Books Printed in Signature: Binding Through the Fold configuration
This article discusses some basics and basic rules about binding through of pages
the fold. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Two rules which near the
should.never be broken, however, are these: 1) Rare, valuable or special spine )
books should be left as "found." Original binding or lack of binding con-
tribute to such a book's importance. If these books need binding, a "rare-
book-box" should be made for them. 2) A brittle book should never be
bound. The binding will be stronger than the paper and cause pages to
Binding through the fold is one of the earliest forms of bookbinding.
Figure 1 represents the finished binding of a book printed in signature.
Books printed in signature and bound through the fold are characterized
by their gatherings of sheets. A signature is a gathering or group of pages
in which one folded sheet rests inside another folded sheet. Figure 2
,demonstrates how sheets are gathered, nesting one inside another. A sim-
ple book, a pamphlet, is made of only one signature.
NOTES FROM PRESERVATION
a -Th e
Books are bound this way for two reasons. First and most obviously, it
has something to do with the way pages are often printed. Figures 3a&b
and 4a&b show the front and back of simple printed sheets. 3a&b is a
traditional style, requiring the binder to fold the sheet twice. When the
sheet is folded along the lines, the pages fall into correct order. 4a&b is
a modem style, requiring the binder to fold each sheet once and nest
folded sheets. Printing more than one page on a sheet saves the printer
time and money, and if pages are together prevents binding pages in
the wrong order.
Second, books are bound this way because it's simple. All the binder
has to do is glue, staple or sew through the fold. The easiest way to rec-
ognize the style of "leaf attachment" after binding is to turn to the mid-
dle or inside of a signature. The style is obvious. If you see threads, the
book has been sewn. If staples, staped. If nothing, glued.
When gluing, the binder forces glue through holes punched through
the fold. This style is sometimes known as "bursted-binding" because a
machine burst holes through the fold. Bursted-binding is never used
with glossy pages; glue can't get a proper hold on the slick paper. The
strength of a bursted-binding depends upon the glue: its flexibility, the
surface area it covers and the number of pages it holds together. If the
glue can't bend or becomes brittle, the binding won't last. Further, if the
glue is expected to hold many pages but only pokes through the holes,
the pages will break loose. The Preservation Office recommends that
such books be rebound either by sewing-through-the -fold (below) or ad-
hesive binding (future article).
When stapling, the binder staples through the fold. This style is
sometimes known as "wire-stitching" or "saddle-stitching." (In binding
terminology, "stitching" always implies use of wires or staples.) Time
and Newsweek are both saddle-stitched. This style is okay for books
that aren't expected to last or last only until they can be rebound.
Saddle-stitching makes binding quick and easy, especially when binding
books with more than one signature. Signatures could be stapled onto a
single piece of cloth, side by side. Saddle-stitching is no longer used for
books with more than one signature because of the style's faults. As soon
as the staples rust or pull away from the cloth however, the binding
fails. The Preservation Office recommends rebinding either by sewing-
through-the-fold or adhesive binding.
When sewing, the binder sews through the fold. Figure 5 illustrates
simple, pamphlet sewing. Of course, more than one signature can be sewn
together. This style is sometimes known as "saddle-sewing" or "Smyth-
sewing." (Smyth was the man who invented the machine which could
saddle-sew. He also invented a new type of screwdriver, but the inven-
tion was stolen and patented by a man named Phillips.) When saddle-
sewing, different thread thicknesses are used for different thicknesses
and weights of paper. Rebinding of sewn books is required only when the
sewing is too tight, too loose, broken, or done with threads which are
either too thick or too thin. Paperbacks which have been sewn only need
a "case"; their signatures and sewing should be retained. But if rebind-
ing is necessary, the book should be resewn or adhesive bound.