A reference guide on bookbinding types
When I tell people I'm a bookbinder they often think I make only one type of book; the library kind. That, however, is only one of the many ways an artist can create a book. For me, it's a fun challenge to pick the right binding style to go with the purpose of the book. Whether it is a novel that needs to look really classy or medieval, a sketchbook for a graphic novelist or a paper about connections that lets me show the binding. In this article I'm going to tell you a little bit about all the types of bookbinding that I know. I'm not going into details but, if possible, I will link to images and tutorials that do.
If you're here for inspiration: this guide is pretty long. I recommend scrolling through the images first!
To make a start...
The different ways of binding books can be broken down into two general groups: adhesive bindings and non-adhesive bindings. Adhesive bound books are the books you usually buy in bookstores: pockets, hardcovers, etc. Non-adhesive bound books almost always show the way they are bound; they have open spines or show the binding thread on the outside of the book. This last group is called non-adhesive bindings because they can be achieved without using any paste or glue. This is, however, not a necessity.
Signature - A signature is a set of papers folded one time.
Book block - A book block is a set of sewn signatures or a stack of glued single sheets that make out the inside of the book.
Endpapers - Endpapers are sheets of papers, folded once, attached with a little bit of glue at the spine-side at the front or the back of the book block.
Headband - A headband is a band made out of thread looped around a rope or strip of leather. Headbands can be machinemade and glued at the head and tale of the spine of a book. They can also be handmade by sewing them onto the signatures.
Hinge - The hinge of a book is the place near the spine of the book where the cover folds open.
Rib - A rib is a thickening on the spine of a book. This thickening is created because there are ropes below the cover material. Sometimes fake ribs are created by placing strips of cardboard below the cover material.
Slot - A slot is a cut in the paper, creating a place for the glue to adhere to or the thread to go through.
Non-adhesive bindings #1: Pamphlet stitch
The pamphlet stitch can be used to bind single signatures into pamphlet. A string is sewn through 3, 5, 7 or up (depending on the size of the paper) pierced holes in the fold of the signature. Both ends of the string always end up in the middle, creating the opportunity for easy finishing by means of a single knot.
While it could be argued if a single signature can be called a book, I've included it in this list because the pamphlet stitch itself can be used in combination with other binding techniques (such as the Concertina fold) to create multiple signature bindings.
The pamphlet stitch is sometimes used to bind two signatures together. The cover will have a double Accordion fold in the middle with a signature sewn into each inner pleat.
Tutorials:- Pamphlet Stitch by unknown, PDF
Non-adhesive bindings #2: Stab-bindings (or Japanese bindings, Album bindings)
Instead of sewing the pages, they can also be held together using book screws, the so called nuts and posts, creating an album stab-binding. An added bonus of this variety is the ability to add or remove pages, or to change the order of the pages, making it perfect for photo albums, recipe books, collecting books, etc.
Tutorials:- Japanese Bookbinding Tutorial by Tuteate, video- Screw Post Binding by pupuccachu, webpage
Non-adhesive bindings #3: Long stitch (or Medieval limp binding)
Stitch variations on the long stitch binding method include:
- The buttonhole stitch, where alternate slots will be removed to create exposed parts of the signatures, and the signatures will be locked together using the buttonhole stitch at the head and tail of each slot.
- The link stitch, where the binding will not be looped through the ends of the signatures but instead a link stitch will be used at the outside of the cover, creating a sort of chain-binding at the head and tail of the spine.
- Sewing onto tapes, where we sew around tapes instead of cover-slots. These tapes will then be attached to the two separate covers.
- Sewing onto cords or ropes, where we sew around a cord and then go back into the same pierced hole. The cords will be attached to two separate covers. Sometimes two cords are placed tightly against each other.
Tutorials:- Long Stitch Leather Journal by Erica Munoz, webpage- The Exposed Tape Binding by Molly Brooks, webpage- Exposed Tape Tutorial by lunkirsten, video
Non-adhesive bindings #4: Coptic bindings (including the Caterpillar binding)
The Caterpillar binding is a variation on the coptic binding using paired holes. Threads coming out of both holes come together in the middle, creating the illusion of a caterpillar with a million legs, crawling over the spine and the covers.
Tutorials:- Caterpillar Stitch by Mike Commons, video
Non-adhesive bindings #5: Secret Belgian bindings
Non-adhesive bindings #6: Piano hinge binding (or Skewer binding)
Tutorials:- Piano Hinge Book Tutorial by madcrafter, webpage- How to make a Piano Hinge Book by Bumble, webpage- Piano Hinge Book by Tricia Morris, video
Non-adhesive bindings #7: Compound bindings (including the Concertina binding, the Dos-à-dos format and the French doors format.)
The Dos-à-dos format binds two separate books together, sharing one back-cover. Because the spine surfaces face away from each other, these two books can not be read at the same time.
The French doors format also binds two separate books together, only this time, the books can be opened at the same time, much like opening facing balcony doors. The book on the right side would be paged through (comparing it to a normal latin book) from the back to the front.
The Concertina binding is a compound binding where signatures of the book are sewn into the inside pleats of an accordion fold. The outside pleats of this fold may left to fan out, or may be sewn together using any of the stitches motioned above. The advantage of the Concertina binding is that it will open flat, even if the 'signatures' are made from thick materials, materials of varying thickness or are single sheets. The simplest Concertina (or Accordion) book is only a long strip of paper, folded into pages.
Tutorials:- Dos à dos by Jennibellie, video- Accordion book by Grace Bonney, webpage- Accordion fold spine by Cate Prato, webpage
Non-adhesive bindings #8: Rare bindings
- Japanese Retchoso Binding (Multisection Journal), where two threads cross over each other inside the section and when they exit, go into the next section without making any kind of knots.
Non-adhesive bindings #9: Contemporary single sheet sewings
In the past decade, several sewing methodes have been developed to bind together single sheets of thicker material. What they all have in common, is that they all have pierced holes at the spine side. These holes, however, are not binding holes like in signature sewings. The actual sewing happens in the hinges between the sheets, making the holes in the sheets merely places for the thread to loop through. Because the hinges are between the sheets, these books can open flat.
Tutorials:If you're interested in these kind of sewings I highly recommend Keith A. Smiith's Sewing Single Sheets, Volume 4 of his Non-Adhesive Binding series.
Adhesive binding #1: Perfect bindings (or paperbacks, soft-cover books, rubber-back binding, double-fan binding)
A paper backed book can also consist of sewn signatures instead of a stack of loose papers.
Tutorials:There are a lot of tutorials on making paperback books by applying (hot) glue on a pressed stack of paper. In my experience, this won't result in a long lasting binding but can be easy and convenient.- Fake/Hybrid perfect binding by georgeATM, webpage- Perfect Binding DIY by Arounna Khounnoraj, webpage
Adhesive binding #2: Bound on boards
Adhesive binding #3: Case bindings (or case wrapped books, hardcover books)
This is also the adhesive binding that gives you the most creative opportunities. The 4 bindings below, if created traditionally, have some very strict guidelines to follow. Case bindings, however, can be covered with paper, cloth, leather, etc. They can have either flat or round spines. They can have headbands, bookmarks, pockets in the back and closures. There isn't any rule on how to bind the book block. Sometimes its sewn on tapes or ropes, sometimes its sewn with an unsupported stitch. You can read more on stitching methods in the non-adhesive binding section above.
Tutorials:When you're searching for bookbinding tutorials, chances are great you'll end up with a tutorial on making a case binding. Some tutorials use only basic materials, and some explain how to use advanced machinery. I recommend looking through a few tutorials before settling on one. There are many variations on how to make corners, what measurements to use, sewing techniques, cover materials etc.- Bookbinding by Peter Baumgartner, video
Adhesive binding #4: German bindings (or Bradel binding, Bonnet binding, Bristol Board binding)
Tutorials:- Bradel Binding by Jana Pullman, webpage- The basic bind of books by Jamie Butler, webpage- Curso de Encuadernación Bradel by Eduardo Tarrico, Spanish video
Adhesive binding #5: French bindings
Tutorials:I haven't yet found any online tutorials on French bindings.
Adhesive binding #6: English bindings (or Classic binding, Gothic binding, Medieval binding, Renaissance binding)
Tutorials:- Early Gothic Binding by Erin Clupp, webpage
Adhesive binding #7: Springback bindings (or Ledger binding)
The thing that makes a springback binding different from other adhesive bindings is the fact that when the book is opened, the spine of the book block will spring up, creating a gap between the enforced rounded spine of the book and the spine of the book block. The book, when opened, will lay perfectly flat. The hinges of these books will be farther away from the spines than those of other adhesive books. The basic bookbinding instructions are not very different from French or German binding, except where the spine is involved.
Adhesive binding #8: Overcast block sewing (or Whip stitch).
This sewing method is perfect when you have a stack of printed pages that need to become a normal book that can open flat down the middle and you think using only glue on the spine won't do. First, a thin layer of glue is applied to the spine side of the stack of papers. Next, a row of holes is drilled about 5 millimeters away from the spine of the books. 'Signatures' are then created by cutting off stacks of 6 to 10 pages. These signatures are then sewn together with a whip stitch. This process is extremely time-consuming but is the best way to create flexible book blocks from single sheets by sewing.