What does a Bookbinder do?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 June 2019
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Bookbinders are professionals who make use of various methods to secure sheets of paper into a secure binding. As part of the process, a bookbinder will also attach front and back covers to the secured pages. With some methods of binding books, the final product includes the creation of a spine for the book.

The history of the bookbinder can be traced back to ancient India. There the concept of securing pages into a single binding first emerged. The earliest known bookbinding involved securing leaves together with the use of wooden boards and twine. This idea was carried to other nations by traders, allowing the process to be refined over time.

Today, a bookbinder may employ several different approaches to creating a finished product. Sewing is the preferred method with hardcover books. With this approach, the bookbinder will sometimes use a process that is known as oversewing. Small holes are punched into the sheets and are then sewn together to create a secure bind. The cover can then be sewn to the pages. While very secure, oversewing does not make it possible to open the book and leave it laying flat on a desktop.


A bookbinder may also use a method known as sewing through the fold. With this approach, the pages are folded and the stitching is done within the fold. While not as secure as oversewing, the approach still produces a good quality hardback binding that will last for a number of years.

In some cases, the bookbinder will make use of glue to produce new books or even to repair older ones. With repairs, the glue can reattach the front and back covers of the book without requiring any additional stitching that could weaken the spine or the pages. Paperback books are often bound using glue that effectively seals the edges of the pages along one side and makes it possible to adhere the outer spine of the front and back covers to the assembled pages.

For manuals and various types of instructional material, a bookbinder may choose to go with a wire or comb binding. With these techniques, holes or slits are punched into the left margin of the pages, making it possible to use a wire rings or an elongated plastic comb to bind the pages. The wire rings are open-ended and can be closed with a snap once in place. With the comb, each tooth is threaded through the corresponding set of slits and then looped under the main body of the circular comb.

Spiral or coil binding is another common application used by a bookbinder for various types of writing tablets and notebooks. As with wire and comb binding, small openings are made along one side and then secured with a continuous section of wire that is spiraled or coiled. This is a very common binding method and allows the book to be laid perfectly flat on a desktop or similar surface.

While many bookbinders work with a wide range of modern bookbinding supplies, there are still binders who choose to work with time honored methods dating back centuries. Bookbinding services of this type are often called upon to repair antique and rare books, using methods as close to the original mode of binding as possible.


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