A quick overview....

Ever wonder what lies beneath the structure of the old books with raised bands on the spine? Well, sorry to say that most of those bands are fake, put in place to refer back to the REALLY old days when books were sewn on cords. But, on occasion, youíll still find either a vintage book or a contemporary artistís binding crafted in the old style. Hereís a quick look at whatís going on under the covers...


This binding style was very popular in the 14th to 16th centuries - before the advent of printing, when a binder had more time to spend on each volume. It begins with the sewing supports - those shown are twelve ply linen cords and this example is whatís referred to as packed sewing (extra loops wrapped around the cords make the spine a bit thicker).

A light spine lining of Japanese paper and wheat paste is applied and the spine is rounded into a curved shape. A bone folder or hammer is used to gently back the book, creating a shape on each side of the spine that the cover board will fit into nicely. The book can now be trimmed if desired. This example shows the use of a vertical plow, which shaves off a few sheets at a time.

After plowing, end bands can be sewn into place if desired. This is another labor intensive structural support that was largely abandon when books needed to be bound more quickly. Most of the end bands you see on mass produced books are simply glued on.

Another paper or cloth lining is applied to the spine, which is sanded down to minimize any irregularities that might show through the final leather covering.

The sample at right illustrates the board attachment. Cords are frayed out (top left), then trimmed down and a point is formed with adhesive (middle left). After channels are cut into the board to give the cords a place to sit slightly recessed, the cord is laced in and out of the board (middle right). The board is cut away a bit to allow the cord ends to lie down flush with the board. The ends are trimmed and flared out with a bit of adhesive. A final lining of paper will be applied and sanded to create a smooth finish for the final covering.

Decorative effects can be used to treat the edges of the text block - the book at left shows an edge thatís been blind embossed.


The book at right shows a mix of leathers, some traditional bookbinding leathers and some reclaimed from old gloves (button left on). This book will get a small clasp added to keep it nicely closed.