The Deluxe and Lettered editions of MHB Press & Hard Gore Press publications are all bound by hand. I thought it might be nice to give you an insight into the binding process so that you can see all the work that goes into a traditional binding (and where the money is being spent!).
The endpapers are cut and folded. Endpapers are generally made of a thicker paper than that used for the book block and may be coloured, embossed, printed, marbled or even hand marbled in the case of the most expensive editions. It is the endpapers which hold the book block in the casing so the "tipping" - laying on - has to be accurate.
The book block is then "nipped" under pressure to try and get the spine thickness the same as the fore-edge. The spine is then glued using a brush.
A water based glue is used for this glueing process. This is extremely important as it means that (together with the rounded spine) the book exhibits excellent "open flat" qualities. When you are reading it the book opens easily and will stay flat when you are reading it, and when you close it, the spine reverts to its original shape. Mechanical binding will not give you this. With mechanical binding, when you open the book the spine cracks.
Once glued the book is trimmed on its three outside edges using a guillotine.
In the case of the more expensive editions, the outside edges are then gilded. Using fine sandpaper the edges are sanded until smooth then a shelak is applied to seal the paper and assist adhesion. Once the shelak is dry gold foil is applied using heat and pressure.
The book is then "rounded and backed". This is the rounding of the spine. The rounding process begins by tapping the spine with a rounding hammer and is then finished off using a hand operated rounding machine. Once complete the hammer is then used to "back" the book. This is the creation of two shoulders on the spine of the book which keep the book within the case.
Head and tail bands are then fixed by hand. Whilst decorative they also serve the purpose of hiding the bound edges of the pages.
The best quality Dutch grey binding board is then cut to size (usually 3mm bigger than the page size on each edge).
The book is then fully bound in either leather or cloth or quarter bound (the spine and part of the boards) again in leather or cloth with paper or cloth covered boards.
Coloured skins are then shipped to the bindery. Each skin is inspected to ensure that no natural faults will affect the appearance of the book and then the panels are cut.
Each panel is then skived down (thinned) so that binding can take place. The edges of the panels are "pared". This is a further thinning of the leather which is vital to achieve a neat and tidy finish (if you ever rub your fingers over a join in a quarter bound book and there is a noticeable bump it is a dead give-away that the leather hasn't been pared properly).
The leather is then glued to the boards and the edges turned in (if quarter bound then either cloth or paper is cut to cover the remainder of the boards and glued in place).
The case is now complete. Some books have "raised bands" on the spine. These are bumps on the spine which were originally created from a sewing process. These days they are for decoration rather than strength and are initially created by gluing thin strips of leather in place.
A "die" is created from artwork which is then used to "block" or "emboss" the case. Applied under tremendous pressure this will smooth the grain ("blind embossing") or add a colour stamp to the spine or boards. A coloured blocking (usually gold) is then applied to create the letters on the spine.
Once the case is completed the book block is then "cased in". A fine layer of glue is applied to the endpapers which are then fixed to the inside of the boards.
If a book has raised bands they are now "worked up" so that they are distinct and stand proud of the spine.
The joints (grooves down the front and back) are then made. These allow the book to be opened easily.
And that's it - book made. Easy huh?
Lastly - a big tip from the binders (and collectors are going to hate this!). When handling a leather bound book ALWAYS rub a clean hand up and down the spine and joints so that the natural oils from your hand get into the leather to nourish it.