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Re: [BKARTS] Recent Fan and Perfect Bindings Discussions - Repair of Perfect Bindings from 1830/80s?
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- Subject: Re: [BKARTS] Recent Fan and Perfect Bindings Discussions - Repair of Perfect Bindings from 1830/80s?
- From: Rodney Fry <rod.fry@AMSJV.COM>
- Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 14:12:49 +0000
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I have read the recent messages with interest on the structure and techniques
for fan/perfect bindings as a chartered engineer who binds and restores as a
hobby. In particular, the descriptions of the forces on the coated and
uncoated papers as the book spine is flexed.
The perfect binding as practiced in the latter part of the 1800s was using
gutta-percha or caoutchouc, which was considered at the time to provide a rapid
and cheaper method of binding books, not just for the ever widening reading
public at the time, but it seems even for the "expensive" books.
Unfortunately it also rapidly perished, no doubt aided by the atmospheric
pollution of the times in the urban areas! I am contemplating two such books
for restoration at the moment, where the most of the pages are now detached, as
a retirement exercise.
Briefly a description of their state:-- One is Wood's "General Conchology",
(1835), [this leather half binding with marbled boards is probably later than
1836 when the perfect binding patent was first issued] with a text block about
2in thick. The book is a reasonable size 6"x9". It has about 60 hand-coloured
plates on paper ca 0.008" thick, which I don't think is coated (query - were
coated papers available then?). The text is on 0.005" paper; all edges are
gilt. The bindings is in reasonable condition, but almost separated from the
text block. The spine is slightly rounded with well formed shoulder joints and
covered with thin cloth (ca 80 threads/in) in turn covered by a pasted-on
hollow. The text block appears to only have been held in place by the hollow
back and the marbled, made end-papers, the linen providing no structural
support. The lining has completely separated and is covered with the usual fine
The spine surface is quite smooth (not roughened?) and appears to have been
formed or rounded, such as it is, by machine.
The other is Paul's "Sepulchral Slabs of N.W.Somersetshire", (1882), with a
text block about 3/4 in thick. This is larger at about 11" x14" bound in cloth
with thick boards. The paper is the same throughout, about 0.01" thick. Again
it does not seem to be coated, the plates are lithographs. The spine in this
case was also rounded, but covered first with thick paper and then open weave
mull which was taken under the paste downs. This is also completely separated.
My problem and question is should I carry out the fan binding in part, as
described in the recent discussions, by notching slightly (1/16" say), or lay
some thin cord or even thinner sewing thread in shallow slots cut across the
spine. I would tend to go for unwaxed thread, which is softer and has more
"give" than the harder or stiffer waxed sewing thread (perhaps a thread from
sewing cord?). Possibly the slight notches should be angled across the spine
(see A W Johnson's book "Manual of Bookbinding", p.202). It has to be borne in
mind that in both these cases the text block was rounded and has to fit back in
the binding and requires "shoulders" at the joints to accommodate the board
thickness , i.e. not a flat back binding as with the new books discussed - not
forgetting the gilt edges, which I could re-gild, but preferably keep the
original. Obviously it is not necessary for these antiquarian books to be laid
flat for photocopying!
I think it would be quite difficult to fan the spine for these books to allow
the adhesive to penetrate between the pages, particularly for the gilded text
block. It may be possible for the large book as the edges, not being gilded,
could be trimmed very slightly subsequently. But then as Ben Wien discussed in
his message of 11 Nov there are problems with the double fan-binding and
For strength/support I think the spines would need to covered with a thin, fine
linen cloth let into the boards, or under the board paste-downs (I have some ca
0.006" thick about 80 threads/in). For a sewn book I would perhaps reinforce
the lining adhesion by sewing through all along the joint, but in these two
instances I am doubtful. The large "folio" volume I would not put upright on
the shelf, it would remain on its side thus minimising any spine stress tending
to detach the text block from the boards.
I would be interested in comments on what might be thought most appropriate for
From an occasional contributor.
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