Return to limp bookbinding (thing)

A limp binding is a style of bookbinding that is much less rigid than a conventional hardcover book. The tapes (in the sense of Webster’s first definition) that hold the book block together also hold the rest of the binding together. It can be done using very little adhesive, which makes for a structure that generally lasts much longer than a binding with glue, because the book can expand and contract more readily with changes in humidity and temperature. Also, because the material used for the binding and covers is not glued to anything, the texture of the material can be fully appreciated.

A limp binding can be done with any material of decent weight: paper; cloth; leather; or vellum. Since there are no boards, the finished book has more of the feel of the material – much texture is lost when material is glued down to boards.

To bind a book using a limp binding, certain steps should be taken when sewing the book block. Tapes should be used, instead of cords, because the structure of the binding requires it - they will run through the covers and hold the book together. The tapes should be at least twice as long as the page is wide, though longer tapes allow for more intricate tying patterns.

Sew the book block as described in sewing a bookbinding using tapes. Keep in mind that the tapes will be going through the first and last page of the book and plan the endpapers accordingly.

The material used for the limp binding must be much larger than the book – one can skimp a little, but it makes for a weaker structure.


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Using a heavy paper (I use BFK Rives) or a light, single ply board, cut out two pieces as big as you would want the boards to be on a normal book – 1/8 to 1/4 inch (3.5 – 7 mm.) bigger than the page on the top and bottom, but the same width as the page on the sides. (This can be larger if desired, these are just what an average book might be like.) Cut another piece as tall as the first two and the exact width of the spine. If the material being used for the cover is lightweight or might tear, two strips, the same height as the others, and about 3/8 inch (1 cm.) wide. Center the first three pieces on the material that will be used for the cover, on the opposite side from the one that will be visible. Place the strip that is the same width as the spine in the center, and to the left and right, with about 3/8 inch (1 cm.) between each of them.
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Next, trace the outline of each of the three pieces of paper on the material, being sure that they are straight. Then, the scoring begins. The scores should be completed in order. A score “up” is one where the material would be folded up. A score “down” is one where the material would have to be folded down. This cannot really be easily done, so the material is flipped before scoring. Use a bone folder and a heavy metal ruler or straight edge. Be careful not to cut the material.
1. Up. Then be sure that 2. is still in the right place – put the paper that is the boards back in, and if necessary, redraw lines.
2. Up.
3. Down.
4. Up.
5. Up.
6. Down. Now be sure that the paper still lines up with the material. If it does, proceed. If not, redraw lines 7 and 8.
7. Up.
8. Up.
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|____________|_______________|_|_|_|_______________|____________| 1
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|____________|_______________|_|_|_|_______________|____________| 2
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             8               6 5 4 3               7      
Draw the following outline on the material. This is the part that will be cut out. The cut should be at least 1/2 inch (1.4 cm.) from the corner of the papers, and 1 inch (2.8 cm.) from the end of the spine.
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|                        * *         * *                        |
|                      *   *         *   *                      |
|                    *     *         *     *                    |
|                  *        *       *        *                  |
|                *           -     -           *                |
|              *               ---               *              |
|            *_______________   _   _______________*            |
|          * |               | | | |               | *          |
|        *   |               | | | |               |   *        |
|      *     |               | | | |               |     *      |
|    *       |               | | | |               |       *    |
|  *         |               | | | |               |         *  |
|*           |               | | | |               |           *|
|  *         |               | | | |               |         *  |
|    *       |               | | | |               |       *    |  
|      *     |               | | | |               |     *      |
|        *   |               | | | |               |   *        |
|          * |_______________| |_| |_______________| *          |
|            *                 ___                 *            |
|              *             -     -             *              |
|                *          *       *          *                |
|                  *       *         *       *                  |
|                    *     *         *     *                    |
|                      *   *         *   *                      |
|                        * *         * *                        |
|__________________________*_________*__________________________|
Cut away the excess (marked by #).
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|########################* *#########* *########################|
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|##################*        *#######*        *##################|
|################*           -#####-           *################|
|##############*               ---               *##############|
|############*_______________   _   _______________*############|
|##########* |               | | | |               | *##########|
|########*   |               | | | |               |   *########|
|######*     |               | | | |               |     *######|
|####*       |               | | | |               |       *####|
|##*         |               | | | |               |         *##|
|*           |               | | | |               |           *|
|##*         |               | | | |               |         *##|
|####*       |               | | | |               |       *####|  
|######*     |               | | | |               |     *######|
|########*   |               | | | |               |   *########|
|##########* |_______________| |_| |_______________| *##########|
|############*                 ___                 *############|
|##############*             -#####-             *##############|
|################*          *#######*          *################|
|##################*       *#########*       *##################|
|####################*     *#########*     *####################|
|######################*   *#########*   *######################|
|########################* *#########* *########################|
|##########################*#########*##########################|
That leaves us with this:
                          *         *
                        * *         * *
                      *   *         *   *
                    *     *         *     *
                  *        *       *        *
                *           -     -           *
              *               ---               *
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          * |               | | | |               | *
        *   |               | | | |               |   *
      *     |               | | | |               |     *
    *       |               | | | |               |       *
  *         |               | | | |               |         *
*           |               | | | |               |           *
  *         |               | | | |               |         *
    *       |               | | | |               |       *
      *     |               | | | |               |     *
        *   |               | | | |               |   *
          * |_______________| |_| |_______________| *
            *                 ___                 *
              *             -     -             *
                *          *       *          *
                  *       *         *       *
                    *     *         *     *
                      *   *         *   *
                        * *         * *
                          *         *
Place the paper cut earlier in position. Fold the top flaps down, and press down with bone folder if needed.
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          * |*             -| | | |-             *| *
        *   |  *          * | | | | *          *  |   *
      *     |    *       *  | | | |  *       *    |     *
    *       |      *     *  | | | |  *     *      |       *
  *         |        *   *  | | | |  *   *        |         *
*           |          * *  | | | |  * *          |           *
  *         |            *  | | | |  *            |         *
    *       |               | | | |               |       *
      *     |               | | | |               |     *
        *   |               | | | |               |   *
          * |_______________| |_| |_______________| *
            *                 ___                 *
              *             -     -             *
                *          *       *          *
                  *       *         *       *
                    *     *         *     *
                      *   *         *   *
                        * *         * *
                          *         *
Next, fold the bottom flaps up, in the same manner.
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          * |*             -| | | |-             *| *
        *   |  *          * | | | | *          *  |   *
      *     |    *       *  | | | |  *       *    |     *
    *       |      *     *  | | | |  *     *      |       *
  *         |        *   *  | | | |  *   *        |         *
*           |          * *  | | | |  * *          |           *
  *         |        *   *  | | | |  *   *        |         *
    *       |      *     *  | | | |  *     *      |       *
      *     |    *       *  | | | |  *       *    |     *
        *   |  *         *  | | | |  *         *  |   *
          * |*___________*__| |_| |__*___________*| *
Finally, fold the two side flaps over. At this time, if adhesives are to be used at all, it is reccomended to use a small amount of wheat paste or acid free PVA at the top and the bottom of the paper that makes the spine, on the inside of the binding. The same should be done for the small strips of paper cut for the folds, if this is a more fragile binding.
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            | *            -| | | |-            * | 
            |   *         * | | | | *         *   |    
            |     *      *  | | | |  *      *     |     
            |       *    *  | | | |  *    *       |       
            |         *  *  | | | |  *  *         |         
            |           *   | | | |   *           |           
            |         *  *  | | | |  *  *         |        
            |       *    *  | | | |  *    *       |       
            |     *      *  | | | |  *      *     |     
            |   *        *  | | | |  *        *   |   
            |_*__________*__| |_| |__*__________*_| 
Center the book block on the cover. Cut slits at lines 3, 4, 5, and 6, noted above, at the width and position of the tapes. (These are vertical slits.) Make a score on the endpapers of the book block, 3/8 inch (1 cm.) from the spine. Cut slits in this score at the same position as the tapes.

This time is the easiest to damage the book – be careful! Pull the tapes from the left side of the book out the slits on score 5, then back in through score 6 and the score on that endpaper. Pull the tape on the right side out through the slits in score 4 and then back in through score 3 and the endpaper. This is the basis of this binding.

Devise a pattern for the tape to come through the endpaper and the cover at least three more times, keeping the tape in a straight line. Each of the spaces on the cover should be at least 3/8 inch (1 cm.) long. Cut these slits, and weave the tape through them.

To finish, the tapes need to be held down somehow, so that they do not pull out. This can be done by tying them in knots, gluing them down, or pulling them back through some of the slits.

Existing:


Non-Existing: