The Art of Bookbinding/Chapter 3

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The Art of Bookbinding by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf
Chapter III.



To collate, is to ensure that each sheet or leaf is in its proper sequence. Putting the sheets together and placing plates or maps requires great attention. The sheets must run in proper order by the signatures: letters are mostly used, but numbers are sometimes substituted. When letters are used, the alphabet is repeated as often as necessary, doubling the letter as often as a new alphabet is used, as B, C, with the first alphabet,[1] and AA, BB, CC or Aa, Bb, Cc, with the second repetition, and three letters with the third, generally leaving out J, V, W. Plates must be trimmed or cut to the proper size before being placed in the book, and maps that are to be folded must be put on guards. By mounting a map on a guard the size of the page, it may be kept open on the table beside the book, which may be opened at any part without concealing the map: by this method the map will remain convenient for constant reference. This is technically called "throwing out" a map.

To collate a book, it is to be held in the right hand, at the right top corner, then, with a turn of the wrist, the back must be brought to the front. Fan the sections out, then with the left hand the sheets must be brought back to an angle, which will cause them when released to spring forward, so that the letter on the right bottom corner of each sheet is seen, and then released, and the next brought into view. When a work is completed in more than one volume, the number of the volume is indicated at the left hand bottom corner of each sheet. I need hardly mention that the title should come first, then the dedication (if one), preface, contents, then the text, and finally the index. The number on the pages will, however, always direct the binder as to the placing of the sheets. The book should always be beaten or rolled before placing plates or maps, especially coloured ones.

Diagram of a guard, to the left, and an unfolded map - each of its six sections the same size and dimensions as the guard

Presuming that we have a book with half a dozen plates, the first thing after ascertaining that the letter-press is perfect, is to see that all the plates are there, by looking to the "List of Plates," printed generally after the contents. The plates should then be squared or cut truly, using a sharp knife and straight edge. When the plates are printed on paper larger than the book, they must be cut down to the proper size, leaving a somewhat less margin at the back than there will be at the foredge when the book is cut. Some plates have to face to the left, some to the right, the frontispiece for instance; but as a general rule, plates should be placed on the right hand, so that on opening the book they all face upwards. When plates consist of subjects that are at a right angle with the text, such as views and landscapes, the inscription should always be placed to the right hand, whether the plate face to the right or to the left page. If the plates are on thick paper they should be guarded, either by adding a piece of paper of the same thickness or by cutting a piece from the plate and then joining the two again together with a piece of linen, so that the plate moves on the linen hinge: the space between the guard and plate should be more than equal to the thickness of the paper. If the plate is almost a cardboard, it is better and stronger if linen be placed both back and front. Should the book consist of plates only, sections may be made by placing two plates and two guards together, and sewing through the centre between the guards, leaving of course a space between the two guards, which will form the back.

With regard to maps that have to be mounted, it is better to mount them on the finest linen, as it takes up the least room in the thickness of the book. The linen should be cut a little larger than the map itself, with a further piece left, on which to mount the extra piece of paper, so that the map may be thrown out as before described. The map should first be trimmed at its back, then pasted with rather thin paste; the linen should then be laid carefully on, and gently rubbed down and turned over, so that the map comes uppermost; the pasted guard should then be placed a little away from the map, and the whole well rubbed down, and finally laid out flat to dry. To do this work, the paste must be clean, free from all lumps, and used very evenly and not too thickly, or when dry every mark of the brush will be visible. When the map is dry it should be trimmed all round and folded to its proper size, viz.—a trifle smaller than the book will be when cut. If it is left larger the folds will naturally be cut away, and the only remedy will be a new map, which means a new copy of the work. For all folded maps or plates a corresponding thickness must be placed in the backs where the maps go, or the foredge will be thicker than the back. Pieces of paper called guards, are folded from ¼ inch to 1 inch in width, according to the size of the book, and placed in the back, and sewn through as a section. Great care must be taken that these guards are not folded too large, so as to overlap the folds of the map, if they do so, the object of their being placed there to make the thickness of the back and foredge equal will be defeated.

Drawing of an open book with an unfolded map protruding from the pages half-way down th right-hand side.

Shewing Book with Map thrown out.

In a great measure, the whole beauty of the inside work rests in properly collating the book, in guarding maps, and in placing the plates. When pasting in any single leaves or plates, a piece of waste paper should always be placed on the leaf or plate the required distance from the edge to be pasted, so that the leaf is pasted straight. It takes no longer to lay the plate down upon the edge of a board with a paper on the plate, than it does to hold the plate in the left hand, and apply the paste with the right hand middle finger; by the former method a proper amount of paste is deposited evenly on the plate and it is pasted in a straight line; by the latter method, it is pasted in some places thickly, and in some places none at all. I have often seen books with the plates fastened to the book nearly half way up to its foredge, and thus spoilt, only through the slovenly way of pasting. After having placed the plates, the collater should go through them again when dry, to see if they adhere properly, and break or fold them over up to the pasting, with a folding stick, so that they will lie flat when the book is open. I must again call attention to coloured plates. They should be looked to during the whole of binding, especially after pressing. The amount of gum that is put on the surface, which is very easily seen by the gloss, causes them to stick to the letter-press: should they so stick, do not try to tear them apart, but warm a polishing iron and pass it over the plate and letter-press, placing a piece of paper between the iron and the book to avoid dirt. The heat and moisture will soften the gum, and the surfaces can then be very, easily separated. By rubbing a little powdered French chalk over the coloured plates before sticking them in, these ill effects will be avoided.

It sometimes happens that the whole of a book is composed of single leaves, as the "Art Journal." Such a book should be collated properly, and the plates placed to their respective places, squared and broken over, by placing a straight edge or runner about half an inch from its back edge, and running a folder under the plate, thus lifting it to the edge of the runner. The whole book should then be pressed for a few hours, taken out, and the back glued up; the back having been previously roughed with the side edge of the saw. To glue such a back, the book is placed in the lying press between boards, with the back projecting about an eighth of an inch, the saw is then drawn over it, with its side edge, so that the paper is as it were rasped. The back is then sawn in properly, as explained in the next chapter, and the whole back is glued. When dry, the book is separated into divisions or sections of four, six, or eight leaves, according to the thickness of the paper, and each section is then overcast or over sewn along its whole length, the thread being fastened at the head and tail (or top and bottom); thus each section is made independent of its neighbour. The sections should then be gently struck along the back edge with a hammer against a knocking-down iron, so as to imbed the thread into the paper, or the back will be too thick. The thread should not be struck so hard as to cut the paper, or break the thread, but very gently. Two or three sections may be taken at a time.

After having placed the plates, the book should be put into the press (standing or otherwise) for a few hours. A standing press is used in all good bookbinding shops.

The Paris houses have a curious way of pressing their books. The books are placed in the standing press; the top and bottom boards are very thick, having a groove cut in them in which a strong thin rope is placed. The press is screwed down tightly, when, after some few minutes has elapsed, the cord or rope is drawn together and fastened. The pressure of the screw is released, the whole taken out en bloc, and allowed to remain for some hours, during which time a number of other batches are passed through the same press.

When taken out of the press the book is ready for "marking up" if for flexible sewing, or for being sawn in if for ordinary work.

Interleaving.—It is sometimes required to place a piece of writing paper between each leaf of letter-press, either for notes or for a translation: in such a case, the book must be properly beaten or rolled, and each leaf cut up with a hand-knife, both head and foredge; the writing paper having been chosen, must be folded to the size of the book and pressed. A single leaf of writing paper is now to be fastened in the centre of each section, and a folded leaf placed to every folded letter-press leaf, by inserting the one within the other, a folded writing paper being left outside every other section, and all being put level with the head; the whole book should then be well pressed.

If by any chance there should be one sheet in duplicate and another missing, by returning the one to the publisher of the book the missing sheet is generally replaced; this, of course, has reference only to books of a recent date.

Drawing of a Boomer Press, a tall, four-legged device with a long handle and a wheel near the top.
Boomer Press.
There is a new press of American invention that has come under my notice. It will be seen that it acts on an entirely new principle, having two horizontal screws instead of one perpendicular. The power is first applied by hand and finally by a lever and ratchet-wheel in the centre. A pressure guage is affixed to each press, so that the actual power exerted may be ascertained as the operation proceeds. The press can be had from Messrs. Ladd and Co., 116, Queen Victoria Street, E.C.; and they claim that it gives a pressure equal to the hydraulic press, without any of the hydraulic complications.

Decorative snowflake-like pattern, including crowns and flowers.

  1. The text of a book always commences with B, the title and preliminary matter being reckoned as A.