Pamphlet: a folio or signature of any size bound by sewing or stapling through the fold.
Pamphlet binder: a rigid board cover into which a pamphlet is secured for added protection and to help it stand on a shelf.
Carli, Alice. Binding and Care of Printed Music. Music Library Association Basic Manuals Series, no. 2. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press; Music Library Association, 2003, p. 148.

Sew/Staple Pamphlet Binder

Spine-wrap Binder

Glue-in Pamphlet Binder

Pamphlet binding is most frequently used for items composed of a single folded section, or signature. A large percentage of printed music materials are published in single-signature format, so pamphlet binding is appropriate. Multiple-signature items are best bound in library bindings, but scores with multiple signatures can be bound as pamphlets if library binding is not an option.

Particularly in libraries where there is access to student labor, pamphlet binding is a cost-effective means of protecting printed music. It can be done in-house with little equipment. Commercially produced pamphlet binders are available from library supply houses in a variety of sizes and styles, but custom binders can also be made in-house to accommodate the irregular sizes and formats.

Scores bound as pamphlets take up less space on the shelves, and are lighter in weight than those bound with a library binding. It must be noted that pamphlet binding is less sturdy than a library binding, and a heavily used pamphlet-bound score will probably require rebinding at some point. A standard pamphlet binder provides no spine on which to place a label for easy identification of the work on the shelf.

Music Specific Issues

  • Printed music to be used for practice and performance must be able to open flat, so that a musician can read it without having to hold it open. A pamphlet-bound score, sewn into the binder through the fold in the signature, will accomplish this goal.
  • The binding should be sturdy enough to withstand the heavy use to which printed music is subject. The binding should also be reversible, since pamphlet-bound music may require rebinding during its lifetime. A sewn binding meets these requirements.
  • Music for performance by more than one player usually has each part printed separately. The parts must be bound separately, but kept together as a set in some sort of enclosure, for example, a pocket binder or a wide-spine pocket case.


There are no official standards for pamphlet binding. There are, however, ANSI standards for archival-quality paper and board that might be used in constructing a binder. The least expensive green pressboard binders available from library supply vendors like Gaylord and University Products, while acid-free, do not meet ANSI standards. These binders are best used on materials that are lightly used, or are easy to replace. All other commercially produce binders available from Archival Products, Gaylord, and University are made of gray/white archival board, and do meet ANSI standards for storing archival materials: the board is alkaline-buffered and is 0.060 (“sixty-point”) thickness, or slightly more than 1/16” thick.

For further information about binders, see Carli, p. 31–32.

For more information about chemical and physical stability of archival storage materials, see the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s Preservation Leaflet 4.4, available online at

The methods that libraries have used to attach covers to pamphlets include:

  • Glue the pamphlet straight into a glue-in pamphlet cover, as is. This is a very fast method, but has two major disadvantages: it relies on the original staple page attachment, and if the pamphlet ever needs to be removed from the binder its cover will be damaged in the process.
  • Remove the publisher’s staples and staple the pamphlet into a binder using heavy duty, stainless steel staples. This is relatively fast and is likely to work well for thin, light pamphlets that do not receive heavy use. Heavy or heavily used pamphlets are likely to tear free from the staples.
  • Sew the pamphlet into a binder (removing any staples first). This is a very popular attachment method, and should hold up very well long term for most pamphlets. For heavy or heavily used scores it is very important to use at least five holes for the sewing, and to use a doubled thread. Doubling the thread both adds strength and reduces the likelihood that the thread will saw through the paper if the score becomes loose enough to move up and down despite the five hole sewing pattern.
  • Sew the pamphlet into a paper cover and glue the cover into a glue strip pamphlet binder. Sewing into a paper cover is especially recommended for processing parts, but will also make it possible to use the glue strip binders, which are cheaper than spine-wrap binders and do a good job of supporting the sewing on heavy and heavily used scores.
  • Outsource the binding to a commercial library binder, which should sew through the fold into a sturdy archivally sound binder (ask for non-acidic board and durable plastic if using clear covers) using doubled thread and five or more stitches
  • Store pamphlet scores in a vertical file and circulate them as is (or with the staples removed and replaced with sewing or better quality staples) in reusable folders or envelopes

Music Specific Resources

Carli, Alice. Binding and Care of Printed Music. Music Library Association

Basic Manuals Series, no. 2. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press; Music Library Association, 2003.

Carli, Conservator at Sibley Library, Eastman School of Music, offers thorough instructions for a range of pamphlet-binding techniques. She discusses the types of commercially available binders that can be purchased, in addition to providing detailed instructions on how to make custom binders in-house. Consideration is also given to commercial pamphlet binding. An appendix lists sources for binding supplies.

Falconer, Joan O. “A Handiguide to Do-It Yourself Music Binding.” Wilson Library

Bulletin 48 (December 1973): 332–35.

Falconer provides directions for binding music into commercially-produced pamphlet binders, and includes a clear diagram illustrating how to sew a single signature score into the binder.

Helmer, Normandy. “Keeping Scores: Music Preservation at the University of Oregon

Library.” Archival Products News 3, no. 1 (Winter, 1995): 1–2, 5.

The head of preservation and binding at the University of Oregon Library discusses how the use of musical materials determines an appropriate binding approach, and describes binding practices at her institution. Available online at

Honea, Ted. “Music…A Binding Challenge.” New Library Scene 4 (June 1985): 1,


An overview of the issues surrounding the binding of printed music by the former conservator, head of rare books and special collections, and archivist at Sibley Library, Eastman School of Music.

Honea, Ted. “Pamphlet-binding Encapsulated Music.” Music Library Association

Newsletter, No. 59 (November-December, 1984): 4.

Honea describes a technique for pamphlet-binding up to 15 encapsulated pages so that a deteriorated or fragile single-signature piece of music is sturdy enough to use for practice and performance. Encapsulation instructions are not included.

Miller, Catharine K. “Binding and circulation.” In Manual of Music Librarianship, ed.

Carol June Bradley, 58–64. Ann Arbor, MI: Music Library Association, 1966.

Silverman, Randy. “Small, Not Insignificant: a Specification for a Conservation

Pamphlet Binding Structure.” Book and Paper Group Annual 6 (1987).

Silverman provides a brief historical overview of pamphlet binding conventions and describes a reversible, durable, simple binding structure used in the Primrose Music Collection of the Brigham Young University library. Includes a good bibliography of pamphlet binding resources. Available online at

Tibbits, Edie. “Binding Conventions for Music Materials.” Library Resources

& Technical Services, 40 (January, 1996): 33–40.

This survey of 20 academic music libraries includes discussion of the role of pamphlet binding in libraries’ binding practices.

General Websites for Pamphlet Binding Resources

The Northeast Document Conservation Center Preservation Leaflet 4.4
“Storage Enclosures for Books and Artifacts on Paper”
Discusses chemical and physical stability of materials used for archival storage.

Originally compiled by Alice Carli, Denise McGiboney, Pamphlets.
Last updated: August 26, 2014, at 10:58 AM EDT

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