Ordinarily a librarian can expect to shelve a case-bound (bound into hard covers) book as received. However, it is useful to know something about how the pages are attached in the binding when making decisions about certain materials, as well as in deciding whether and how to rebind soft bound books and scores.

Types of Page Attachments

In the photograph above are examples of the three types of page attachment most commonly found in publishers’ bindings. The book on the left is adhesive bound, the one on the right is sewn in signatures and the one in the center is burst-bound, which means that is was printed and folded in signatures, but with the central folds slit or “burst” and glued instead of being sewn.

Adhesive Binding

Mekanotch adhesive binding

Publishers’ adhesive bindings range in durability from the ironically named “perfect” binding, which involved dipping a text block into hot-melt glue and slapping on a paper cover, to the Mekanotch binding shown above, which uses a much more flexible and durable adhesive and also involves cutting tiny notches in the text block before gluing, to increase the surface area reached by the glue. No adhesive binding will be as durable as a more expensive sewn binding, but a mekanotch bind will stand up to moderate use long term and is suitable for all but the most heavily used text books and glossy periodicals.

Burst Binding

Burst Binding

The “burst bind” adhesive bind also offers good openability and a moderately sturdy page attachment. The fact that it can be confused with a sewn binding from the top edge can confuse decisions about rebinding, since a damaged or soft cover sewn binding can be resewn by a library binder, but a burst binding cannot be sewn and must be replaced with a new adhesive bind.

Sewn Through the Fold

Sewn Through Fold

Printing in gatherings (large sheets printed and cut to form folios gathered into correctly paginated groups like booklets) sewn through the fold is more expensive than adhesive binding. It is still commonly used for publishing scores in soft cover, but is less commonly found in case bound books. In the photograph above, the fine thread used for the original sewing has been supplemented with heavier repair thread.


Most books that arrive case bound (i.e. in hard covers) can be sent to the shelf as bound. In a few cases, however, it may be most cost effective to consider replacing or modifying a poor binding before the book is shelved and used.

  • Books and scores that are bound with narrow, poorly supported hinges and are heavy or will receive heavy use will probably lose their covers after a short time. These materials will need to be rebound, sooner or later. If they are also adhesive bound and acidic (many current Asian publications are) they should be rebound and then deacidified sooner rather than later, to insure that the new binding will last. Sewn bindings with poor hinges can wait until the binding fails, since sewn bindings are easier to replace, even with acidic paper.
  • Parts and added media are often poorly accommodated in case bound scores. Parts may be simply laid in, and even when a pocket is supplied it is seldom durable enough for multiple circulations, and is often not accommodated in the width of hinge allotted in the binding. One option is to circulate the part separately from the score, in its own binding. A sturdier pocket can be added in-house, and if the hinge of the book or score allows extra width to accommodate the part, this should work well. However, a hinge that is too tight for the added pocket and part will fail fairly soon, since it will be under stress even while the book is standing on the shelf. Once again, if the bound score is acidic and adhesive bound, it would be best to replace the binding at once rather than waiting until it fails.

Library Binding Terms

For definitions of binding terminology, see Library Binding Terms.

Alice Carli, formats
Last updated: March 16, 2008, at 04:27 PM EDT

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