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Book Binding for Beginners – Unit Study and Badge Resources

Book Binding for Beginners – Unit Study and Badge Resources

book binding badge image

Book binding is the way in which the pages of a book and its covers are held together. Books may be held together with thread, glue, staples, ribbons, ore even spiraled wire. Use this Book Binding unit study to help earn your Book Binding badge. Other badges you may wish to work on in tandem include Reading, Books (specific), Paper Crafts, or Book Writing.

History of Book Binding

The history of book binding dates back centuries with advancements in techniques originating all across the globe. According to the website the first bound books date back to around 100 BCE in India where religious sutras were copied onto palm leaves, stacked and then bound with twine. The earliest surviving metal book covers originated around Syria during the 6th century. Movable type was invented in China around 1045 and Johannes Gutenberg from Germany perfected it in the 1440’s with his printing press. In Paris in 1508 pasteboard began to replace wood for book cover and in the early 1800’s British publishers begin using cloth as a binding material. David McConnell Smyth from Ireland invented the first sewing machine made for bookbinding in 1868.

To Do: Look through the Michigan State University online book binding exhibit. This exhibit includes samples of various binding types from the 15th through the 20th century.

To Do: Print out the map below and color in the countries that had an impact on the history of book binding. Color each country a separate color and create a color key to show the year and the notable event.

printable world map country outlines

Fulfills Level 1 requirement #2 and Level 2 requirement #2

Book Binding Methods

As book binding advanced throughout the ages, people have used various methods to hold papers together. Some of these methods focus on durability while others focus on the decorative aspect of the binding.

To Do: Learn to identify the following types of bindings. Click on each for links to various in depth articles and images from other websites.

  • Saddle Stitching: A simple binding where pages are folded and stapled together.
  • Case Binding: A hardback binding where pages are folded, gathered, and sewn together. A case for them is then made by gluing and folding a printed sheet around 3 pieces of greyboard. Pages are glued into the case with end papers to form a case bound book.
  • Japanese Stab Binding: A decorative binding using holes stabbed through the edge of the papers and sewn together using a decorative stitch.
  • Spiral Binding: Multiple holes are punched along the edge of the papers and a wire is spiraled through them to hold the pages together.
  • Comb Binding: Similar to a spiral bind, but using a plastic or metal “comb” whose rings pass through rectangular holes.
  • Perfect Binding: Used most often for paperback books. Thermal glue is applied along the spine of the cover and pages are glued in place.
  • Interscrew Binding: Most often used for documents or scrapbooks. Holes are punched along the edge of the pages as well as two covering boards. When stacked they are secured with binding screws.
  • Sewn Binding: Thread is sewn through folded pages at the spine.
  • Section Sewn Binding: Folded pages are sewn in sections along the spine and then the sections are glued together.

Fulfills requirement #1 for preschool, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4

book binding end papers

What Are End Papers?

End papers, or end sheets, are used to connect the book cover to the block of the book itself.  Think of them as a sort of hinge that helps to keep everything together and helps the durability of the book.  Traditionally, in hard bound books, the end papers are made of a decorative or patterned paper and becomes part of the art of the binding itself.  For extra strength these papers may have a cloth backing that keeps them from splitting due to excessive opening and closing of the book.

To Do: Decorate a set of end papers. Choose a book and think about what decorative end papers should look like for your story. Should they show a map of the area where the story takes place? A simple print in the style of or time frame of the story such as leaves for a nature book or pocket watches for a Victorian book? Use a heavy paper and choose a method such as drawing, marbling, stamping, or stenciling to create a design.

To Do: For older kids or adults, watch the video below to learn more about end papers and the different types. Choose a method shown to create end papers of your own.

Fulfills preschool requirements 1 &2. Video fulfills Level 3 #2

Book Binding Terms

As with any subject, a general knowledge of the terms and vocabulary used is necessary to understand the topic.

To DO: Learn the definitions of each of the following terms.

  • First edition: the very first group of books printed for a specific title
  • Volume: one book in a series of books
  • Manuscript: a book, document, or piece of music written by hand rather than typed or printed.
  • Autographed copy: copy of a book signed by the author.
  • Bookplate: a decorative label stuck in the front of a book, bearing the name of the book’s owner.
  • End papers: papers which are glued to the inside front and inside back covers of a bound book.
  • Signature: a group of sheets folded in half, to be worked into the binding as a unit.
  • Parchment: a stiff, flat, thin material made from the prepared skin of an animal and used as a durable writing surface in ancient and medieval times.
  • Vellum: fine parchment made originally from the skin of a calf.
  • Deckle edge: the rough uncut edge of a sheet of paper
  • Headbands: a strip of colored material attached to the text block at the top of the spine of a hard cover book.  The same treatment applied to the bottom of the spine is called the tailband.  Both may also be called endbands.

Fulfills Level 2 requirement #1

simple saddle stitched booklet

Saddle Stich Binding

Saddle stitch binding is the simplest and easiest form of binding that can be done quickly. Simply stack pages, fold in half and then staple or stitch along the spine.

To Do: Make a simple small blank booklet using staples to bind it within a paper cover.

  • Cut a piece of heavy cardstock (or file folder) to 6″x 4″. Fold in half and then reopen so you can see the center crease.
  • Cut 10 sheets of blank paper to 5.75″ x 3.75″. Stack the sheets, fold in half and reopen so you can see the center crease
  • Place the cut sheets on top of the cardstock, lining up the creases. You should have a small even border of cardstock showing around the sheets.
  • Staple along the spine (creases) with three staples, one in the center and one to either edge. The staple should run the same direction as the spine.
  • Fold your booklet in half and then decorate the cover.

Fulfills optional requirement #3

front of a ribbon bound booklet

Ribbon Binding

Ribbon binding is a quick and simple way to bind a decorative booklet.

To Do: Use simple ribbon binding to create a small notebook.

back of a ribbon bound booklet
  • Cut 10 sheets of paper to 8.5″ by 5.5″
  • Cut two pieces of colored cardstock to 8.5″ by 5.5″
  • Cut one piece of colored cardstock or textured cardstock to 5.5″ by 3″ for the spine. Fold in half lengthwise and unfold so you can see the crease.
  • Stack the sheets of paper between the two pieces of card stock. Wrap the spine around the sheets and cardstock so they are snug in the crease.
  • Hole punch two holes about 1/2″ from the edge of the spine
  • Thread a ribbon through the two holes and tie.
  • Decorate the front of your booklet.

Stack your papers together with a heavy piece of cardstock for the front and back cover. Hole punch 2 holes along the binding edge of the papers. Thread a ribbon through and tie together. You can add a decorative touch as well as a more durable binding by adding an extra folded piece of cardstock from front to back along the binding edge

Fulfils optional requirement #4

colored Japanese binding stitches

Japanese Stab Binding

Japanese binding is one of the most beautiful methods of book binding. The stitch patterns can be quite simple or amazingly complex.

To Do: Create a booklet using any Japanese Stab Binding technique. has a great article with 15 different tutorials on Japanese Binding.

Japanese Binding How To Videos:

book binder sewing page sections

Field Trips

A field trip to see how books are bound in various ways will help bring this topic to life. Interviewing those who work with books and asking questions can help further your understanding of book binding.

To Do: Take a field trip where you can see books being bound or repaired in person. For example:

  • Tour the mending department of your local library. Learn how they preserve the books and keep them in good repair.
  • Visit somewhere with examples of well bound books. These may be in a private collection, in a museum, or even your public library.
  • Visit a professional bookbinder.

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