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Glossary of Bookbinding Terms

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Finishing tool that produces lines or long, narrow decorative strips used on spines. A name pallet impresses the binder's name on a signed binding.
Sheep or goatskin (with the hair removed) that has been split, soaked, limed and dried under tension, not tanned like leather.
The process of thinning leather.
See endpapers.
perfect binding
See adhesive binding.
The technical term for printing the second or reverse side of a sheet.
PIRA test
A test of bookbinding leathers to ascertain that they are free from injurious acids. It was instigated by the Printing Industries Research Association, and leather which has passed this test should bear the letters PIRA. Not universally regarded as authoritative, however.
pitch lines, pitch marks
Lines or marks drawn on one material to assist in positioning another material onto it quickly and accurately, especially when glue is used.
Diagrams and illustrations printed on different paper from the text and bound either with the text or tipped in as separate leaves or sections.
Term used to describe decorative motifs outlined with dots.
'prelims', preliminaries, preliminary matter
The preliminary pages of a book, comprising the half-title page, the frontispiece, the title page, the imprint page, the contents page and any other pages up to the beginning of the main text. They often form the first section. In old books these pages are usually numbered with Roman numerals.
protection sheet
See waste sheet.
Freeing the sections of a book from the original binding, in preparation for rebinding.
quarter binding
An economical covering method in which one piece of good material (e.g. leather) is used to cover the spine, extending over part of the sides as well, and a cheaper one to cover the remainder.
A sheet of paper folded twice to make four leaves.
A quantity of paper: 24 sheets of handmade, 25 sheets of machine made.
raised bands
See bands.
A quantity of paper: 480 sheets of handmade, 500 sheets of machine made.
The right-hand page of a book, usually with an odd page number.
A page-marker made of a length of ribbon, one end of which is glued to the spine before lining.
French term for a binding.
'Seconds' in handmade paper.
rexine, leather cloth
Cloth surfaced with a mixture of cellulose nitrate, camphor oil and alcohol, and embossed to look like leather.
A type of sheepskin.
Handmade paper with a rough surface imparted to it by being pressed when wet between heavy felt mats, or 'blankets'. Artists' watercolour paper is an example.
Shaping the backbone of the book into a convex shape in preparation for backing.
Tanned hide treated with birch-bark oil, frequently diced, i.e. incised with intersecting diagonal lines.
saddle stitching
Securing the leaves of a single section by sewing with thread or inserting wire through the back fold.
sans-serif, sanserif
Type unornamented with serifs. Sometimes also grotesque or gothic. (French: 'without serifs'.)
A group of folded sheets, usually comprising 4, 8,12,16 or 32 pages, which together make up a complete book.
semis (seme)
An heraldic term used to describe a background of scattered small tooled motifs.
A small 'finishing' line used to embellish roman forms of printed type or other lettering. An early attempt to mimic the effect of hand lettering with a broad-tipped quill. (Dutch: Schreef, 'fine line in writing'.)
setting the back
Fixing the shape of a book's spine permanently, by first pressing it in good shape and applying a thick layer of paste to the spine. In five minutes the paste is scraped to clean off the old glue and the book left to dry, when the shape of the spine is permanently set.
sewn binding
A binding made up of sections sewn together. See also adhesive binding.
sewn block
The sewn sections that make up the text of the book.
See joint.
side stitching
Securing sections or a number of single sheets together by sewing with thread or inserting wire through the back margins.
In quarter or half bindings, covering the remainder of the exposed boards with cloth or paper after the leather or cloth has been attached.
A printed letter or number usually placed at the bottom of the first page of each folded section to assist in the collation of the book.
signed binding
One in which the craftsman's name is displayed either by tooling in gold or blind, ink stamping on the end-leaves, or pasting in a printed trade label.
A solution of animal gelatin or resin added to paper to improve its permanence, strength, resistance to moisture, and to make it impervious to the penetration of writing and printing ink. See also engine sizing, tub sizing.
Strips of thin vellum used as sewing supports. Often visible on the front covers of vellum bindings.
A style of binding frequently used on devotional works, featuring blind tooling on black leather.
spacing bar, pitching bar
A strip of board used to separate the two boards to a desired measurement when making case bindings; it is removed when the covering material is turned in.
The part of the cover which wraps over the back of the book.
split board
A board made up of one piece of millboard and one of strawboard, laminated together save for a slit to contain the flange of tapes and waste sheet. It is one of the constructional features of the library style.
squares, overhang
The space between the boards or covers of a book and the sections. Their size is dependent on the size, use and binding style of the book. Although the squares protect the leaves, they should not be too large, for the covers must themselves be supported by the leaves.
stab stitching, stabbing
Securing a large number of single sheets together by driving metal staples more than half way through the back margins, from both sides.
Engraved or cast dies used to impress decorative motifs. Traditionally the term "stamp" has been used when describing early (e.g. fifteenth- and sixteenth-century) bindings, and "tool" when referring to bindings of the later period.
standing press
A large, heavy floor-standing press, capable of exerting great pressure.
start, stert
The projection at the foredge of one leaf or section beyond the others. It is usually caused by poor sewing and very thick sections.
stationery binding
Used for binding blank-leaved books intended to be written in, e.g. ledgers, account books. Frequently bound in vellum.
In a case binding, a strip of paper or thin card, cut to the width of the spine, placed between the boards and glued onto the covering material to stiffen or strengthen the spine cloth.
stiff leaf
One piece of paper attached by adhesive to another to increase its substance and strength. The made endpaper is an example.
The thickness and weight of paper, expressed in gsm (grams per square metre).
sunken cord style
A style of binding in which the sections are sewn onto lengths of hemp cord that are recessed into the backs of the sections. The ends are called slips and are laced into the boards. The binding may be tight or hollow backed and the spine left smooth or with false bands, See also bands, flexible style.
See mull.
surface sizing
See tub sizing.
The additional thickness in the sewn folds of the sections, caused by the sewing thread and any repair paper.

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