The art and business of bookbinding began with the protection of parchment manuscripts with boards. Papyrus had originally been produced in rolls, but sheets of parchment came to be folded and fastened together with sewing by the 2d cent. AD In the Middle Ages the practice of making fine bindings for these sewn volumes rose to great heights; books were rare and precious articles, and many were treated with exquisite bindings: they were gilded, jeweled, fashioned of ivory, wood, leather, or brass. The techniques of folding and sewing together sheets in small lots, combining those lots with tapes, and sewing and fastening boards on the outside as protection changed but little from the medieval monastery to the modern book bindery. The invention of printing
greatly increased the demand for the bookbinder's work, establishing it as a business. The finest binding is still done by hand. In machine binding (called casing), the cover, or case, is made separate from the book and then glued to it. The covering of the boards, usually called the binding, is most frequently of cloth, heavy paper, vellum, leather, or imitations of leather. The preferred leathers are oasis goat and levant. Leather bindings are sometimes decorated by marbling
, tooling, or embossing
See H. Lehmann-Haupt, ed., Bookbinding in America (1941, repr. 1967); B. C. Middleton, A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique (1978); D. Muir, Binding and Repairing Books by Hand (1978); E. Walker, The Art of Book-binding (1984).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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