Bookbinding research



  1. Belly band
  2. Flap
  3. Endpaper
  4. Book cover
  5. Head
  6. Foredge
  7. Tail
  8. Right page, recto
  9. Left page, verso
  10. Gutter

Bookbinding is the process of physically creating a book by collecting stacks of paper and binding them together either using string of some kind or a thin layer of adhesive onto which is usually wrapped in a piece of protective material on either side usually being either a soft flexible material or with a piece of hard solid material on each side. On top of all this a thin piece of paper is mounted  where another professional will use their artistic talent to create beautiful works of art on the book being illustrations or type.

Before computers there were two divisions in bookbinding. Stationary binding, which were intended for handwritten entries for ledgers and accountants and then there was Letterpress binding which were intended to be read from and often found in libraries.

Today there is also two main type of binding hand binding, which are made by traditional craftsmen often working in a room alone creating the books by hand and then there’s commercial binding which I more common, it is mass produced by machines to reach a larger audience quicker and cheaper.

History of bookbinding 

Bookbinding most likely started off in india where religious sutras where written down on palm leave with a metal stylus. There would be wooden planks with twine threaded through to protect the writing inside therefore becoming a ‘book’.

Buddhist monks carried this knowledge across Afghanistan through to china where it then developed into being produced using a local plant, bamboo, which lead to the creation of books being created using strips of bamboo which were then bound together using thread.

Similar techniques were found in ancient Egypt and in Mayan with their own unique scrolls and books.

Books were not needed quite so much back in ancient times because greek scrolls were used more often and were only around 30 pages long therefore could easily fold up to fit into the hand, though roman texts were slightly longer often reaching 100 pages.

In more recent history books were still not quite so popular since not many could read, except the richer families of society, hence the need for symbolism. An example is with the barber shops, the red and white pillar on the store front was created because the general public could’t read and needed some way of showing what the shop was.

From the fifth century onwards the western countries began to secure books in between two piece of sturdy material usual wrapped in leather to add more protection, however it wasn’t until the fifteenth century that the spines of books became rounded like is known of hardback books today, until then they all had flat spines.

It wasn’t until the eighth century that books began to be made using paper when the Arabians learned Paper making from the Chinese this revolutionised the bookmaking industry to become more like the way it is today and sparked the Islamic golden age.

Historic forms of bookbinding

  • Coptic binding: a method of sewing leaves/pages together
  • Ethiopian binding
  • Long-stitch bookbinding
  • Islamic book cover: with a distinctive flap on the back cover that wraps around to the front when the book is closed.
  • Wooden-board binding
  • Limp vellum binding
  • Calf binding (“leather-bound”)
  • Paper case binding
  • In-board cloth binding
  • Cased cloth binding
  • Bradel binding
  • Traditional Chinese and Korean bookbinding and Japanese stab binding
  • Girdle binding
  • Anthropodermic bibliopegy: (rare or fictional) bookbinding in human skin.

(wikipedia, 2017)

Bookbinding charities

The Society of Bookbinders-

The Society of Bookbinders is a UK-based educational charity dedicated to traditional and contemporary bookbinding and to the preservation and conservation of the printed and written word.

The society is organised into eight UK regions plus an overseas group. The UK regions hold regular meetings at which masterclasses, lectures and demonstrations are given on various bookbinding or binding-related subjects and techniques. The regions also hold social events, organise visits and exhibitions and represent the SoB at local book and craft fairs.(society of bookbinders,2011)

Designer Bookbinders-

Designer Bookbinders is one of the foremost societies devoted to the craft of fine bookbinding. Founded over fifty years ago it has, by means of exhibitions and publications, helped to establish the reputation of British bookbinding worldwide. Its membership includes some of the most highly regarded makers in the fields of fine bookbinding, book arts and artists’ books, each with a passion for presenting the bound text as a unique art object.

Inspiration is the book in all its aspects – text, structure, illustration, print and paper – and the completed bindings are as diverse as the individuals who create them.         (designer bookbinders,2017)

Bookbinding companies

Otter Bookbinding


Otter Bookbinding was established in 1993 by Marysa de Veer, and has a main workshop in MidhurstWest Sussex and a collection/delivery point in Woking Surrey, UK.  The Bindery is committed to keeping the tradition of craft bookbinding alive while also taking advantage of modern approaches to design, layout and print. We are a small, family business which enables us to offer a high level of personal service and attention.          (otter bookbinding,2016)

Very traditional in their ways of production, however this gives their books a really nice unique look and feel to their work it looks like they are very experimental with their methods of decorating the books, coming out with some really nice and unusual design, some looking like they have a very distinct marble effect, although this modernism decoration are kept to a bare minimum giving a really nice subtle to their traditional workmanship.




Blissetts draws on over a 90-year heritage to combine traditional binding skills with progressive print equipment, excellent customer service and a range of binding and restoration services unbeaten in the UK including making yearbooks and photobooks, thesis binding, wedding albums, design & print as well as fine binding and restoration.       (Blissetts bookbinders,2017)

Their work seems to a lot more open than the others being more accepting of multiple production methods and seem to be one of the main book production companies with their reputation of having made many different book for various big name clients. I personally much prefer the smaller scale friendliness of the other two companies, I’d be more willing to order from them. I will use these companies as inspiration for my branding.


Elbel libro


Elbel libro are an artisan book bindery established in 2012, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands and run by Ben Elbel (bookbinder) and Kieke Schaaper (multi-disciplined).     (Elbel libro,2017)

Out of all the companies mentioned on this blog post this company has the biggest impact with them being the most like it’s run by creative designers rather than business like craftsmen like the other two, it also feels like you know about what your getting into when agreeing to do business with them because there is so much info about each worker there. Finally their books themselves just give off a feeling of them being more than just a book, they genuinely feel like they are pieces of art and not just a work of craftsmanship.






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