Glossary of Book Repair Terms

Parts-of-a-BookI know how confusing it can be to try and repair your books when the instructions are full of terms and industry talk you don’t understand. Here is a glossary of the most frequently used terms to help you on your way.

Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books, Matt T. Roberts and Don
Etherington, Library of Congress, 1982, is the main source for the
definitions given below.

Acid-free: In principle, materials which do not contain acid and have a pH value of 7.0 or greater. There is some latitude to this number, depending on the material; for instance, papermakers consider a paper having a pH value of 6.0 or greater to be acid free. As used in this site, the term means materials that are either pH neutral or alkaline buffered.

Acrylic adhesive: A thermoplastic resin prepared by polymerizing acrylic acid or methacrylic acid. Acrylic adhesives are flexible and stable and should not turn yellow or brittle.

Adhesive: A general term for any of several substances capable of bonding materials to each other by chemical or mechanical action, or both, and which can be activated by water, non-aqueous solvents, pressure heat, cold or other means. The two types of adhesives used in these instructions are glue and paste.

Adhesive binding: A method of securing loose leaves into a solid text block by means of an adhesive rather than by means of sewing.

Against the grain: Paper which has been folded at right angles to the direction in which the fibers tend to lie (the grain). A well-produced book should have the grain running from top to bottom so the pages of a book are more inclined to lie flat when the book is open.

Alkaline: Materials having a pH of 7.0 or greater a scale of 1 to 14.

Alkaline buffer: A reserve of alkaline substance added to paper for the purpose of counteracting any acid that may be in the paper.

Archival: A term used for neutral materials that are considered safe for long-term use in library materials.

Backing: The process of shaping a ridge or shoulder on each side of the spine of a text block. The backs of the sewn sections or signatures are bent over from the center to the left and right until shoulders are formed against which the cover boards will fit. The size of the shoulders is determined by the thickness of the cover boards. Backing distributes the swell caused by the sewing thread or excessive guarding across the entire width of the spine.

Binder’s board: see board

Blotter paper: A completely unsized sheet of paper made of rag or cotton linters, generally used to absorb moisture.

Board: A generic term for the stiff cardboard used for the front and back covers of a book. Also called Binder’s Board.

Bone folder: see folder

Book: A collection of written, printed, illustrated or blank leaves of paper bound together. Today, in its most familiar form, a book is considered to be one or more folds and gathered sheets of paper, fastened together at one edge to form a continuous series of uniform pages.

Book cloth: A generic term for the woven fabrics used in covering books. Book cloth can be made of cotton, rayon or silk and is often backed with a layer of paper.

Booklet: See pamphlet.

Brushes: Implements used for applying paste or glue to the surface of paper, board, cloth. or other material. A brush is composed of a gathering of hair or bristles (natural brushes) or some synthetic material, secured in a plastic compound and held in a metal ferrule which is crimped around the handle.

Bulldog clips: Stationery or office supply clips with flat jaws used to hold pages to one another.

Case binding: A general term for a method of bookbinding in which the case (covers) of the book is made separately from the text block of a book, then later attached by gluing the end papers to the cover boards. This operation is known as casing-in.

Chain lines: The lines that run parallel to grain of a sheet of laid or hand made paper, usually one inch apart. The lines are caused by the “chain wires” of a paper mold.

Complex paper tears: A tear that has more than one top and bottom. A complex tear is usually two or more separate tears made over time.

Conservation: The planned care and preservation of the resources of a library from the effects of age, use or misuse.

Corner(s): The juncture of the two edges of a board cover at the fore edge and the head and tail.

Covers: The outer covering of a book place on a text block to protect it in use and storage. A cover may be paper, book board, book cloth or leather.

Crash: A course, open weave, starched cotton material, sometimes napped on one side, and used in library and edition binding for lining the spines of books. This material is also knows as super or mull.

Document repair tape: A commercial tape made up of a paper carrier and a stable acrylic adhesive.

Double-fan adhesive binding: See adhesive binding

Dry cleaning: Using dry eraser products to remove dirt and marks from a book.

Endpapers: The two or more pages placed in the front and back of a book between its covers and text block. The endpaper at the front of the book is called the front endpaper, while the one at the back is call the off endpaper. The part of the endpaper nearest the cover is called the pastedown or board paper while the part of the endpaper that is not pasted down is called the fly sheet or fly leaf. Endpapers can be blank or printed with a design, map or other information.

Fan binding: see Adhesive Binding

Feathered edge: The fuzzy effect resulting from water or needle tearing a piece of Japanese repair tissue.

Fly leaf: the part of the endpaper at the beginning or end of a book, that is not pasted to the boards, or covers, of the book.

Folder: A thin length of wood, bone, ivory or other material from 6 to 12 inches long and 1 to l/12” wide. The typical folder is approximately l/2” thick. It is tapered to the edges, has rounded edges and ends, and is used in folding sheets by hand and in numerous binding operations.

Fore edge: The edge of a book opposite the spine. Sometimes called the front edge.

Fore-edge margin: The space between the text and the outer extremity of the page of a book.

Grain: In machine-made paper and board, the direction that the majority of paper or cloth fibers lie. In cloth, the grain is the direction of the warp threads. A well produced book should have the grain running from head to tail so the pages of a book are more inclined to lie flat when the book is open.

Glue: An adhesive originally obtained from animal materials such as bone and hide. Animal hide glue was commonly used in book binding before the introduction of Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA).

Gutter: The white space formed by the adjoining inner margins of two facing printed pages, i.e. the margin at the sewn folds of a signature.

Halftone: A picture in which the gradations of light are obtained by the relative darkness and density of tiny dots produced by photographing the subject through a fine screen.

Head: The top of the spine of a book. The top edge of a bound book.

Heat set tissue: A lens tissue especially prepared for use in mending tears in paper, strengthening margins, and for laminating weak or badly torn pages, by means of dry application rather than by a traditional wet application.

Hollytex: A commercially produced fiber/cloth that allows moisture to pass through and will not adhere to paper.

Hinge: n. The interior juncture of the spine and covers of a case-bound book. The outside of this same juncture is called the joint.
v. To attach one piece of paper to another by means of a narrow strip of Japanese repair tissue.

Hinging-in: The process of reattaching a loose page to a text block by affixing l/2″ of a strip of Japanese repair tissue to one edge of the page (usually the inner margin), then attaching the other half of the Japanese repair tissue to the text block.

Inner margin: The margin of a page next to the binding edge of a book. See also gutter.

Kizukishi: A medium weight Japanese repair tissue.

Japanese repair tissue: Paper made from vegetable fiber. It comes in various weights and is sometimes incorrectly called rice paper.

Jig: A device for guiding a tool or for holding work in place. See punching jig and signature punching jig.

Joint: The exterior juncture of the spine and covers of a case-bound book. The inside of this same juncture is called the hinge.

Kettle stitch: The stitch or knot made near the head and tail of the book which holds the sections together.

Library binding: The business of providing specialized binding services to libraries. Library binding differs from commercial binding in that library binderies often strive to use sound conservation techniques and materials that will not damage the book.

Masking: Using waste paper to isolate one part of a piece of paper so adhesives can be applied to that one area only while the rest of the paper is protected.

Mold lines: See chain lines

Microspatula: A metal tool, approximately 6 – 8 ” long with one rounded end and one pointed end. Microspatulas are used to maneuver strips of pasted Japanese repair tissue or to feed glue or paste into tight places.

Mixture: A combination of adhesives, usually PVA and wheat paste.

Mull: See crash

Mylar: A stable, clear polyester material used as a moisture barrier or to encapsulate materials.

Needle-in-a-stick: A tool that consists of a needle embedded in a plastic or wooden handle. A needle-in-a-stick can be used to score or tear Japanese repair tissue, mark materials for cutting or feed glue or paste into tight, places. A needle-in-a-stick is also called a needle.

Needle-tear: Using the sharp end of a needle to score paper so the paper can be torn along that scored line.

Non-stick porous material: A synthetic material that allows moisture to pass through but will not stick to the repaired material.

Outer margin: see fore-edge margin

Oversewing: A method of sewing the pages of a text block by hand or machine so that the sewing threads pass through the inner margin of the page.

Pamphlet: A small, usually thin booklet made up of one or more signatures. See also booklet.

Paper: A thin sheet of material made of cellulose pulp, derived mainly from wood, rags and certain grasses processed into flexible sheets.

Paste: n: A soft adhesive generally prepared by heating a mixture of starch and water which sets into a paste as it cools. Paste has been used for centuries to join porous, non-greasy materials. It can be made from a variety of starches, the most common being wheat and rice.
v: To adhere one material to another using a vegetable starch mixed with water.

Pastedown: the part of the endpaper at the beginning or end of a book that is pasted to the case of the book.

Pellon: A commercially produced fiber/cloth that allows moisture to pass through and will not adhere to paper.

pH: The measure of acidity or alkalinity in repair materials. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14 and each number indicated a ten-fold increase. Seven is pH neutral. Numbers below 7 indicate increasing acidity, with 1 being most acidic. Numbers above 7 indicate increasing alkalinity, with 14 being the most alkaline.

Plate: An illustration printed separately from the text of the book, often on a different type of paper. Plates may be bound into a book, tipped-in, hinged-in or housed in a pocket.

Plastic tape: see pressure sensitive tape

Polyester film: A chemically inert, stable, clear polyester sheet used to encapsulate or isolate a repair.

Polyvinyl acetate: A vinyl resin, one of the clear, water-white, synthetic resins produced from its monomer by emulsion polymerization. Polyvinyl acetate is usually referred to as PVA and has the advantage of being readily available in the form of an emulsion that is readily diluted with water, easily applied and safe because it contains no flammable solvents. It does not deteriorate quickly and is unaffected by mold or fungi. PVA should not be allowed to freeze as it will separate and loose its adhesive properties.

Press: n: A simple piece of machinery used to apply pressure evenly over the surface of a page or book. While there are many different types of presses, a nipping press is the most common.
v: To apply even pressure to material(s).

Pressure sensitive tape: The kind of pretreated tape that adheres to a surface when pressure is applied without the necessity of first applying adhesive or moistening or otherwise treating its surface.

Punching jig: A creased piece of paper with sewing holes marked and punched in the valley fold. The paper jig is aligned with the top of the signature to show the correct place to punch sewing holes.

PVA: see polyvinyl acetate

Rebinding: The more-or-less complete rehabilitation of a worn and/or damaged book; the minimum amount of work involving resewing and the attachment of new covers.

Rebacking: The replacement of the material covering the spine of a book. The term may also be applied to the reattachment of the original spine material after it has been repaired.

Recasing: In a strict sense, a text block that is separated from its case, and, following repair to text block and case, is then placed back in the same case, perhaps with new end papers. In more general terms, a book is recased when the text block is removed from its original case and placed in a new case made specifically for it. The first might be said to be the work of a hand binder or repair person while the second is the work of a library binder.

Rice paper: Rice starch was traditionally used to size papers made of KOZO (mulberry plant). The paper is not made with rice. See Japanese repair tissue.

Rounding: The process of molding the spine of a text block into an arc of approximately one-third of a circle. Rounding takes place after the pages are attached to one another by sewing or gluing and before backing. Rounding can be achieved by hammering gently on the spine with a special roundheaded hammer.

Scalpel: A small knife with a very sharp blade.

Score: The process of making a indentation or crease in a sheet of paper or board by pressing into the paper or board with a folder.

Sekishu: Heavy weight Japanese repair tissue.

Selvage: The border of a roll or section of book cloth or the edges of fabric woven tighter to prevent reveling or tearing. In all materials, the selvage is meant to be cut off.

Sewing stations: The holes along the fold of a signature through which the sewing thread is passed.

Shoulder: The part of the spine of a text block which is bent over in the backing process to form a ridge to accommodate the thickness of the cover board.

Signature: A gathering of flat pages that are folded, usually in half, to create a unit. A signature usually contains multiples of 4 printed pages (4,8,16, etc.) Historically the signature was the identifying mark left on the first page of a gathering of pages.

Signature punching jig: A device for holding a signature open to allow sewing holes to be punched quickly and consistently.

Silicone release paper: A paper treated with silicone so it will not adhere to paper or heat set tissue.

Size: The gelatin, rosin, starch or another synthetic substance that is added to paper to provide resistance to the absorption of moisture and to eliminate ink feathering and bleeding through.

Spine: In a text block: the edge of the book where the folded pages or individual pages are attached to one another, either by sewing or adhesive. In a book case: the part of the covering material of a book which covers the folds of the sections of the book and which is the part usually visible as it stands on the shelf. It generally bears the title, author, name of the publisher.

Spine inlay: The piece of paper used to line the book cloth spine of a case bound book to give the book cloth spine support and impart a certain degree of rigidity, while still maintaining the necessary flexibility for proper opening.

Spine Liner: Layers of paper and crash used to reinforce the spine of a book after gluing and rounding or backing. This material supports the spine and imparts a certain degree of rigidity, while still maintaining the necessary flexibility for proper opening.

Square: The portion of the book board cover that projects beyond the text block of the book.

Starburst pattern: The pattern achieved by applying adhesive or water from the center of a piece of paper toward the outer edges.

Super: see crash

Tail: The lower end of the text block spine; the bottom edge of a bound book.

Tengujo: Light weight Japanese repair tissue.

Text block: The body of a book, consisting of the pages or sections which make up a unit to be bound or repaired.

Tipping-in: The process of attaching a loose page to the text block by applying glue to one edge (usually the inner margin) and inserting the page into the book.

Turn-in: The portion of the book cloth covering material that is turned over the edges of the case board.

Warp: A series of parallel yarns extended lengthwise in a loom, forming the lengthwise threads of a fabric.

Watermark: The translucent design or name easily visible when a sheet of paper is held to the light.

Water-tear: Using a thin line of water to weaken paper fibers so the paper will tear along that line.

Wheat paste: An adhesive made from cooked wheat flour and water.

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