Binding Articles

All articles organized by structural complexity and written by Peter D. Verheyen unless otherwise noted.

Looking for an attractive textblock to bind, consider downloading my translation of Ernst Collin's Der Pressbengel (as The Bonefolder). It's all laid out in PDF to print double-sided for binding in signatures (5 signatures of 16 pages each). Click here to download, and for more see the left sidebar.

German Stiffened Paper Bindings (2012)
Known as broschuren and steifbroschuren in German, these brochures, pamphlets, and other related bindings have long been a part of the German bookbinding tradition. These can range from single section pamphlets with simple wrappers to adhesive bound or sewn textblocks in wrappers, to hard cover variants. In all cases the common thread is providing the texts with a simple yet functional binding that may or may not be intended to be permanent.

Watch Darryn Schneider's (DAS Bookbinding) video demonstrating this technique on YouTube. 

The German Case Binding, Skin Deep 22 (2006). See also here for the HTML version.
The case (Bradel) binding is the most common, general purpose binding structure in use by binders in Germany. What sets it apart from other case bindings is that the cover boards and spine stiffener are joined together with a strip of sturdy paper before covering. This allows the covers to be fit precisely to the textblock, especially at the joint and fore-edge. For this reason the structure is also very well suited to beginners. Books using this structure are generally covered in full cloth, paper, or a combination of the two. The structure is not well suited to leather binding and has been modified for use with vellum. This article describes how to complete a binding using this technique. 
Watch Darryn Schneider's (DAS Bookbinding) video demonstrating this technique on YouTube.
  • German Paper Bindings: The Lapped Component. By Henry Hebert.
    • This is the first in a multi-part series on particular paper structures, this post describes the “lapped component” or stiff-board case binding. It is the historical version of the German case / Bradel binding. 
Millimeter Binding / Edelpappband, The Bonefolder: an e-journal for the bookbinder and book artist Vol 1, no2 (2005). Anleitung auf Deutsch in "Der Edelpappband," Meister der Einbandkunst (MDE) Rundbrief, 2020.
What we call the “millimeter” binding in North America is a “nobler” version of the German “pappband,” or paper binding, hence the name “edelpappband.” The technique is based on the German case (Bradel) binding which is covered in paper. What distinguishes the technique is that cloth, leather, or vellum trim is added to the head and tail, foredges, and/or corners for greater durability, making the book more elegant at the same time. This article describes how to complete a binding using this technique. 
  • Edelpappband (Paper Binding). By Renate Mesmer.
    • Detailed step-by-step workshop presentation notes describing the "in-boards" version of this binding structure. Presented at the Guild of Book Workers' 2005 Seminar on the Standards of Excellence, Portland, OR, 2005. See also here.
  • In-boards Bradel Binding. By Jana Pullman.
    • Detailed step-by-step description the "in-boards" version of this binding structure. Her binding features cloth trim at the top and bottom edges making this a millimeter binding. Part one of three but describes complete process.
  • Millimeter and Rubow Bindings. By Henry Hebert.
    • Description of this technique as taught at the North Bennet Street School.
Der Gebrochene Rücken: A variation of the German case binding, Hedi Kyle, Festschrift. Ed. Rutherford Witthus. Walpole, N.H: Rutherford Witthus, 2009.
The “gebrochene rücken” is variant of the German case “Bradel” binding, something often described as the quintessential German binding structure. It is precise and adaptive to a variety of needs and aesthetic considerations can be worked “in boards” or as a case. Its closest modern relative is the simplified binding (reliure simplifée) as demonstrated by Sün Evrard and Laura Wait. While there are structural differences (that are not as great as one would think given that one is German and the other French), what both these bindings have in common is that they allow for the use of different covering materials on the spine and boards. While both can be used on thicker books, they are at their best when used on smaller books. This article describes how to complete a binding using this technique. it is also known as the "three-piece case binding".
Watch Darryn Schneider's (DAS Bookbinding) video demonstrating this technique on YouTube.
The Logic and Techniques of German Bookbinding. By J. Franklin Mowery. The Guild of Book Workers Journal, 29 (1991).
This article describes what is know in German as the Franzband, in English the German tube binding, a structure for fine bindings in full (or half-) leather. The purpose is to detail the characteristics of bookbinding that are expressly German in origin. One of the most Important concepts is that the book is tailored at every step of its production, which is critical because of the underlying principle that the binding must first and foremost serve to protect the text it covers and that its function relies upon a sound structure and the use of materials that have not been sacrificed for the sake of misdirected technique. The article is based on his presentation at the 10th Anniversary Seminar on the Standards of Excellence, Washington, D.C, 1990.
 Vellum on Boards, The Guild of Book Workers Journal, 39 (2004).
Vellum is arguably one of the most beautiful binding materials in use, and at the same time one of the least used in modern design bindings. While it is often used in limp bindings, its use “over hard boards” has been much more limited. A study of the bookbinding literature reveals it being covered in-depth to a larger degree in German language trade manuals than in English. This could explain their seemingly greater popularity in Germany, as evidenced by reproductions in exhibition catalogs and other publications. With a decline in traditional training opportunities, it is becoming increasing difficult to find exposure to this technique. As a material, vellum has many wonderful characteristics. It is translucent, can be made transparent, is available dyed or veiney, and exceedingly well wearing. Its major drawback is its hygroscopic nature, causing it to stretch as it absorbs water and to shrink as it dries. In dry conditions this will cause the boards to warp strongly. This, perhaps more than anything else, has discouraged binders from working with this wonderful material. This article describes how to complete a binding using this technique.
The Springback: Account book binding (With Donia Conn), The New Bookbinder: Journal of Designer Bookbinders, 23 (2003). See also here for the HTML version.
These instructions for making a springback account book are derived from my notes as an apprentice at the Kunstbuchbinderei Klein, with adaptations over time. While my training is in the German tradition, the steps outlined should not be radically different from the English tradition. Although the technique was originally patented in Great Britain in 1799 by John and Joseph Williams,) the authors have found very few descriptions of this method in contemporary English language texts. Alex J. Vaughan describes the technique with great detail in Section II, 'Stationery Binding' of Modern Bookbinding. There is also an historical mention in Bernard Middleton's A History of English Craft Bookbinding, but it does not detail the steps required to complete a binding. The German binding literature, however, covers the springback quite thoroughly in such texts as Thorwald Henningsen, Paul Kersten, Heinrich Luers, Gustav Moessner, Fritz Wiese, and Gerhard Zahn, and the technique is still required learning for all hand bookbinding apprentices in Germany. As a style, the springback is firmly rooted in the 'trade' binding tradition. The springback's robustness, and ability to lie open and flat for extended periods of time without unduly stressing the spine make the structure ideal for use as account and record books. These same qualities make it suitable for guest-books, lectern Bibles, and similarly used books. Regrettably the structure is rarely found on fine bindings or in contemporary book art, especially as the structure would be a suitable platform for many elements of design bindings. Its thick boards would provide a canvas for more sculptural or inset designs. With some minor modification it could also serve as a means of presenting pop-up constructions.

"Fips" and His Eels: Fish Skin in Bookbinding. A history of fish as a material in bookbinding, as well as making parchment from fish, and working as a material. Published in the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild journal Book Arts arts du livre Canada, Vol 10, Nr 2, 2019.
While fish skin, generally tanned, has been used in binding for decorative elements such as in- or on-lays and to create protective wrappers for books, it has a long history of use for clothing, sword handles, objets d’art, and other applications, as well. Plentiful, strong, and visually quite interesting, its preparation can take the form of drying (parchment) or various tanning methods. Geographically, its use has been most prevalent in northern climes where the skins are less likely to rot because of lower temperatures. Most common have been oceanic species. This article provides an overview of fish skin as a binding material, provides instructions on making parchment from fish, how to work with the material, and shares other resources.

See also more articles and posts on the Pressbengel Project blog.