What Is a Book Bindery?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A book bindery prepares bound versions of printed materials, including books, theses, and readers. In addition, it may offer restoration services for damaged materials. Staff at a book bindery may learn through apprenticeship on the job or by attending formal education programs at colleges and universities. Some have specific training in restoring paper and fine art, evaluating historic binding techniques, and working with fragile and sensitive materials that may require special care.

Bound books can be prepared by a book bindery.
Bound books can be prepared by a book bindery.

Custom binding services are available for projects like small print runs of books produced at independent presses, as well as materials prepared for classes and other distribution venues. People may use a book bindery to bind a thesis or other institutional document so it adheres to a specific standard. Uniform bindings for reference materials are also available; a law firm, for example, might ask for bindings of the same size and style for its texts to create a more uniform look in its library. Personal libraries can also be bound to give a library a specific look and feel.

Some book binderies restore damaged books.
Some book binderies restore damaged books.

Newspapers, legislatures, and other organizations may contract out services to a book bindery. It produces as many bound copies as desired, following standards set out in a contract agreement. It is also possible to order small custom projects like blank books or vanity editions of poetry and other works that may be processed at a bindery. A photographer, for example, might want to distribute an album of prints as gifts at the holidays, and could turn to a book bindery for this service.

Restoration is also typically among the services available. A technician can evaluate a book to determine the nature of damage and make repair recommendations. These can include careful cleaning, preservation of extant materials, and the creation of a new binding to keep it secure. For very fragile and valuable books like some medieval manuscripts, this may include the replication of historic techniques to keep the book looking and feeling accurate.

Equipment at a book bindery can include paper cutters, hot foil stampers, gluing machines, and ring or coil binders. Some hand binding tools may also need to be available, including equipment for activities like leather-working. Technicians can produce hand-tooled covers, specialty metal hasps, and other features for custom jobs. The price of these features can vary depending on the specific nature of a project. Quotes can offer information on how much to expect to pay for a given job and what kinds of services a bindery can offer.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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