Book Terminology Dissected

When it comes to books, we know a thing or to about making them. We receive lots of questions about how books come together and we thought it would be helpful to breakdown some of the more well-known book terms. This way you can be as up to speed as we are when it comes to turning your memories into treasures.

Backing: The process of shaping a ridge or shoulder on each side of the spine of a text block prior to lining it. Backing accommodates the thickness of the boards, providing a hinge along which they swing. Backing helps to prevent the spine of the text block from collapsing into a concave shape over time.

Bookbinding: The process of physically assembling a book from an ordered stack of paper sheets that are folded together into sections or sometimes left as a stack of individual sheets. The stack is then bound together along one edge by either sewing with thread through the folds or by a layer of flexible adhesive. There are three main types of binding:

  1. Library Binding: An especially durable book bound in accordance with standards established by the American Library Association.
  2. Perfect Binding: A binding method that uses glue to fasten the pages together after the folds have been trimmed off. This method uses only adhesive, usually a hot-melt, to secure the pages into a wrap-around cover. Telephone books and paperbacks are typical book forms that use perfect binding. All Blurb books are made with this binding technique.
  3. Saddlestitch: This binding method focuses on holding the pages of a single signature together by using a staple, wire, or thread.

Case: The case of a book cover, which consists of two boards, and inlay, and covering material. The case is made apart from the text block and is attached at a later step in the book binding process.

Covering: The material/finish on the outside of the book. While the majority of books are hardback or paperback, there are a number of variations within these two categories:

  1. Hardback: Covering options include cloth binding, ImageWrap or Dust Jacket.
  2. Paperback: Covering options include conventional softcover finish or softcover with flaps.

End Sheets: Also called, end papers, are the pages glued to the inside of your hardcover book’s front and back cover. They also form the first and last unprinted pages of a hardback book. Softcover books and magazines do not have end sheets.

Head & Tail bands: These are small ornamental bands, which are glues to the head and tail of the book block. Early books used head and tail bands to protect the head and tail of bindings. Nowadays, the bands are mostly ornamental and made of cotton or silk.

Signature (Book Block): The signature, or book block, is a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a sheet of paper. The paper is then folded, cut and trimmed down to the finished page size. The number of pages on a signature depends on your page size and the size of the press sheet they fit on.

Spine: The back of the book. The book face, along which the signature is bound to the cover. Modern-day books are shelved with the spine out but in earlier times books were shelved with the spine facing inwards.

When it comes to the process of book making there are hundreds of words but we wanted to focus on those that are vital to the creation of the books you have on your shelves. Did we miss a word you want to know more about? Tell us in the comments below.


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