1 Head, tail, fore edge and spine (n.)
Duncan Campbell These are all parts of a book: the head is the horizontal upper end, visible at the top when the book stands upright. The tail is the opposite end, on which the book stands when upright. The fore edge is the open right side of the book, opposite from and parallel to the binding edge—usually on the left, but on the right in Japan—also known as the spine, i.e., the back of the book, which is the part you see when the book stands between others on a shelf.
Anne Elser I think that because many of the terms used to describe a book’s anatomy are also used to describe our own, identifying with and appreciating their beauty becomes all the more natural. Books are extensions of ourselves and very intimate experiences. Making or dissecting one, from head through spine to tail, makes this relationship (where your fingers touch and turn the pages) all the more rich.
The fore edge can also be decorated with painted patterns, flat colors, scenes or embossed textures that add to a book’s appeal, sometimes called fore edge paintings. Some of these can be hidden and then revealed, depending on how the pages are fanned out and in which direction.
2 Signature (n.)
DC When a book is printed, the large sheets the pages are printed on are folded, collated and trimmed into several manageable groups of paper: signatures. Each signature is individually stitched or glued, after which all the signatures are stitched or glued together. This forms the text block. Printers sometimes put small marks on the outside of the signature gutters (the folds) that make a continuous pattern when collated, aiding the binder and helping to reduce the risk of binding the pages out of order.
3 Sewing tapes (n.)
DC Sewing tapes—usually finely made of linen, cotton, or a mixture of the two, unbleached and unsized—are strips of cloth, used in hand-binding, that are threaded through the signatures’ stitching as they’re sewn together so that they stick out on each side. The pages are then attached to the board (the book’s cover) by gluing the sewing tapes to the inside of the cover board, thus connecting pages to cover.
AE Tapes can also be made from ribbon, book cloth or washi paper (the decorative hand-printed imported papers used to cover many books).
4 Rounding, backing (n.)
DC These terms describe the shape and look of a spine from the outside. As you might expect, rounding creates a spine with a rounded look, while backing makes the spine look as if it has little shoulders, or a waist, or something like the arch of a bridge in cross-section.
5 Casing-in (n. phrase)
DC This refers to a process whereby the text block (the pages collected and sewn in signatures) is attached to its cover by gluing its end sheets (also known as endpapers and which can be decorative elements as well) to the inside of the covers and over the inside edges of the cloth covering the spine and board.
6 Turn-in (n.)
DC When a book is bound with cloth…
AE …or cover paper (washi paper)…
DC …stretched over cardboard, the turn-in occurs where the cloth is turned in around the inside edge.
7 Square (adj.)
DC Since a book cover should be larger than the pages inside it, the difference in the measurements should be square—i.e., the same on all three open edges of the book.
8 Oversewing, splice sewing, block stitching (n.)
DC These are all terms for various kinds of stitching of signatures and spine. Collectively, they are the binding and describe the stitching together of loose leaves of paper to form a text block.
AE A visible spine, where you can see the stitching, offers not only functionality but beauty as well. A spine’s stitching is a bold way to show off a book’s structure by using colored threads, tapes, beads and other weaving techniques. Each sewing technique balances varying degrees of strength and flexibility.
9 Headband (n.)
DC Not all books have headbands, which now have no real function except as decorative elements at the top and bottom of the bound edge of a book (by the spine). They look like a little woven band, usually in two alternating colors, and their function is simply to finish the binding by covering the part where the pages are bound, as well as stabilizing the binding somewhat. Headbands, made with silk threads, were originally sewn right into the signature, then wrapped around a cord or strip of leather and knotted across at the head and tail of the spine. This gave structure to the ends and helped prevent wear and tear.
AE Headbands can protect books when they’re repeatedly pulled off a shelf from a standing or upright position.
10 PVA (n.)
DC The acronym for a rubbery synthetic polymer, polyvinyl acetate, the primary glue used by bookbinders and particularly useful since it retains flexibility.—DUNCAN CAMPBELL; ANNE ELSER
Greg and Duncan Campbell are father and son and president and vice-president of the Campbell-Logan Bindery, a family-owned business in Minneapolis founded more than 50 years ago. Anne Elser makes her living as a painter, bookbinder, designer and calligrapher, and as an instructor in those fields. Making art, she believes, creates a channel for truth and is a soulful reflection of the connections shared by all.