Bookbinding is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It usually involves attaching a book cover to the resulting text-block. Before the computer age, the bookbinding trade involved two divisions. First, there is stationery or vellum binding which deals with making new books intended to be written into, such as accounting ledgers, business journals, and guest log books, along with other general office stationery such as note books, manifold books, portfolios, and etc. Second is letterpress binding which deals with making new books intended to be read from and includes fine binding, library binding, edition binding, and publisher's bindings. A result of the new bindings is a third division dealing with the repair, restoration, and conservation of old used bindings. With the digital age, personal computers have replaced the pen and paper based accounting that used to drive most of the work in stationery binding. Today, modern bookbinding is divided between hand binding by individual craftsmen versus mass-produced bindings by high speed machines in a bindery factory.
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The craft of bookbinding probably originated in India, where religious sutras were copied on to palm leaves (cut into two, lengthwise) with a metal stylus. The leaf was then dried and rubbed with ink, which would form a stain in the wound. The finished leaves were given numbers, and two long twines were threaded through each end through wooden boards, making a palm-leaf book. When the book was closed, the excess twine would be wrapped around the boards to protect the manuscript leaves. Buddhist monks took the idea through Persia, Afghanistan, and Iran, to China in the first century BC.
Similar techniques can also be found in ancient Egypt where priestly texts were compiled on scrolls and books of papyrus. Another version of bookmaking can be seen through the ancient Mayan codex; only four are known to have survived the Spanish invasion of Latin America.
Writers in the Hellenistic-Roman culture wrote longer texts as scrolls; these were stored in boxes or shelving with small cubbyholes, similar to a modern winerack. The word volume, from the Latin word volvere ("to roll"), comes from these scrolls. Court records and notes were written on wax tablets, while important documents were written on papyrus or parchment. The modern English word book comes from the Proto-Germanic *bokiz, referring to the beechwood on which early written works were recorded.
The book was not needed in ancient times, as many early Greek texts—scrolls—were 30 pages long, which were customarily folded accordion-fashion to fit into the hand. Roman works were often longer, running to hundreds of pages. The Greeks used to comically call their books tome, meaning "to cut". The Egyptian Book of the Dead was a massive 200 pages long and was used in funerary services for the deceased. Torah scrolls, editions of the Jewish holy book, were—and still are—also held in special holders when read.
Scrolls can be rolled in one of two ways. The first method is to wrap the scroll around a single core, similar to a modern roll of paper towels. While simple to construct, a single core scroll has a major disadvantage: in order to read text at the end of the scroll, the entire scroll must be unwound. This is partially overcome in the second method, which is to wrap the scroll around two cores, as in a Torah. With a double scroll, the text can be accessed from both beginning and end, and the portions of the scroll not being read can remain wound. This still leaves the scroll a sequential-access medium: to reach a given page, one generally has to unroll and re-roll many other pages.
In addition to the scroll, wax tablets were commonly used in Antiquity as a writing surface. Diptychs and later polyptych formats were often hinged together along one edge, analogous to the spine of modern books, as well as a folding concertina format. Such a set of simple wooden boards sewn together was called by the Romans a codex (pl. codices)—from the Latin word caudex, meaning 'the trunk' of a tree, around the first century AD. Two ancient polyptychs, a pentaptych and octoptych, excavated at Herculaneum employed a unique connecting system that presages later sewing on thongs or cords.
At the turn of the first century, a kind of folded parchment notebook called pugillares membranei in Latin, became commonly used for writing in the Roman Empire. This term was used by both the pagan poet Martial and Christian apostle Paul the Apostle. Martial used the term with reference to gifts of literature exchanged by Romans during the festival ofSaturnalia. According to T. C. Skeat, "…in at least three cases and probably in all, in the form of codices" and he theorized that this form of notebook was invented in Rome and then "…must have spread rapidly to the Near East…" In his discussion of one of the earliest pagan parchment codices to survive from Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, Eric Turner seems to challenge Skeat's notion when stating "…its mere existence is evidence that this book form had a prehistory" and that "early experiments with this book form may well have taken place outside of Egypt."
Early intact codices were discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Consisting of primarily Gnostic texts in Coptic, the books were mostly written on papyrus, and while many are single-quire, a few are multi-quire. Codices were a significant improvement over papyrus or vellum scrolls in that they were easier to handle. However, despite allowing writing on both sides of the leaves, they were still foliated—numbered on the leaves, like the Indian books. The idea spread quickly through the early churches, and the word Bible comes from the town where the Byzantine monks established their first scriptorium, Byblos, in modern Lebanon. The idea of numbering each side of the page—Latin pagina, "to fasten"—appeared when the text of the individual testaments of the Bible were combined and text had to be searched through more quickly. This book format became the preferred way of preserving manuscript or printed material.
Western books from the fifth century onwards were bound between hard covers, with pages made from parchment folded and sewn on to strong cords or ligaments that were attached to wooden boards and covered with leather. Since early books were exclusively handwritten on handmade materials, sizes and styles varied considerably, and there was no standard of uniformity. Early and medieval codices were bound with flat spines, and it was not until the fifteenth century that books began to have the rounded spines associated with hardcovers today. Because the vellum of early books would react to humidity by swelling, causing the book to take on a characteristic wedge shape, the wooden covers of medieval books were often secured with straps or clasps. These straps, along with metal bosses on the book's covers to keep it raised off the surface that it rests on, are collectively known as furniture.
The earliest surviving European bookbinding is the St Cuthbert Gospel of about 700, in red goatskin, now in the British Library, whose decoration includes raised patterns and coloured tooled designs. Very grand manuscripts for liturgical rather than library use had covers inmetalwork called treasure bindings, often studded with gems and incorporating ivory relief panels or enamel elements. Very few of these have survived intact, as they have been broken up for their precious materials, but a fair number of the ivory panels have survived, as they were hard to recycle; the divided panels from the Codex Aureus of Lorsch are among the most notable. The 8th century Vienna Coronation Gospels were given a new gold relief cover in about 1500, and the Lindau Gospels (now Morgan Library, New York) have their original cover from around 800.
Luxury medieval books for the library had leather covers decorated, often all over, with tooling (incised lines or patterns), blind stamps, and often small metal pieces of furniture. Medieval stamps showed animals and figures as well as the vegetal and geometric designs that would later dominate book cover decoration. Until the end of the period books were not usually stood up on shelves in the modern way. The most functional books were bound in plain white vellum over boards, and had a brief title hand-written on the spine. Techniques for fixing gold leaf under the tooling and stamps were imported from the Islamic world in the 15th century, and thereafter the gold-tooled leather binding has remained the conventional choice for high quality bindings for collectors, though cheaper bindings that only used gold for the title on the spine, or not at all, were always more common. Although the arrival of the printed book vastly increased the number of books produced in Europe, it did not in itself change the various styles of binding used, except that vellum became much less used.
Cai Lun (ca. 50 AD – 121) improved the first significant improvement and standardization of papermaking by adding essential new materials into its composition.
In the 8th century Arabs learned the arts of papermaking from the Chinese and were then the first to bind paper into books at the start of the Islamic Golden Age.[unreliable source] Particular skills were developed for Arabic calligraphy, miniatures and bookbinding. The people who worked in making books were called Warraqin or paper professionals. The Arabs made books lighter—sewn with silk and bound with leather covered paste boards, they had a flap that wrapped the book up when not in use. As paper was less reactive to humidity, the heavy boards were not needed. The production of books became a real industry and cities like Marrakech, Morocco, had a street namedKutubiyyin or book sellers, which contained more than 100 bookshops in the 12th century; the famous Koutoubia Mosque is named so because of its location on this street. Because the Qur'an itself was considered a sacred object, in order to beautify the book containing the holy scripture, a culture of calligraphy and lavish bookbinding developed.
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With the arrival (from the East) of rag paper manufacturing in Europe in the late Middle Ages and the use of the printing press beginning in the mid-15th century, bookbinding began to standardize somewhat, but page sizes still varied considerably.
With printing, the books became more accessible and were stored on their side on long shelves for the first time. Clasps were removed, and titles were added to the spine.
In the German book-distribution system of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the end-user buyers of books "generally made separate arrangements with either the publisher or a bookbinder to have printed sheets bound according to their wishes and their budget".
The reduced cost of books facilitated cheap lightweight Bibles, made from tissue-thin oxford paper, with floppy covers, that resembled the early Arabic Qurans, enabling missionaries to take portable books with them around the world, and modern wood glues enabled the addition of paperback covers to simple glue bindings.
Historical forms of binding include the following:
There are various commercial techniques in use today. Today, most commercially produced books belong to one of four categories:
A hardcover, hardbound book has rigid covers and is stitched in the spine. Looking from the top of the spine, the book can be seen to consist of a number of signatures bound together. When the book is opened in the middle of a signature, the binding threads are visible. Signatures of hardcover books are typically octavo (a single sheet folded three times), though they may also be folio, quarto, or 16mo (see Book size). Unusually large and heavy books are sometimes bound with wire.
Until the mid-20th century, covers of mass-produced books were laid with cloth, but from that period onward, most publishers adopted clothette, a kind of textured paper which vaguely resembles cloth but is easily differentiated on close inspection. Most cloth-bound books are now half-and-half covers with cloth covering only the spine. In that case, the cover has a paper overlap. The covers of modern hardback books are made of thick cardboard.
Some books that appeared in the mid-20th century signature-bound appear in reprinted editions in glued-together editions. Copies of such books stitched together in their original format are often difficult to find, and are much sought after for both aesthetic and practical reasons.
A variation of the hardcover which is more durable is the calf-binding, where the cover is either half or fully clad in leather, usually from a calf. This is also called full-bound or, simply, leather bound.
Library binding refers to the hardcover binding of serials and paperback books intended for the rigors of library use. Though many publishers have started to provide "library binding" editions, many libraries elect to purchase paperbacks and have them rebound as hardcover books, resulting in longer life for the material.
There are a number of methods used to bind hardcover books, from them:
Different types of the punch and bind binding include:
Some of the different types of thermally activated binding include:
Types of stitched or sewn bindings:
Modern bookbinding by hand can be seen as two closely allied fields: the creation of new bindings, and the repair of existing bindings. Bookbinders are often active in both fields. Bookbinders can learn the craft through apprenticeship; by attending specialized trade schools; by taking classes in the course of university studies, or by a combination of those methods. Some European countries offer aMaster Bookbinder certification, though no such certification exists in the United States. MFA programs that specialize in the 'Book Arts,' (hand paper-making, printmaking and bookbinding) are available through certain colleges and universities.
Hand bookbinders create new bindings that run the gamut from historical book structures made with traditional materials to modern structures made with 21st-century materials, and from basic cloth-case bindings to valuable full-leather fine bindings. Repairs to existing books also encompass a broad range of techniques, from minimally invasive conservation of a historic book to the full restoration and rebinding of a text.
Though almost any existing book can be repaired to some extent, only books that were originally sewn can be rebound by resewing. Repairs or restorations are often done to emulate the style of the original binding. For new works, some publishers print unbound manuscripts which a binder can collate and bind, but often an existing commercially bound book is pulled, or taken apart, in order to be given a new binding. Once the textblock of the book has been pulled, it can be rebound in almost any structure; a modern suspense novel, for instance, could be rebound to look like a 16th-century manuscript. Bookbinders may bind several copies of the same text, giving each copy a unique appearance.
Hand bookbinders use a variety of specialized hand tools, the most emblematic of which is the bonefolder, a flat, tapered, polished piece of bone used to crease paper and apply pressure. Additional tools common to hand bookbinding include a variety of knives and hammers, as well as brass tools used during finishing.
When creating new work, modern hand binders often work on commission, creating bindings for specific books or collections. Books can be bound in many different materials. Some of the more common materials for covers are leather, decorative paper, and cloth (see also:buckram). Those bindings that are made with exceptionally high craftsmanship, and that are made of particularly high-quality materials (especially full leather bindings), are known as fine or extra bindings.
Conservation and restoration are practices intended to repair damage to an existing book. While they share methods, their goals differ. The goal of conservation is to slow the book's decay and restore it to a usable state while altering its physical properties as little as possible; the goal of restoration, however, is to return the book to a previous state as envisioned by the restorer, often imagined as the original state of the book. In either case, the modern standard for conservation and restoration is "reversibility." That is, any repair should be done in such a way that it can be un-done if and when a better technique is developed in the future. Bookbinders echo the physicians' creed, "First, do no harm."
Books requiring conservation treatment run the gamut from the very earliest of texts to books with modern bindings that have undergone heavy usage. For each book, the conservator must choose a course of treatment that takes into account the book's value, whether it comes from the binding, the text, the provenance, or some combination of the three. Many professional book and paper conservators in the United States are members of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), whose guidelines, set forth in the AIC's Code of Ethics, are generally considered to outline an appropriate approach to the treatment of rare or valuable materials.
In restoration hand binding, the pages and book covers are often hundreds of years old, and the handling of these pages has to be undertaken with great care and a delicate hand. The binding archival process can extend a book’s life for many decades and is necessary to preserve books that sometimes are limited to a small handful of remaining copies worldwide.
The first step in saving and preserving a book is its deconstruct