Skip to main content

Book Binding Methods

Shane has always loved history in all forms - old books, antiques, histories, sites and more. If it's old and collectible he's interested.

Why Bookbinding?

Why bookbinding? With all the things that can be interesting about books from historical relevance, to watching the change of language, to antique values and collecting - there are many topics that would be considered far more interesting than the binding.

For me my fascination with bookbinding, both practical techniques and history, comes from many different areas.

I fancy myself something of a "Renaissance Man" in that learning is a constant joy and nearly everything interests me. I've always loved reading and loved writing, and so my view of books are that they're an absolute treasure. I've also always loved history, too.

The history of culture, of civilization, of writing and paper that eventually become more than scrolls but became bound books of all the world's knowledge, so it could last even beyond the lives of the men who wrote it. All of this is extremely fascinating to me.

Additionally, a major thing that caught my attention was the fact that bookbinding is so varied, stretching form fancy leather bound family histories to people just wanting to learn how to bind their own paperback books.

Add me into a family full of antique fans and pack rats, and it's easy to see how something like bookbinding could become interesting.

Bookbinding was so interesting, and the more I dug in, the more I learned just how many different styles, techniques, and practices existed.

Book Binding Resources

How I Learned Bookbinding

Bookbinding was always somewhat interesting to me. It was an area where the skills of the handyman met with the knowledge of a scholar. My dad was a rare individual who was both. He had the IQ of an Ivy League man, with the handyman skills of a jack of all trades who actually mastered them all.

I inherited his common sense, smarts, and instincts, but was mechanically challenged. I enjoyed working with my hands, but finding something I was good at was difficult until I became involved with antique book collecting. Sometimes there were potentially decent books available, but the spine was disconnected, or the binding was loose.

Practicing on old books that were damaged, but didn't technically have a value, I found an amazing craft in bookbinding that took skill and patience, and one that allowed me to use my hands while paying homage to the mind.

In addition, it felt good knowing that I had a skill that could be useful as a book hound since I had the ability to repair badly damaged bindings. Sometimes when you find a really old book where the pages were good but the binding was trash, this was an awesome skill to have to make the book amenable.

Am I an expert? Not even close, and probably never will be. But depending on the project, I can do a serviceable job of bookbinding, and it remains an art and skill that impresses me. I hope this bookbinding hub can help you take interest in this fascinating skill, and enjoy learning about it as much as I do.

Bookbinding Tutorial

Spiral Bookbinding, aka Plastic Coil Bookbinding

Spiral binding is one of the most popular and simple methods of using a bookbinding technique in order to secure loose printed pages using loop wire that fits into round or rectangular holes in the pages.

This method of binding is often used for inexpensive books, reports, or guides.

Spiral book binding allows the books to lay flat on a surface when opened cover to cover. Spiral binding is used for blank notebooks and for reports, mostly for books that have a short shelf life.

Still, this can be a highly effective bookbinding method for the necessary documents and reports.

Plastic coil bookbinding is most commonly used for cookbooks, calendars, and instruction manuals where the books have to be opened wide. Spiral binding tends to be elastic, and does not get out of shape easily.

This type of spiral binding is far more common than say, metal spiral binding which you can see on common notebooks.

Many Different Types of Bookbinding

There are many different styles of bookbinding, both past and present. Coptic bookbinding was used by the early Coptic Christians in Egypt and was one of the earliest commonly used styles of bookbinding.

Scroll to Continue

This method was developed in the early 2nd century, and was used for almost 1,000 years, giving way to other methods around AD 1000.

While the original method faded away before coming back in modern times, the term "Coptic Binding" can also refer to modern books that are sewn and bound in a similar style to the original.

Binding was done by taking sections of parchment, often on papyrus scroll, and sewing the sections together through folds. This style would be critical in moving from basic scrolls or parchments to modern books.

There's argument over how many "original" examples of Coptic bookbinding survived. Part of the reason is that the technique continued to evolve over the centuries, so a book displaying Coptic binding from AD 900 could look radically different from one made in AD 150.

No doubt the changing technologies in type of paper/papyrus, binding, and materials used helped contribute to these changes based on the common materials available.

Long stitch bookbinding was one of the styles that would gradually evolve off of the Coptic bookbinding tradition. It's hard to nail down exactly what a long stitch technique is since there is actually a wide array of various forms of long stitch bookbinding.

Basically the one common detail is that long stitching involves stitching that goes through a slotted cover, meaning the sections aren't glued to the cover, but literally sewn in.

The most common modern form of bookbinding is simply referred to as hardcover bookbinding. This is a very general term that refers to any type of bookbinding that includes a hard protective cover.

Virtually every hardcover book you'll find at a Barnes and Noble will be some form of hardcover bookbinding.

One of the biggest advantages to hardcover bookbinding is simple: the books last far longer. Many non-collectors are surprised to go into an old book store, or an estate auction, and see thousands upon thousands of old books from the early 1900s.

Books protected by a hardcover simply last longer, and that's why the majority of collectible antique books are hardcovers.

Another modern form of binding books, most often used for large reports or presentations, is spiral bookbinding, which is also known as plastic coil bookbinding. This is a nice example of a great style of biding that works effectively while not running up the cost.

Many cultures have very specific cultural heritage tied into bookbinding. Both the Islamic and Hebrew cultures have had great tradition of bookbinding that also included making very special decorative covers that were beautiful.

Sometimes referred to as "gold lacing," many of these books were not only hand bound, but the covers were decorated with gold leafing or gold specs.

Bookbinding is rarely done by hand now unless it's for repairs of older or damaged books. Bookbinding equipment has made the process much faster, and this change in technology has allowed for mass production on a scale that the original bookbinders couldn't possibly have imagined.

Leather Bookbinding Video

Bookbinding Supplies

Bookbinding on a large commercial scale is mostly automated thanks to the newest bookbinding machines that can quickly put together books on a large scale. If you are binding a book from scratch, then you will need some bookbinding equipment of your own before starting.

Some of the basic things you will need include special adhesive, cover boards for the book, extra pages for the front papers as well as the back papers, and bookbinding tape.

All of this will help you bind books, and especially take advantage of good bookbinding tape. A quality bookbinding tape can easily reinforce book spines, paperback books, and magazines, among many other things.

The tape is normally very transparent and flexible, which makes this a favorite for simple bookbinding repairs. This will also help you to jerry-rig any mistakes that take place.

In addition to the bookbinding supplies already mentioned, you will want a sharp strong needle, strong thread that will not easily break, two pieces of cardboard (or whatever you are using as a cover), sharp scissors, and a large piece of sturdy fabric.

These are basic supplies needed for virtually any type of bookbinding, although depending on the specific style that you use, there might be more supplies required.

Bookbinding is not overly complicated, but it takes some practice. Depending on what project you are doing, more or less might be needed. Make sure to have solid instructions on how to bind your book before starting.

Bookbinding is both an excellent hobby and great way to pour your heart into an excellent homemade gift for those special to you.

Book Binding Traditional Techniques Book

What Is The Future of Book Binding?

Bookbinding has come a long way since the early Coptic Bookbinding methods. Sometimes revered as an art form of the highest order, such as among the old Persian empires, to becoming commercialized during the industrial revolution to allow the masses access to the written word, bookbinding has changed, and continues to change.

Bookbinding by hand is now most often seen as a hobby for personal growth and enjoyment. Part of the joy of this great hobby is being able to decorate the covers however you see fit, adding that great personal touch.

While it's easy to dismiss book binding as an old relic, I believe the quality of this craft will continue to attract more and more new book binders, who will in turn continue to pass on this craft.

There are a lot of ways to impress friends and guests, and an entire book shelf full of books you've bound and made yourself has to be high up on that list.

Japanese Bookbinding

Bookbinding Hub Comments

Anitha Bal on May 19, 2011:

It is really very helpful, Thank you.

Brian Knight on January 17, 2011:

That video was done by my publisher, Chris Hedges, while experimenting with binding methods for the lettered edition of a book of mine. The book was released (and sold out) a few years ago, and my copy of that leather-bound edition is one of the best in my collection. He did everything by hand, and his quality is the best.

Leather Book Cover on December 25, 2010:

New binding will never come close to the old practices of biding. The binding we create today I don't think will ever stand the test of time, say 500 years. Bound books from that period are so incredible. Great resource here, thanks.

Derek Norris on October 10, 2010:

I want a leather bound bible, flexible.I have looked at Zondervan, it doesn't seem to use the word flexible. It might say 'leather bound' or 'bonded leather', but is this necessarily flexible?

Jay on February 02, 2010:

Hi Jerry

Interesting piece on the history of bookbinding and how tactile real books are - e-books just don't do it, do they!

What I like about you guys out in the New World, is that, although you have such a young history, you really embrace traditional crafts and value the hand-made, whereas over here in the Old Country with our thousands of years of history, wading knee-deep in castles and centuries-old antiques, the traditional crafts are in serious danger of being lost, and the unwashed masses think they should pay less for the hand-made, for it surely can't be as good as they can buy in the shops!!

Unfortunately that's what artists, writers and crafts-people have to fight against over here.

So, all power to the Colonials! And I share your joy in old books.

(not too sure about spiral binding though.)

Jeniferr from United States on July 22, 2009:

I know someone that makes Japanese stab bound books and they're wonderful. Bookbinding is something I've taken for granted, your hub has piqued my interest. Thanks.

EC on December 03, 2008:

Thanks, great videos! I hadn't seen any of these and learned a lot. Much thanks for linking them here.

Related Articles