Printing and Design Tips: February 2013, Issue #139

Case-bound Book Printing Terms

Here are some random bindery terms that will make it easier for you to talk with case-bound book printers to make sure you get what you want:

Book Block or Text Block

This is the interior of the book, the folded and gathered (and trimmed) book signatures without the cover. Similar to a book block is an F&G (folded and gathered). In this case, the printed and untrimmed signatures are stacked and provided to the client to check one last time before the book has been bound. An error in printing caught at this point (this is not the time to edit the copy) only necessitates reprinting one signature prior to binding the book (rather than tearing off the covers, reprinting a signature, and rebinding the book).

Smyth Sewing

In this binding method, book signatures are sewn together and then sewn onto the binder boards. This adds significant strength to the binding. Usually one finds Smyth sewing on case-bound books rather than perfect-bound books, but not always. Look closely at the soft cover art books in an art gallery gift shop. Books that will be used again and again can benefit from this stitching method.

Adhesive Notch or Burst Binding

Adhesive case binding is the alternative to Smyth sewing. In this case, the printer stacks the signatures, roughs up the edges of the signatures or notches them, and then pours a hot melt glue into the binding. Due to the notches or roughening, the glue finds more surface area to which it can adhere, thus strengthening the bonding of the pages to the spine.

Crash, Super, or Mull

This is the coarse cloth used to line the spine of a case-bound book. It looks a bit like gauze bandage material, but it is more rigid and more loosely woven. Also known as the “super,” or “mull,” this part of the binding comprises layers of glue and crash material to strengthen the spine and make the bind edge of the text block more rigid and secure, keeping all of the stacked signatures in place. Between the super, crash, or mull and the spine of the case is a liner made of thin cardboard. The super, crash, or mull extends out a bit beyond the spine of the text block and is attached to the casing. Then the endsheets are pasted down over the mull, the binder boards, and the turned edges of the exterior covering cloth.

Tight-Back or Loose-Back

If you look closely at the spine of a book lying on a table, you will probably see space between the cover and the signatures. The technical term for this is a “loose-back” book, and in this case the book block is suspended from the binding and is not affixed to the spine. In contrast, on a “tight-back” book, the binder has actually glued the crash and the text block to the interior portion of the cover at the spine. A tight-back book is stronger than a loose-back book, but a loose-back book will lie flat on a table.

Round-Back Books

In most cases a tight-back book will have a flat spine. For loose-back books, another option is round-back casing-in. In this operation, when the text block enters the casing-in machine, rollers grasp the book and force it to roll upward, curving the spine. Then a “backer” (a rounded iron) is pressed against the spine of the casing. It rocks back and forth, crimping the text block, flaring the first and last pages. This forms a “joint,” or pinched area to the left and right of the spine. Hot melt glue then flows into the ends of the book signatures just below the joint, and a “builder” presses the cover and text block together to set the glue.

Flyleafs and Paste Downs, Endsheets, Endleaves, and Endpaper

Endsheets, endleaves, and endpaper refer to the thick paper at the beginning and end of a book. Half of the sheet covers the interior side of the binder board. The other half is loose. The portion glued to the interior front and back covers is called the “paste down.” The loose portion of the sheet is called the “flyleaf.” On some books, you will find that the endpaper is not only thicker than the text stock but also a different color. Or, in some cases you may find artwork, maps, or other printing on the endpaper used to embellish the book.

Headbands and Footbands

If you look closely at the spine of a case-bound book, you will probably see little bits of fabric covering the ends of the signatures. They look like little caterpillars nestled into the cover where it overhangs the text. Called headbands and footbands, these are purely decorative; they do not reinforce the spine.

Printed Case

When designing a case-bound book, you can cover the binder boards with cloth or leather, and then foil stamp the title of the book onto this material. Of course you can also add a dust jacket to provide a more detailed cover treatment with four-color printing, illustration, and such. You can also print on a coated or uncoated press sheet and then glue this paper directly onto the binder boards. The latter cover treatment is called a “printed case.”

Slip Case

If your book is an encyclopedia, a leather bound tome, or some other such work that will need to last for many years, you may want to push your book up a notch or two and consider a slipcase. This is a box into which the book fits tightly for protection on all sides except the spine. A slip case may have finger notches to allow you to grasp the spine of the book to remove it from the case. A slipcase can be used not only for protection but also to make the book seem more elegant or even to keep a number of books in a series together for display purposes.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]