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Bookbinding Techniques - The Basics

Make your own sketchbooks with this guide!

General Terms and Tools

Signature - is a set of papers folded in half once.
Book block - is a set of signatures glued or sewn together; they make up the inside of the book.
Endpapers - are the signatures attached to the front and the back covers.
Headband / tailband - is a band looped around a strip of leather or rope.
Hinge - is the part of the book near the spine where the book folds open
Rib - Ribs are the thickening part of the spine - they are either created naturally by the ropes holding together the book block, or by using plastic 'fake' ribs.

sewing needles
waxed thread


Bookbinding types

In the following articles we'll introduce you the these popular bookbinding techniques:

Pamphlet binding

Coptic binding

Japanese binding



The first books were clay tablets from around 3800 BC Babylon era. Other different materials included Palm books made out of palm leaves or strips of bark.

The next major type was the papyrus roll or scroll. These were made out of plant stems that were cut into fibre strips, soaked in the Nile and dried. After that they were hammered into sheets and whitened with ivory. They were really brittle, and could only be stored rolled up.

Clay Tablet

Wax tablets were another commonly used writing surface in Antiquity. They were made out of wood. Covered with a layer of wax, making it reusable and portable.

Wax tablet and a Roman stylus

The paper we think about nowadays was invented in China around 200 BC. The manufacture process was adopted by the Arabs and thus gradually spread to the west. The first paper mill in England was established in 1496 near Stevenage.

A palm leaf Hindu text manuscript
St Cuthbert's Gospel, the oldest surviving Western binding

Bookbinding and paper was revolutionised by the invention of printing presses and printing, the invention of German Johannes Gutenberg (1456).

The first printer in England, William Caxton, followed in less then twenty years.

As printing increased the number of books, binding became a separate occupation. The 16th century saw the golden age of book covers as new fine tools made it possible to create exquisite designs.


Contemporary use:

Fine art/ artist books
Handmade sketchbooks, journals
Repair of antique books


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