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Glues Info


If you want a book to open completely flat, you either need to go with a
non-adhesive structure, or a properly supported traditional one in which
the spine is glued/pasted up and lined but not excessively. How flat a book
opens up also depends on the paper weight, grain direction, and number of

>Thank you for the comments on glues, especially the
>use.  I have been making multi-sig books on tapes, and
>wanted the book to be able to open flat.  The only
>problem was that the glue (my wheat paste, which I may
>have been slathering on too thick) would crack between
>the signatures, giving a glance into the spine.

Many professionally bound hardcover books (I'm going to assume you mean
trade books) are actually adhesive bound. Burst bindings as they're called
are folded into signatures, but rather than having the spine completely
chewed up, are selectively "burst" so that glue gets at all the folios,
preventing individual pages from falling out.

>Somehow, this made me feel the whole book was not very
>secure.  It seemed that professionally bound hardcover
>books were more durable, you never saw between the
>pages, or were aware of the signature.

That shouldn't make that much difference.

>I have not been rounding the spine.

That's the problem right there. The glue used on cheaper paperbacks is a
hotmelt adhesive with limited flexibility and poor aging properties (You've
noticed they crack). The better ones use a more flexible adhesive. In the
old days (Cockrell...) the spine was glued up with hide glue (gelatine),
sometimes too thickly. Hide glue can be a great adhesive, provided it isn't
over cooked, brushed on too thickly, ... If the book is heavily used, the
sections too thick, the glue too old/thick/cooked it too can crack. Back
them spines were also often over-lined making them too thick. The
hide-glue, being brittle, didn't help. Paste, like hideglue is a brittle
adhesive, so slathering it on was not the best thing to do.

What you want to do, ideally, is have sections that aren't too thick (4
leaves), paper that isn't too heavy and drapes well (text weight) with the
grain running parallel to the spine, and a good sewing structure. After
sewing, apply a thin layer of paste to the spine, and work between the
signatures with a bone folder, carefully smoothing out the folds. Then,
when almost dry, shape the spine gently if desired (a lightly rounded book
holds it's shape better) and then line with a thin Japanese paper (also
using paste). Let dry completely. If these are new books, i.e. not ones
you're trying to "conserve" you could also use a PVA. Again, a thin film is
all you really need, and make sure you work it into the spine and gently
smooth out. You could also mix the paste and PVA if you wanted more time
and slip. Then line. If I want the book to lie completely flat, I'll just
put on a good Japanese paper lining (Okawara weight) and leave it at that.
Usually though, I'll take pieces of book cloth and cut them to the width of
the spine and place them between the tapes. Then I'll sew/stick on
endbands, and apply a textweight paper lineing over the whole thing. This
helps support the sewing for the long haul, and if all is done right and
balanced the book will open well.

>I was also expecting the paste to resemble the thick
>band of glue which is visible with sturdier
>paperbacks. So, I have had to rethink my books.  I am
>looking at an old book (1902 library book on
>Cockerell's Bookbinding and the Care of Books), which
>also showed the spine (super) through signatures which
>parted.  But this book is a lot older than mine!  : )

What manuals are you using for instruction or classes are you taking. I
recommend "Books, Boxes, and Portfolios," and use it with my classes. The
instructions are clear and concise and assume little equipment. There is
also a long section on paper grain, glue, and structural concerns well
worth reading. While I like looking at the design ideas in some of the
"funky-foldy" (as I call them) manuals (LaPlantz...) I find that for
traditional binding they aren't too great. Most do have good sections on
things like paper grain, glue, and structure. The older  ones like
Cockerell are great from a historical sense and if you're interested in the
higher things like working with leather and tooling, but for students in
today's unstructured environment I don't recommend them. They're a bit
beyond many now teaching, especially those not traditionally trained with
lot's of experience.

Learn one technique really well, inside and out, keep an open mind,
experiment on dummies, and have fun.

Hope this helps.


ps If you don't mind, could I post this to the list?

Philobiblon: Book Arts, Different By Design
Hand binding, conservation, and project websites for historical agencies
Peter D. Verheyen
Home of the Book Arts Web, Book_Arts-L & John Vassos Bibliography

Philobiblon: Book Arts, Different By Design
Hand binding, conservation, and project websites for historical agencies
Peter D. Verheyen
Home of the Book Arts Web, Book_Arts-L & John Vassos Bibliography

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