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Binding Terminology

  • Adhesive binding

Gluing single sheets together along the spine by some means.

  • Bench sew (Sewing through the fold by hand)

Signatures sewn through the fold are usually sewn to linen tape or hemp cords, which can then be incorporated into the cover structure so that the book block is effectively sewn into the cover. This is an expensive binding by current standards, but both strong and openable.

  • Book block (text block)

A group of pages ready to be bound, whether it is a group of signatures to be sewn or a pile of loose single leaves

  • Buckram

Heavy cloth used for book and pamphlet covers for library use. Book covers are usually covered with heavier F grade buckram with a plastic sizing. Mass produced pamphlet binders are usually made with lighter C grade buckram.

  • Burst binding (single notch adhesive binding)

One or more pamphlets are cut up the middle and adhesive bound, rather than being sewn through the fold.

  • Cleat Sew see Sewing through the fold by machine

refers to the notches (“cleats” or, more properly, “kerfs”) into which cords are recessed, over which the sewing thread passes.

  • Double fan adhesive bind

In “double fan” adhesive binding the book block is fanned one way and then the other while glue is applied, so that each page is “tipped” to its neighbors by about 1/64”. Depending on the size of the book and the type of paper, the spine may be notched (little triangular cuts made along the spine to increase the surface area to which the glue is applied) or “ultrabound” (notched before gluing and reinforced with an elastic cloth afterward). Double fan adhesive binding is much stronger than the “perfect” adhesive binding, involving hot melt glue and no fanning, introduced for mass market paperbacks in the mid-20th century. It is also more openable than any oversewn or side sewn binding, and is therefore the preferred method for binding thick music scores.

  • Flat Back Wide Hinge

Some version of this may be used by some binders for large, thin scores. It involves just what it says: no rounding or backing (impossible for the narrow spine) but a wider than usual hinge surface to spread the hinge strain over a larger area. It can produce a precarious look on opening, but is probably at least no less sturdy than simply leaving the book unbacked.

  • Mekanotch see Double fan adhesive bind
  • Openability

This term was coined to describe both the need for music to lie open while nearly upright on a stand, and the more general need for texts to open easily to the spine without strain along a line of sewing.

  • Oversewing

The book block is divided into sections and each section is sewn along the spine in something like a whip stitch, about 1/4” in from the edge. The sections are then sewn together. Oversewn music won’t stay open on a stand.

  • Recasing

Recasing in general refers to preserving the original sewing while adding a new cover and endleaves (which are usually assumed to be added, as well, when a new cover is added). “Oversew,” “Sew Through Fold” and “Whipstitch” refer to the means by which the cover is attached to the book block.

  • Rounding and Backing

The familiar shape of a book (slightly curved fore edge and spine, “shoulders” slightly wider then the rest of the book with a sharply narrowed hinge area between the shoulder and the edge of the cover boards) is produced by pounding all along the finished spine of the book with a hammer, first to produce the curved spine, then (with the book set into a special press, with about 1/8” of the spine exposed) to produce the mushroom shoulder. Commercial binderies do this with a machine, which is less flexible than a human artisan, and therefore cannot be used on recased books or those with a spine narrower than 1/2” to 3/4”. Commercial library binders now usually avoid the procedure unless you specifically insist on it.

  • Sewing through the fold by machine (National Sew, Drill National Sew, Smyth National Sew, Singer Saddle Sew, Cleat Sew)

“National Sew,” “Drill National Sew” and “Smyth National Sew” refer to sewing through the fold, with tapes or cords and with or without pre-drilling of the holes before the needle enters, or the use of a particular make of machine.

  • Side sewing

Thin volumes in single sheets can be sewn straight through the book block by a heavy-duty stitching machine. These will have the same openability problems as with oversewing.

  • Singer Saddle Sew

The name derives from machine sewing (through the fold of a pamphlet) on a particular machine that has a saddle over which the pamphlet is laid.

  • Ultrabind see Double fan adhesive bind

Alice Carli, formats
Last updated: February 22, 2008, at 11:21 AM EST

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