book. The varnish must be of good quality, and perfectly dry, or the result will be the same. Half an hour in the press will be found quite long enough. Should the plates stick, there is no other remedy than washing off the varnish with spirits of wine, and the glaire and size with warm water, and carefully re-preparing the surface as before. This is, however, an accident that cannot happen if due care and judgment be exercised.
Graining.—Graining is now used very much on calf books. It may be properly considered as a blind ornament. It is done by means of wooden, or, better still, copper plates cut out in various patterns, so as to form small squares, scales of fish, or an imitation of morocco. Place the volume between two of these plates, level to the groove of the back, in the standing press; screw down tightly. The pressure should be equal over the whole surface. Nothing looks worse than a bold impression in one place and a slight one in another, so that it is rather important that it be evenly pressed; a second application of the plates is impracticable. Graining has the advantage of hiding any finger-marks that may accidentally be on the calf, and also partly conceals any imperfections in the leather.
The state of the weather must in a great measure guide the finisher as to the proper number of volumes he ought to prepare at one time. The leather should always be a little moist, or, in other words, rather fresh. In winter double the number of books may be prepared, and the gold laid on, than the dryness of a summer's day will permit. If books are laid on over night the tools must be used very hot in working them the next morning, or the gold will not adhere. During summer, flies will eat the glaire from various places while the book is lying or standing out to dry, so that constant vigilance must be kept to avoid these pests.
Russia is prepared in the same way as calf, but is usually worked with more blind tools than gold, and the sides are not as a rule polished, so that the size and glaire are dispensed with, except on those parts where it is to be finished in gold; those portions need be only paste-washed and glaired once, without any size.
Finishing with Dry Preparation.—The dry preparation is used for silk, velvet, paper, or any other material that would be stained by the employment of the wet process. There are a number of receipts in the trade and in use.
Take the white of eggs, and dry by spreading it somewhat thickly over glass plates, taking care to preserve it from dust. When dry it will chip off readily, if the glass has been previously very slightly oiled or greased. It must not be exposed to more heat than 40° Reaum., or the quality of the albumen will be destroyed. The dried mass is to be well powdered in a porcelain mortar.
Or, take equal portions of gum mastic, gum sandrac, gum arabic, and powder them well in a mortar. This powder, if good work be desired, must be ground into an impalpable powder. When powdered put it into a box or bottle, and tie three or four thicknesses of fine muslin over the mouth. By tapping the inverted box, or shaking it over the lines or letters, the dust will fall through in a fine shower. The powder should fall only on the part to be gilt. Cut the gold into strips, take it up upon the tool, and work rather hot. The overplus of the powder can be brushed away when the finishing is completed. Finishing powder is now sold commercially.
Velvet is very seldom finished beyond having the title put on, and this should be worked in blind first and with moderately large letters, or the pile will hide them.
Silk is finished more easily, and can, if care be taken, have rather elaborate work put upon it. In such a case, the lines or tools, which must be blinded-in first, may be glaired. For this purpose the glaire must be put in a saucer or plate in the free air for a day or two, so that a certain amount of water or moisture of the glaire may be evaporated; but it must not be too stiff so as to prevent the brush going freely over the stuff. Great care, however, must be taken, or the glaire will spread and cause a stain. A thin coat of paste-water will give silk a body and keep the glaire from spreading to a certain extent, but I think the best medium for silk is the dry one, and it is always ready for instant use. In using glaire the gold is laid on the silk, but on no account must any oil or lard be rubbed on it for the temporary holding of the gold. Rub the parts intended for the gold with the finger (passed through the hair), or with a clean rag lightly oiled, and when the tools are re-impressed a clean piece of flannel should be used to wipe off the superfluous gold.
Blocking has been used lately on silk with some success in Germany. The blocking plate is taken out of the press, and the gold is laid on it, and then replaced in the press. The finishing powder is freely distributed over the silk side, which is laid on the bed of the press. On pulling the lever over, the block descends and imprints the design in gold on the silk. This process may be applied to velvet, but velvet never takes the sharpness of the design on account of the pile, so that as a rule it is left in its natural state.
Vellum.—The Dutch, as a nation, appear to have been the first to bind books in vellum. It was then a simple kind of casing, with hollow backs. A later improvement of theirs was that of sewing the book on double raised cords, and making the book with a tight back, similar to the way in which our flexible books are now done, showing the raised bands. The ornamentation was entirely in blind, both on the back and sides, and the tools used were of a very solid character.
This art of binding in vellum seems to be entirely lost at the present day; its imperishable nature is indeed its only recommendation. It has little beauty; is exceedingly harsh; and little variety can be produced even in the finishing.
There are two or three kinds of vellum prepared from calf skins at the present day, thanks to the progress of invention. First, we have the prepared or artist's vellum, with a very white artificial surface; then the Oxford vellum, the surface of which is left in its natural state; the Roman vellum, which has a darker appearance. Parchment is an inferior animal membrane prepared from sheepskins after the manner of vellum, and this is very successfully imitated by vegetable parchment, made by immersing unsized paper for a few seconds in a bath of diluted oil of vitriol. This preparation resembles the animal parchment so closely that it is not easy to distinguish the difference. It is used very extensively in France for wrappering the better class of literature, instead of issuing them in cloth as is the custom here.
The method of finishing vellum is altogether different to leather. On account of its very hard and compact nature, it requires no other ground or preparation than glaire for gold work.
The cover should be very carefully washed with a soft sponge and clean water, to clean off any dirt or finger-marks, and to make the book look as fresh as possible. This washing must be very carefully done by going over the surface as few times as possible. This caution applies particularly to the prepared or artist vellum, as each washing will take off a certain amount of the surface, so that the more it is damped and rubbed the more the surface will be disturbed and the beauty destroyed. It requires some experience to distinguish the flesh and leather surfaces of prepared vellum, but this experience must be acquired, because it is absolutely necessary that the leather side should be outward when the book is covered, for two reasons: the flesh side is more fibrous, and adheres better to the boards than the leather side, and the leather side is less liable to have its surface disturbed in the process of washing.
The parts that are to be gilt must be glaired, but as the glaire will show its presence, or, more strictly speaking, leave rather a dirty mark, the tools should first be worked in blind, and the glaire laid on carefully up to their outer edge. When dry, lay the gold on and work the tool in. Let the tools be only moderately warm: if too hot they will go through to the mill-board, leaving their mark as if they had been cut out with a knife.
As a rule no very heavy tooling is ever put on vellum, the beauty lies in keeping the vellum as clean as possible. The tooling being, comparatively speaking, on the surface, owing to the thinness of the skin, requires a very competent and clean workman to produce anything like good work on vellum.
Vellum is of so greasy a nature that, if a title-piece of leather has to be put on, it will be found that there is a great difficulty in making it adhere properly unless some special precaution be taken. The best plan is to scrape the surface where the leather is intended to be placed with the edge of a knife. This will produce a rough and fibrous ground on which to place the pasted leather. This leather, when dry, must be prepared with paste-water and glaire, in the same manner as with other books.
In the foregoing instructions for finishing a book, the most that can be looked for towards teaching either the apprentice or the unskilled workman is to give him an idea how it is accomplished by practised hands. Pure taste, a correct eye, and a steady hand, are not given to all in common. The most minute instructions, detail by detail, cannot make a workman if Nature has denied these gifts. I have known men whose skill in working a design could not be excelled, but who could not be trusted to gild a back without instructions. Others, whose ideas of design were not contemptible, could not tool two panels of a back in perfect uniformity. Some also have so little idea of harmony of colour, that without strict supervision they would give every volume the coat of a harlequin. In a word, a first-rate bookbinder is nascitur non ƒit, and although the hints and instructions I have penned may not be sufficient to make a workman, I trust they will be found of some value to the skilled as well as to the less practised craftsman.
Blocking.—The growing demand for books that were at once cheap and pretty, became so strong, that mechanical appliances were invented to facilitate their ornamentation; and thus we have the introduction of the present blocking press.
I will not follow too closely the various improvements introduced at different periods, but roughly describe the blocking press, without which cheap bookbinding cannot be done at the present day. There can be no doubt that this press owes its extensive use to the introduction of publishers' cloth work.
Formerly, when the covers of books were blocked, a small lying or other press was used. The block, previously heated, was placed on the book, and the screw or screws turned to get a sufficient pressure. It often happened that the pressure was either too much or too little: the block either by the one accident sank into the leather too deeply, or by the other the gold failed to adhere, and it required a good workman to work a block properly.
The first press to be noticed is a Balancier, having a moveable bed, a heating box, heated by means of red-hot irons, two side pillars to guide the box in a true line, and attached to it a screw connected at the top with a bar or arm, having at each extremity an iron ball. The block, having been fixed to a plate at the bottom of the heated box, the side of the book was laid down on the bed, and by swinging the arm round the block descended upon the book. The arm was then swung back, and the next book put into place. It will be seen that this incurred a great loss of time.
The next improvement consisted in having a press that only moved a quarter circle, with almost instantaneous action; and another improvement connected with the bed was, that by means of screws and gauges, when the block was once set, a boy or an inexperienced hand might with ease finish off hundreds of copies, all with equal pressure. By referring to the woodcut opposite, the press and its action will be seen and understood. The box may be heated with gas, and kept at a constant and regulated temperature the whole time of working. It can be adjusted to any amount of pressure, as it is regulated by the bed underneath.
The next step in progress was the introduction of printing in different colours upon the cloth, and intermixing them with gold. Messrs. Hopkinson and Cope's machines may be mentioned. They are made to be driven by steam, and will print and emboss from 500 to 600 covers per hour, and are heated by steam or gas. The inking apparatus is placed at the back of the press, so that while the workman is placing another cover, the ink roller, by automatic action, inks the block ready for the next impression. The inking or printing of the covers is done without heat, so, to avoid loss of time, an arrangement is made that the heating box can be cooled immediately by a stream of water passed through it.
Messrs. Kampe and Co. have just brought out a blocking machine, which they claim to be superior to any in the trade. It will block at the rate of 700 to 800 covers per hour. The pressure is obtained by one of the most powerful of mechanical appliances, and it can be adjusted to block either paper or leather.
The tools required for blocking are called blocks or stamps. These may be composed of very small pieces, or may be of one block cut to the size of the book. In any case, the block has to be fastened to the moveable plate at the bottom of the heating box. To block the sides of a book, take a stout piece of paper and glue it upon a moveable plate. Then take the book, and having set the blocks upon the side in exact position, place the side or board upon which are placed the blocks upon the bed of the blocking press, leaving the volume hanging down in front of the press. The bed is now to be fixed, so that the centre of the board is exactly under and in the centre of the heating box. When quite true, the sides and back gauges are fixed by screws. Pull the lever so that a slight pressure upon the plate be given :release the press, and take out the book and examine if all be correct. Some of the blocks may require a small piece of paper as a pad, so as to increase the pressure, others to be shifted a little. Now glue the back of the stamps and replace them in their respective places. Place the whole under the top plate in the press, heat the box, and pull the lever over; and let the book remain for some little time to set the glue. Take out the book, examine if perfectly square and correct, but replace it with a soft mill-board under the stamps, and pull down the press. The lever must remain over, and the blocks be under pressure until the glue is hardened.
Another method is to glue upon the plate a piece of thick paper and mark upon it the exact size of the book to be blocked. Strike upon the plate from the size the centre, and from that any other lines that may assist in placing the blocks. Arrange the blocks upon the plate so as to form the design; when correct, paste the blocks on their backs and replace them on the plate. When the paste adheres a little, turn the plate over and put it into the press. Apply heat to the box; pull the lever over, and when the paste is set, regulate the bed and gauges.
When the press is properly heated, throw back the lever; take out the mill-board from under the stamp, and regulate the degree of pressure required by the side-screw under or over the bed. Place upon the bed the side to be stamped, hold it firmly against the guides with the left hand, and with the right draw the lever quickly to the front. This straightens the toggels and forces down the heating box, causing a sharp impression of the stamp upon the leather or other material. Throw or let the lever go back sharply, and take out the book. If the block be of such a design that it must not be inverted, the whole of the covers must be blocked on one side first, and the block turned round for the other side, or the design will be upside down.
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.
- There are a few exceptions to this on a few old books of 12mo. size. One may now and then see such designs worked in one piece certainly by a block.
- Messrs. Cow and Co., Cheapside, have lately prepared my rubber ready for use. I find it of great convenience.
- Other leathers are often used instead of morocco, even paper; in fact a specially prepared paper is largely sold in Germany for this purpose.
- The moveable plate is also called the platen.