Bookbinding [bʊkˌbʌɪndɪŋ] is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It usually involves attaching a book cover to the resulting text-block. Modern bookbinding is divided between hand binding by individual craftsmen versus mass-produced bindings by high speed machines in a bindery factory.

The craft of bookbinding probably originated in India, where religious sutras were copied on to palm leaves with a metal stylus. Then came scrolls and later, codices. With the arrival (from the East) of rag paper manufacturing in Europe in the late Middle Ages and the use of the printing press beginning in the mid-15th century, bookbinding really began flourish.

Hand bookbinders create new bindings that run the gamut from historical book structures made with traditional materials to modern structures made with 21st-century materials, and from basic cloth-case bindings to valuable full-leather fine bindings. Repairs to existing books also encompass a broad range of techniques, from minimally invasive conservation of a historic book to the full restoration and rebinding of a text.

There are so many different styles of bindings, but they can all be categorized into two different structures:

  • Non-adhesive bindings [nɒn-ədˈhiːsɪv ˈbʌɪndɪŋ] are made exactly like it sounds – without glue or paste. These include pamphlet stitch, stab bindings album bindings, longstitch bindings, criss-cross binding, coptic bindings, compound bindings (concertina bindings), and many, many more.
  • Adhesive bindings [ədˈhiːsɪv ˈbʌɪndɪŋ] are made using glue or paste. Among these you’ll find perfect bindings (paperbacks or soft-cover bindings, double-fan bindings), bound on boards, cased-in bindings German bindings, French bindings, English bindings, springback bindings, overcast block stitching (whip stitch) and more.
  • Portfolios and boxmaking [pɔːtˈfəʊlɪəʊ ɔː ˈvɛːrɪəs bɒksˈmeɪkɪŋ] this is a category of its’ own, but is an integral part of bookbinding, and strictly speaking you can put within adhesive bindings.

What you are binding dictates the structure of the binding, but the materials and decorative choices available can be often be varied and thus produce a much personalised item to love and cherish for life.

When you bind a “traditional book” like a hardcover book, where the spine is encased, this locks the book into that particular thickness. You cannot add photos or any ephemera because that will leave the book “yawning”. So this is good for thesis bindings, family history, guest books or any other self publication. However, when it comes to photo albums you need to build up the spine of the book in order to compensate for the addition of photos or other ephemera, like scrapbooking, structures like long stitch bindings, stab bindings or post hinge bindings are then more suitable options.

  • Long stitch bindings [ lɒŋ stɪtʃ ˈbʌɪndɪŋ ] open completely flat and can accommodate photos and other ephemera. Options for the decorative spine stitching are plentiful and add a nice touch to the binding.
  • Japanese stab bindings [dʒapəˈniːz stab ˈbʌɪndɪŋ] are a good option for single sheets to be bound (as opposed to folded sections). These bindings can have spacers included, which means they can accommodate additional items. However, they don’t lie flat but a longer format can make up for this. Beautiful and decorative stitching is devised for the side stitching of this structure.
  • Screw post bindings [skruː pəʊst ˈbʌɪndɪŋ] are basically two covers attached with screw posts, they are basically the same structure as Japanese stab bindings, but the posts can be opened and pages can easily be added or removed from the binding, good for portfolios.
  • Accordion or concertina bindings [əˈkɔːdɪən ɔː ˌkɒnsəˈtiːnə ˈbʌɪndɪŋ] are can also be used to add ephemera since the have no spines. They open flat and an attached ribbon or leather strap will ensure it closes.
  • Coptic bindings [ˈkɒptɪk ˈbʌɪndɪŋ] have exquisite exposed spines and with an added accordion fold they can easily accommodate photos etc. They open completely flat and have a wonderful construction.

I have studied bookbinding in London and completed a five year bookbinding apprenticeship here in Sweden. I have worked on everything from fine traditional bindings, historical bindings, edition bindings and conservation work.

“If books had been invented after the computer
They would have been considered a big breakthrough
Books have several hundred simultaneous paper-thin, flexible displays.
They boot instantly.
They run on very low power at a very low cost.”

 – Prof. Joseph M. Jacobson

1. Displays a variety of bindings sewn on raised supports (single and double) (e.g. loop pack, spiral, pack & weave), with different techniques, change-overs and integrated endbands.

2. Carmecho Arregui’s Crossed Structure Bindings.

3. Coptic bindings, made with both 1 and 2 needles, all with subtle but slight differences.

4. Different bindings, including, books with woven spines, the butterfly binding (uncovered and covered), Coptic bindings with a covered spine, Secret Belgian binding or criss-cross binding and a stub binding.

6. Different bindings, including, Greek sewing, album made with a Coptic stitch with stubs to accommodate ephemera. Album with a tacket binding which is also made with stubs to build up the spine. A couple of buttonhole stitch bindings and a 4-down linkstitch binding.

5. A wide variety of different long – and linkstitched bindings. Patterns can be endlessly varied to form different decorative spines.