Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cased or Letterpress? Pros and Cons of two Methods of Binding

A cased binding has a sewn text block with hinged endpapers on either side.  The case is made as a separate unit and then the text block is glued into the cover.  It is easy to decorate the covers by using an embossing press before or after they are made.
This book structure is suitable for mass-produced hard cover books. All the stress is placed on the hinges when the book is read and the cover can then fall apart as the hinges wear.
Book repairs should never be made with adhesive tapes, but a cover can be repaired and the book made fit for further use by replacing the hinges and repairing a damaged spine.  
Image from: http://www.printing-in-china.cn/Binding.html
A slightly better quality binding is  made by sewing the book sections onto tapes. This is called a supported binding and the hinges will last longer. For personal use it is not much more work to make a binding where the sections of the text block are sewn onto tapes or cords, the spine is rounded and lined and the supports are then laced into the cover boards. An alternative is a split boards binding.
Beginners can then use book cloth to cover the boards. Labels can be printed and attached to the spine  and the result is an easily opened book with a sound structure which will last  during many years of use.
Because this binding method was used for books printed with hand-set type on manual presses, up to the nineteenth century, the binding technique is known as letterpress binding.

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