Glossary of Bookbinding Terms
This glossary has been compiled from a number of sources, including Johnson and Middleton (see my list of books on bookbinding).
If you spot any errors or omissions, drop me a line.
If you can't find the term you are looking for here, then you might like to try Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington's excellent Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology. You will also find a glossary of letterpress-related terms at
Briar Press' online resources for letterpress printers and enthusiasts.
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- adhesive binding, unsewn binding
- A binding made of single sheets stuck together at the back with glue or paste. See also sewn binding.
- all along
- A method of sewing in which one or more sections are sewn along their length. See also two up, three up.
- A salt used to prepare a skin for binding, rendering it soft, flexible, and white in colour. See also tawing.
- antique paper
- A paper rough to the touch, lightweight, often bulky, but with little size.
- The basic size in the ISO (International Standards Organization) series of papers and boards. A0 equals 1189 x 841 mm (i.e. one square metre).
- art paper, coated paper
- A paper originally made from esparto grass fibre, coated with china clay and casein glue and glazed with rollers under pressure. Traditionally used for halftone printing.
- An heraldic term used to describe a pattern comprising closely spaced parallel, diagonal lines.
- back, backbone
- The edge of a book along which the leaves or sections are fastened together in binding. See also spine.
- back cornering
- The practice of removing a portion of the board at the joints (either inner or outer, or both). The purpose is to relieve strain on the joints of the book when the book is opened, and also to allow the correct setting and shaping of the headcaps.
- back fold
- The inner margin of the folded sections. Sometimes referred to as the binding margin, as it is where the sections are secured by stitching.
- back matter
- The final pages of a book, comprising notes, bibliography or references, appendices, indices and any other pages to make up the final section or sections of the book. Blank pages are sometimes included to make up a complete section.
- Fanning out and hammering the back of the book to form joints or shoulders to accommodate the cover boards. See also joint.
- backing boards
- Wedge-shaped boards, usually of beech. They are angled at the wide ends to assist in making the joint on the spine when backing.
- The cords or thongs on which the sections of a book are sewn. If the cords are laid into grooves so that they lie flush with or slightly below the surface of the back, they are referred to as recessed cords. If the cords or thongs are not recessed, they form ridges across the backbone of the book and are referred to as raised bands. See also flexible binding.
- A thin writing paper, white or tinted. See also bond.
- A thread crossing over at the base of the headbanding core, to create a raised, bead-like effect.
- bevelled boards
- Covering boards which are angled at the edges to present a more elegant appearance.
- A bookcover, in any style.
- blanket stitching
- A method of sewing in which the thread pierces the side of the sections and is then looped around the back edges.
- blind tooling
- Making a dark impression in leather, by impressing either a hot finishing tool into it, or a cold tool that has first been dabbed in printer's ink.
- blinding in
- Making an impression in leather or cloth with a heated finishing tool, as a guide for gold tooling.
- board paper
- See endpapers.
- The folds which occur at head and foredge when a sheet is folded into a section. These are usually trimmed, but you may still find older books for sale with untrimmed edges.
- A heavier substance of writing paper than bank.
- Book-covering material made from woven cotton.
- Strong and expensive book-covering material, made from woven linen or a mixture of linen and cotton.
- calendered paper
- Paper polished to a high glaze by pressure or friction from calendering rollers.
- cartridge paper
- Hard, tough, opaque, uncoated paper used for drawing and printing. Sometimes used for back lining and endpapers.
- An economical form of binding. The front and back boards, together with the covering material to which they are stuck, form a cover for the sewn sections (often associated with edition bindings).
- case binding, edition binding
- A mass-produced, machine-bound book, with a case rather than a cover. Not a true binding style, but sometimes imitated by the craft binder.
- case making
- The operation, done by hand, of joining two boards together with the covering material to make a case.
- catch stitch
- See kettle stitch.
- cerf, kerf
- A slot or cutting sawn into the backs of the sections at head and tail, in which the kettle stitch is made.
- chemical wood paper
- Paper which is made from fibres left after other acidic parts of the wood have been dissolved away by caustic sodas. The most commonly used paper in bookbinding. See also mechanical wood paper.
- A protective covering of fabric or soft leather that wraps over the entire binding.
- To check a book thoroughly to ensure that it is complete and in the right order.
- coated paper
- See art paper.
- codex (pl. codices)
- Structure comprising covers and writing material fastened at one side to open like a book, as opposed to scrolls.
- 1. In old books, an inscription at the beginning or end of a book, often including the printer's name and details of production. 2. In modern books, the publisher's device.
- The operation of covering a binding in cloth, leather, vellum or other material.
- cut flush
- The cover cut flush with, i.e. the same size as, the sections.
- cutting boards
- Wedge-shaped boards, usually of beech, right-angled at the wide ends and used when cutting the edges of books.
- cutting pad, cutting wedge
- A stack of paper placed against the sewn sections in the lying press or guillotine while cutting the head and tail, to compensate for the swell.
- deckle edge
- The conspicuous broken edge on handmade paper, caused by the fibres creeping between the deckle frame and the sieve during manufacture.
- An outer border on the inside or outside of a cover comprising small tooled motifs, resembling lace.
- French term for a craftsman who specialises in gold-tooling.
- double sewing
- Sewing one or more sections of a book twice, particularly when the thread is doubled round the tapes (e.g. in the exposed cloth-jointed endpaper), to reinforce the binding.
- Material pasted down onto the inside of the cover board, separate from the flyleaf. Doublures may be made of leather, vellum or silk, as well as paper, although they were originally made of leather only. See also endpapers.
- Dutch Gilt
- A style of decorated paper (imported into the Netherlands from germany) commonly featuring embossed gold flowers on a multi-coloured background.
- The time for which the hot tool is impressed in the leather while gold or blind tooling.
- edge gilding
- The application of gold leaf to the edges of the leaves of a book which have been trimmed, sized, primed with Armenian bole, covered with gold leaf and burnished.
- edge pare
- The paring away of the edge of a piece of leather at an angle of 45 degrees. See also paring.
- edition binding
- See case binding.
- Paper, cloth or leather impressed with a pattern or false grain.
- Collective term used to describe headbands and tailbands. See also headband, tailband,
- The sheets of paper (two or more) which come between the cover and the sewn sections. Part of the binding construction, they comprise, at their most basic, a board paper, also referred to as a pastedown (which is usually coloured and which serves to counteract the warp of the boards caused by the covering material) and a free fly leaf, which protects the first or last pages of text.
- engine sizing
- In the production of paper, the addition of resin size to the pulp at the mixer stage, before it is made into paper.
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