Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Book Printing: The Beauty of Old—and I Mean Very Old–Books

Photo purchased from …

I’ve mentioned before that my fiancee and I consider our second home to be the thrift store. I love the books and CDs. She loves the clothes and furniture. We recently found a new venue that actually has a “free” section that includes two plastic bins of print books.

One of my recent finds is a book of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry dated 1899. It’s not in the best shape I’ve seen. (Granted, it’s 123 years old.) But even a cursory observation of the book yields information on typesetting, printing paper, book binding, and foil stamping, to name only a few arenas of print book design.

Here’s what I have seen and learned, and why I find this particular print book worthy of note.

The Text Paper

When I dig through my home library I find books I read in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. In many of these, the text pages have yellowed and become brittle. This is because the paper has a number of impurities that make it acidic (rather than basic). This means the pH (which ranges from 0 to 14, with neutral being 7) is below 7. Acidic paper turns yellow and becomes brittle. This can be a problem if you want the books you’re manufacturing, or reading, to last a long time.

In contrast, most of the paper in the older print books I have collected over the years is basic (i.e., the paper has a pH above 7). That is, impurities have been removed in the paper-making process, and in many cases buffering agents such as calcium carbonate have been added. Over time these buffering agents neutralize acidic elements that are either absorbed from the atmosphere or created as the paper ages.

But why would publishers print books on paper that will turn yellow and become brittle? Well, at the present time most paper is acid-free, but back in the 1970s, when I acquired some of these books, presumably the acid-free paper was more expensive. After all, many of my books were novels, intended to be read and then discarded within a few years, so they really didn’t need to be pristine for that long.

As a side note, newsprint is also highly acidic. My fiancee has a number of old newspapers from the 1960s. In all cases these have to be handled carefully, since they are also yellowing and becoming brittle.

But to get back to my 123-year-old book of Longfellow’s poetry, the text paper (it is a case-bound print book without a paper cover) is in exceptionally good condition. Apparently acid-free paper, which is similar to archival paper (which, in addition to not being acidic, also contains no artificial paper brighteners) has a life span of over 200 years. It is especially good for valuable books of poetry and also for ledger books you might buy at Office Depot (since these, too, need to last for a long, long time).

Binding Qualities

The book of Longfellow’s poetry is case bound to increase its durability and longevity. Given how old it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if perfect binding had not yet been invented (actually, I just Googled it, and perfect binding was invented in 1895 but not used in book binding until 1931, according to Advantage Bookbinding (

The spine of the print book has been rounded, which is a process that involves pushing the central pages of the text outward from the spine during binding, such that the pages as seen at the face margin (the front of the book opposite the spine, when you look at it from the side) are concave (curved inward), just as the spine is convex (curved outward).

The book binder also foil stamped the fabric-based cover-casing material using heat and pressure in a “strike-on” process (probably using a letterpress) to transfer the foil material from a roll to the fabric cover of the print book.

There are also fabric headbands and footbands at the binding edge of the book to obscure the glue and folds of the book press signatures where they are attached to the paper “crash,” or “super,” which is hung on the front and back endsheets and binder boards. That is, the interior spine does not touch the outer spine of the book case itself except when the book is closed. This is not a “tight-backed” print book. That is, when the book is opened, the text block (the group of folded and gathered press signatures) moves forward, away from the exterior fabric and paper spine. When the book is closed, the text block moves back into place.

The Printing Process

In the present time, if you want to typeset a print book, you use a computer application like InDesign and burn commercial printing plates directly from these electronic files. Then you hang the plates on an offset press and print the book forms (the flat press signatures prior to folding).

In contrast, the book of Longfellow’s poems (considering the date of publication was 1899) was printed in one of two ways: either via the newly invented offset lithographic process (invented in 1875) or via letterpress.

Offset lithography uses the incompatibility of ink and water to keep the image area full of ink and the non-image area free of ink, using flat printing plates. In contrast, letterpress uses plates with raised image areas (called relief plates).

Even now, letterpress is used occasionally, and a similar technology called flexography–which uses rubber rather than metal relief plates–is used extensively for custom printing sheet plastic (bread bags, for instance) and wrapping paper.

Since the technology was so new when this print book was manufactured, I would not be surprised if letterpress was the technology used.

The Typesetting Process

So what about the typesetting?

Mergenthaler invented the Linotype typesetting machine in 1886 (again, very close to the publication date of my Longfellow poetry book). The Linotype machine allowed type compositors to set an entire line of type at one time. (The machine produced a slug of lead with raised typographic letters for use in the letterpress printing process.)

Prior to this, the type compositor had to select upper and lowercase letters from a wooden case (a box or drawer), one at a time, and compose each line backwards (so it would print forwards) in a composing stick. The lines of type were then laid into a “chase” (along with any incised images, instead of halftones, which hadn’t yet been invented), and then everything was locked up so the various elements wouldn’t move when inked and printed.

Once the print job was done, all of the letters had to be re-sorted into their various job cases (“upper case” letters in the upper case of the type storage unit and “lower case” letters in the lower drawers or cases of the type storage unit). Misfiling these individual metal letters would lead to typographical errors (typos) in the final printed product.

So depending on the reliability of the new technology (and the type compositor’s level of comfort with the new technology), these would have been the two options for typesetting this book of Longfellow’s poetry.

The Process of Printing Images

This book of Longfellow’s poetry has a number of black and white “plates” or images. Had the book been printed today, they would be halftones. But back when this book was published the halftone process for printing had just been invented (in 1869), which may be why the images in this book are engravings instead. You can tell because there are no halftone dots but only hatched and cross hatched lines to simulate shades of gray, depending on how close together or how far apart they are.

And in the front of the print book, between the frontispiece (an engraving on the left-hand page) and title page (on the right-hand page) there is a transparent sheet of tissue paper (glued to the right-hand page close to the binding and slightly smaller than the trim size of the book) for protection of the title page (to keep the ink on the frontispiece plate from offsetting to the title page).

The Takeaway

I personally think that one can appreciate the artistry of an old print book (especially a very old print book) when one understands both the technologies used and the date these technologies were invented. Beyond everything else, book printing and binding are art forms and crafts done by skilled tradesmen who put love and attention into the details of their work.

And it becomes even more intriguing when one realizes that in some cases the materials and techniques employed have allowed people in future years (in this case 123 years after the book was printed) to appreciate the quality workmanship.

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved