Language
Fact-checked

At LanguageHumanities, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is Bookbinding?

Bookbinding is the art of physically assembling a book from an ordered stack of paper sheets that are folded together into sections or sometimes left as a stack of individual sheets. This craft blends functionality with creativity, ensuring the durability and longevity of written works. Intrigued? Discover the intricate processes and historical significance of bookbinding in our full exploration.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Bookbinding is a craft technique for connecting the individual pages of a book into a single volume. It is practiced both on a high intensity commercial level to produce the millions of books which are printed every year, or it can be performed by hand, by artisans who are creating one of a kind books. Bookbinding is an ancient technique, with examples of bound books in durable materials like vellum dating back thousands of years.

Whether books are being bound for large scale commercial sale or special occasions, bookbinding involves a few basic principles. The pages are printed, using a technique called imposition where up to sixteen pages are printed front to back onto one sheet of paper called a signature. The signature is folded into a section of text which is then bound and trimmed to free the folded edges. A short book may only contain one signature, while lengthy texts may have hundreds. The signatures are bound together with heavy waxed thread so that they cannot pull apart, although some modern bookbinding techniques use glue instead because it is cheaper and much quicker.

Bookbinding connects pages of a book into a volume.
Bookbinding connects pages of a book into a volume.

Finally, the bound pages are enclosed inside a protective cover which is designed to be sturdy and durable, preventing damage to the inside of the book. This stage of bookbinding leaves the most room for creativity and fun on the part of the artist. At one time, book covers were often beautiful and ornate, made from materials like leather or wood, and embossed or studded with gems. Modern commercially produced books usually have covers made from sturdy paper or cardboard, but it is still possible to find deluxe books bound in leather for special collections.

Older books were sewn together, while modern books are often glued.
Older books were sewn together, while modern books are often glued.

In antiquity, books were bound in volumes, rather than all together. Each volume was called a codex, and collectors would purchase books one codex at a time. The use of codices explains why sections of ancient texts are missing, due to poorly preserved codices. Classics students are also familiar with a folio, which is a type of oversized book. A folio was typically produced by printing a signature that had only two pages, so the paper was just folded in half, yielding a very large volume. Folios are still used today, and are ideal for printing maps, technical drawings, and other material which needs a larger page.

As a craft, bookbinding plays an important role in the production of artist's books, the preservation of antique books, and in training for fine arts students. As a commercial process, bookbinding plays a role in the lives of any consumer who picks up a book or magazine. Advances in commercial bookbinding techniques have greatly improved the cost, and therefore accessibility, of printed material all over the world.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a LanguageHumanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a LanguageHumanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

goldenmist

@Sequoia - I've bound a few books so I can tell you what I used. I bought a stack of A5 paper for a couple dollars to print my material on. I just used basic everyday paper, but I'm sure you can find better kinds if you shop around. You're going to want to invest in what's called a bone folder, which you use to get perfect folds. Another thing you'll need is an awl, to punch holes in the sides of the booklets so you can then use a needle and some thread to sew the booklets together. Lay some PVA glue over the spine of the booklets once they're sewn together into a completed book and then take some card that's suitable for a cover and fold it with the bone folder, taking into account the width of the spine. Put it all together and there you go.

There are books with more detailed bookbinding methods which would probably be worth buying, but all in all it’s not very expensive. If you’ve got the extra money, it’s probably worth buying a paper cutter as well - they always come in handy.

Sequoia

I'm looking to get into bookbinding so I can make my own journals and sketchbooks. What bookbinding supplies will I need?

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Bookbinding connects pages of a book into a volume.
      By: Fyle
      Bookbinding connects pages of a book into a volume.
    • Older books were sewn together, while modern books are often glued.
      By: Rick Henzel
      Older books were sewn together, while modern books are often glued.