Do you think about the binding on the books that you publish? I can say I don’t give it a moment’s thought in those terms. I think of hard or paper covers. I think of book binding as what makes a book hold together but it is much more than that. And since the proliferation of ebooks the concept has made a change. I’m calling it digital binding. Bookbinding is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It usually involves attaching a book cover to the resulting text-block. Before the computer age, the bookbinding trade involved two divisions. First, there is stationery or vellum binding which deals with making new books intended to be written into, such as accounting ledgers, business journals, and guest log books, along with other general office stationery such as note books, manifold books, portfolios, and etc. Second is letterpress binding which deals with making new books intended to be read from and includes fine binding, library binding, edition binding, and publisher’s bindings. Western books from the fifth century onwards were bound between hard covers, with pages made from parchment folded and sewn on to strong cords or ligaments that were attached to wooden boards and covered with leather. Since early books were exclusively handwritten on handmade materials, sizes and styles varied considerably, and there was no standard of uniformity. Early and medieval codices were bound with flat spines, and it was not until the fifteenth century that books began to have the rounded spines associated with hardcovers today. Because the vellum of early books would react to humidity by swelling, causing the book to take on a characteristic wedge shape, the wooden covers of medieval books were often secured with straps or clasps. These straps, along with metal bosses on the book’s covers to keep it raised off the surface that it rests on, are collectively known as furniture. Terms and Techniques Most of the following terms apply only with respect to American practices: A leaf (often wrongly referred to as a folio) typically has two pages of text and/or images, front and back, in a finished book. The Latin for leaf is folium, therefore “folio” should be followed by a number to distinguish between recto and verso. Thus “folio 5r” means “on the recto of the leaf numbered 5”, although technically not accurate, it is normal to say “on folio 5r”. In everyday speech it is common to refer to “turning the pages of a book”, although it would be more accurate to say “turning the leaves of a book”; this is the origin of the phrase “to turn over a new leaf” i.e. to start on a fresh blank page. The recto side of a leaf faces left when the leaf is held straight up from the spine (in a paginated book this is usually an odd-numbered page). The verso side of a leaf faces right when the leaf is held straight up from the spine (in a paginated book this is usually an even-numbered page). A bifolium (often wrongly called a “bifolio”, “bi-folio”, or even “bifold”) is a single sheet folded in half to make two leaves. The plural is “bifolia”, not “bifolios”. A section, sometimes called a gathering, or, especially if unprinted, a quire, is a group of bifolia nested together as a single unit. In a completed book, each quire is sewn through its fold. Depending on how many bifolia a quire is made of, it could be called: duernion – two bifolia, producing four leaves; ternion – three bifolia, producing six leaves; quaternion – four bifolia, producing eight leaves; quinternion – five bifolia, producing ten leaves; sextern or sexternion – six bifolia, producing twelve leaves. A codex is a series of one or more quires sewn through their folds, and linked together by the sewing thread. A signature, in the context of printed books, is a section that contains text. Though the term signature technically refers to the signature mark, traditionally a letter or number printed on the first leaf of a section in order to facilitate collation, the distinction is rarely made today. Folio, quarto, and so on may also refer to the size of the finished book, based on the size of sheet that an early paper maker could conveniently turn out with a manual press. Paper sizes could vary considerably, and the finished size was also affected by how the pages were trimmed, so the sizes given are rough values only. A folio volume is typically 15 in (38 cm) or more in height, the largest sort of regular book. A quarto volume is typically about 9 in (23 cm) by 12 in (30 cm), roughly the size of most modern magazines. A sheet folded in quarto (also 4to or 4º) is folded in half twice at right angles to make four leaves. Also called: eight-page signature. An octavo volume is typically about 5 to 6 in (13 to 15 cm) by 8 to 9 in (20 to 23 cm), the size of most modern digest magazines or trade paperbacks. A sheet folded in octavo (also 8vo or 8º) is folded in half 3 times to make 8 leaves. Also called: sixteen-page signature. A sextodecimo volume is about 4 1⁄2 in (11 cm) by 6 3⁄4 in (17 cm), the size of most mass market paperbacks. A sheet folded in sextodecimo (also 16mo or 16º) is folded in half 4 times to make 16 leaves. Also called: 32-page signature. Duodecimo or 12mo, 24mo, 32mo, and even 64mo are other possible sizes. Modern paper mills can produce very large sheets, so a modern printer will often print 64 or 128 pages on a single sheet. Trimming separates the leaves of the bound book. A sheet folded in quarto will have folds at the spine and also across the top, so the top folds must be trimmed away before the leaves can be turned. A quire folded in octavo or greater may also require that the other two sides be trimmed. Deckle Edge, or Uncut books are untrimmed or incompletely trimmed, and may be of special interest to book collectors. Paperback Binding Though books are sold as hardcover or paperback, the actual binding of the pages is important to durability. Most paperbacks and some hard cover books have a “perfect binding”. The pages are aligned or cut together and glued. A strong and flexible layer, which may or may not be the glue itself, holds the book together. In the case of a paperback, the visible portion of the spine is part of this flexible layer. Spine Orientation In languages written from left to right, such as English, books are bound on the left side of the cover; looking from on top, the pages increase counter-clockwise. In right-to-left languages, books are bound on the right. In both cases, this is so the end of a page coincides with where it is turned. Many translations of Japanese comic books retain the binding on the right, which allows the art, laid out to be read right-to-left, to be published without mirror-imaging it. In China (only areas using Traditional Chinese), Japan, and Taiwan, literary books are written top-to-bottom, right-to-left, and thus are bound on the right, while text books are written left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and thus are bound on the left. In mainland China, all books have changed to be written and bound like left to right languages in the mid-20th century. The spine of the book is an important aspect in book design, especially in cover design. When the books are stacked up or stored in a shelf, what’s on the spine is the only visible information about the book. In a book store, the details on the spine are what initially attract attention. Spine Titling Early books did not have titles on their spines; rather they were shelved flat with their spines inward, and titles written with ink along their fore edges. Modern books display their titles on their spines. In languages with Chinese-influenced writing systems, the title is written top-to-bottom, as is the language in general. In languages written horizontally, conventions differ about the direction in which the title on the spine is rotated: In the United States, the Commonwealth, Scandinavia and for books in Dutch, titles are usually written top-to-bottom on the spine. This means that when the book is placed on a table with the front cover upwards, the title is oriented left-to-right on the spine. This practice is reflected in the industry standards ANSI/NISO Z39.41and ISO 6357. In most of continental Europe and Latin America, titles are conventionally printed bottom-to-top on the spine so, when the books are placed vertically on shelves, the title can be read by tilting the head to the left.