PBO Home

Glossary A-G   |   Glossary P-Z
Search Instructions

Glossary H-O

hairline rule (E. hair-line)

the thinnest of brass printer’s rule, about 0.25 point (GG)

Alternate term: fine rule

half binding, pbw00126half binding, half-bound

a binding format where the spine and a small part of the sides or small outer corners are covered in one material, while the sides are covered in a second material, e.g., half-bound in leather with marbled paper sides or half-bound in blue cloth and blue paper sides (GG, ED, JC)

See also: full binding (bound)
  quarter binding (bound)
  three-quarter binding (bound)


a photomechanical reproduction; a relief-printing block prepared by exposing a photosensitive emulsion on a metal plate to a photographic negative with a screen in-between to reduce the image to a tonal range of black to white dots or squares; plate is mounted on wood block in order to be type high (GG, BG)

See also: line block


sewing gatherings for books by hand as opposed to by machine; there are numerous sewing patterns, supports, thread materials and sizes, stitches, etc., involved in hand sewing, see Middleton (GG)

See also: machine-sewing

handmade paper (hand-made, E.)

traditionally, paper made by hand on a pair of wood and wire moulds consisting of two bottom wooden frames with supporting ribs and one separate deckle that fits both bottoms; handmade paper can be made from any cellulose fiber from the best-quality wood to poorly prepared rags; handmade paper, like all other paper, has grain, but compared to machine-made paper, tends to be square, i.e., expands almost equally in both directions when wetted out; can have watermarks or not and is either laid or wove (GG, APPA, DH)

Alternate term: vat paper (E.)
See also: antique laid paper
  antique wove paper
  wove paper

hard-grain morocco

goatskin treated with a graining board that gives a deep pin-head (small pebbly) grain; tighter than levant and cannot be as highly polished; leather is supple; harder than niger (GG, JC)


the top of the book (GG)

Alternate term: top
See also:

headband (head-band, E.)

headband are stitches made with silk, linen or cotton thread(s) around a cord or band, either a strip of thick leather or board; each stitch ends in a bead on the head edge; during stitching, the headband is occasionally anchored to the book by drawing the thread through the back and around the kettle stitches (and occasionally, to the boards); performed after backing, edge trimming, and gilding, but before the back is lined or hollow applied; also self-made or purchased headband of fabric-covered thick cord, strip of board, or leather, adhered by an extension of the fabric to the back after backing and before lining; both types follow the curve of back at the head and fit snuggling up against the head edge, the beads lying on top, partially hiding the sometimes imperfect gilt edge at the curve; if a headcap is formed, the headband fits under the cap and supports it, sometimes protruding slightly from it; also tailband, although “headbands” refer to such bands at the head and foot (GG, ED, JC)

See also: tailband


1. the juncture between the inside of the board and the back of the book after covering

2. the material that attaches the text of the book to the board on the inside

3. common to use hinge (inside) and joint (outside) interchangeably (ED, JC)

Alternate terms: cloth hinge
  leather hinge
See also:


fine, plain-woven linen (and later, cotton) white or off-white fabric, usually starch-filled and glazed; used for book cloth and as the carrier for gummed-tape (GG)

hollow back

instead of adhering the spine-covering material directly to the flat back of the book with sawn-in or recessed, cords; a hollow tube of usually strong brown paper is used; a piece of paper the length of the back and about 3 times its width (after rounding and backing), after folding twice, the top two flaps are adhered, creating a tube; after the back is lined and smoothed, the back of the hollow is adhered to the back; it provides a cushion for tooling, and because the spine-covering material is adhered to the hollow, the back of the book flexes more easily on opening and keeps the spine arched outward, thus preventing wrinkling to the spine material; if false raised bands are wanted, these are adhered to the outside of the hollow before covering; hollows date from 1770 in France and 1800 in England; for heavy books, more layers for the hollow may be required (GG, ED, JC)

Alternate terms: false back
  one on and two off
  open back
  Oxford hollow
  two on and two off
See also:
tight back


practice of inserting an illustration that is slightly wider than the text page so that the excess at the gutter can be folded over to serve as a guard (creating a stub); this plate can be wrapped around the outside of a gathering or nested inside and sewn with the rest of the book (GG)

Alternate term: self-guarding
See also:
guard, guarding


color applied by hand to an illustration, decorated initial letter, etc.; usually watercolor or gouache (watercolor + white) used (GG, JC)

Alternate term: hand-applied color
printed color


a book containing illustration(s), either printed along with the text, printed after or before the text on the same page, e.g., intaglio print within letterpress-printed text, or a separate, full-plate illustration hooked in or tipped-in; in black and white or colored; also can refer to tipped-in photographs (GG, JC)

Alternate terms: halftone
  photomechanical reproduction


book-cover decoration that consists of overlapping leaves, tiles, or scales, as in fish scales (GG)

imitation leather

simulated leather made from a thick, coated paper or leather grain-patterned cloth (GG)

Alternate term: leatherette
See also:
grained cloth

imitation morocco

any of a variety of grained, cheap leathers made to look like morocco (GG)

See also: assisted morocco
  french morocco


the often complex arrangements of forms of type on the press bed used to print pages of a book on large sheets of paper, which will be later folded down to make gatherings (GG, PG)


1. publisher’s: usually located at the foot of the title page: name(s) of publisher, location(s), and date of publication

2. printer’s: usually located on the copyright page or on the last page of the book: name and location (GG, ED, JC)

See also: 1. colophon
  2. printer’s mark

in boards extra

laced-on boards with edges gilt solid (GG)

in register

the correct superimposition of multiple images or exact positioning of the lines of text on both sides of a printed leaf of a book (GG)

Alternate terms: backed-up

india paper

1. thin, opaque, white, often modern laid, paper used for Bibles, etc.

2. thin, white oriental paper made for proofing intaglio prints; also used for chine collé (GG, JC)

Alternate terms: 1. Bible paper
  2. china paper
  india laid paper
india proof paper


finely ground pigment(s) or dye(s) worked into or mixed with a vehicle (oil for printing and printmaking inks; gum water for pen work) (GG)

ink stamping

decoration or lettering done on book cloth where a stiff ink is used instead of gold leaf; in 19th-c. American publishers’ binding, black ink was first used at the end of the 1860s, and toward the end of the century, a full range of colored inks were used, see Allen (1998); rather than applying the ink to the cloth before stamping, the ink was applied to the unheated stamp (GG, ED)

Alternate term: ink blocking (E.)
See also:
blind tooling, blind stamping
gold stamping

inlay, pbw00017inlay, inlaid

a decorative element, usually of leather (and occasionally paper) that is pared or built-up to the same thickness as the covering material and inset into a cutout area in the latter after being adhered to the sides; leather inlays are usually different color(s) and texture(s) to the covering leather and often gold tooled around the inlay edges to mask the join and to heighten the effect of the inlay (GG, ED, JC )

Alternate terms: incrustation (F.)
mosaic binding
See also:

intaglio, pba01620intaglio

one of the four printmaking processes, the other three being relief, planographic or lithography, and serigraphy (silk screen); images (in reverse, or wrong-reading) are engraved and/or etched into the surfaces of highly polished copper plates, see specific technique for more information; once the image is complete, the surface of the plate is covered in a stiff oil-based ink, and then wiped away leaving behind ink in the incised lines, below the surface of the plate; after its edges are beveled with a file, the plate is then placed on the bed of the intaglio printing press, a sheet of dampened paper is placed on top followed by the sizing blanket and several pieces of thick felt; the bed is then run between two heavy iron cylinders, which forces the pliable paper down into the inked lines, and the process from inking on is repeated for the edition; after drying, the intaglio print has several distinguishing characteristics: raised inked lines on the recto and corresponding depressions on the verso, and around the edges, a platemark from the beveled edges of the plate; the texture of the paper inside the plate area is much smoother than that of the margins; depending on how much the surface of the plate has been wiped, there might be a thin layer of ink covering all or some areas of the background of the print, and this is called “plate tone” (GG, JC, BG)

See also: lithography

intaglio printing press

a press for printing intaglio plates, no matter whether engraved or etched; thick iron bed which moves between two heavy cylinders; the pressure forces dampened paper down into the grooves in the plate where the ink lies; the beveled edges of the plate are also impressed into the paper forming the platemark; a series of cushioning materials (sizing blanket followed by a few thick felts) help to push the paper into the plate (GG)

Alternate terms: cylinder press
rolling press
  star press
See also:
letterpress printing press

interleaf, interleaved

1. a tissue paper that is tipped onto an illustration sheet near the gutter, usually an intaglio print, to prevent abrasion to its delicate surface; occasionally a caption or legend is printed on the verso of this sheet

2. a book is bound with alternating blank and printed leaves, it is called interleaved (GG)

Alternate term: tissue


any typeface that is sloped, usually to the right (GG)

See also: roman

Japanese paper

1. in western books, thin Japanese silk tissue, often of gampi fiber, used an interleaf over intaglio prints

2. Japanese vellum: used as a text or printmaking paper; thick, soft, handmade paper with a smooth surface, often of mitzumata fibers (GG, JC)

Alternate terms: 1. Japanese silk tissue
2. Japan vellum
  Jap vellum

job printer

a printing office whose primary work involves taking on commissions to print projects for profit; occasionally, publishes (pays for) work for profit; the type of work done by job printers can range from large books (rarely) to visiting cards (PG)


the outside hinge area (often a groove) that runs parallel to the back where the boards met the spine; the joints allow the covers of the book to open more easily; common to use terms hinge and joint interchangeably (GG, ED, JC)

Alternate terms: American joint
french groove
  french joint
  grooved joint
  sunk joint
See also:


a grade of leather falling between calfskin and cowhide, sometimes used in bookbinding (GG)


on the spine or upper cover of a book, a pared piece of leather (often in a contrasting color to the covering material) or paper on which is either tooled or printed, respectively, some or all of the following information: title, author, volume number, date of publication, publisher’s name and/or location; leather adhered to the book usually as an onlay (GG, ED, JC)

Alternate terms: flyswing
lettering piece
  title piece (on spine)
See also:

laid paper, pba01391laid paper

paper formed on a hand papermaking mould where the wire cover is woven as in antique laid paper, with the addition of a second, more-coarsely woven wire cloth placed beneath; these two wire cloths are attached with thin wire to the ribs underneath; as the watery pulp is no longer attracted to the latter areas, there is no difference in pulp accumulation; the paper is more evenly dense across its surfaces and no dark shadows can be seen in transmitted light (DH)

Alternate terms:

double-face laid paper


modern laid paper


vergé (F.)

See also:

antique laid paper


a smooth-surface leather, similar to calfskin but less durable; used in bookbinding (GG)

See also: calf


one of several layers of material adhered together, e.g., papers into board (APPA)

Alternate term: ply

law calf

smoothed-surface, tanned, uncolored (yellowish-fawn) calfskin used in 19th c. England for law books (GG, JC)

Alternate term: fair calf
See also: rough calf


letterpress printing: the use of strips of lead of varying lengths (measured in picas) and thicknesses (measured in points, such as 2-pt., 3-pt., and 6-pt., the latter called a slug) to increase the space between lines of type; type set without leading is “set solid” (GG)


1. in a book, a folded piece of paper has 2 leaves; one leaf is one of two halves of a folded piece of paper

2. a very thin sheet of beaten metal, e.g., gold leaf, dutch metal leaf, silver leaf

3. a decorative motif resembling the leaf of a tree, such as the Aldine leaf used at the beginning and a repeating motif filling out the end of a paragraph (GG, JC)


an important bookbinding material prepared from the skin of a variety of animals by dehairing and tanning with a vegetable tannin or a chemical, such as chromium sulfate; see Reed (1972) (GG, JC)

See also: parchment

leather hinge

on inside of the joint, a strip of pared leather is attached to the board under the pastedown, is pushed down into the groove, and is then either sandwiched between the endpapers and the first gathering or adhered to the recto of the flyleaf; an embellishment, especially on bindings with doublures (GG, JC)

Alternate term: hinge
See also: cloth hinge


the text printed under an illustration, chart, map, etc.; also that printed on an interleaf for an illustration (GG)

lettered direct

when lettering is done directly on the spine leather and not on a label (JC)

See also: label

letterpress printing press

from Gutenberg to the early decades of the 19th c., the so-called common or joiner’s press was made almost entirely of wood; by 1800, several English and American inventors made improvements to the press including changes to the power mechanism from a screw to a toggle joint, and from wood to cast iron construction but the basic method of printing remained the same; the hand press was soon joined by a succession of cylinder, rotary, and platen presses, operated by steam and then electricity; for a history of letterpress printing presses, see Moran (1973); the basic operation involves locking forms of type, stereotype or electrotype plates, and/or blocks of illustration onto the press bed (or around a cylinder), inking up the relief printing surface, placing the dampened paper onto the “type” and applying pressure to transfer the ink from type to paper (GG, PG)

See also: intaglio printing press
  lithographic printing press


good-quality morocco with a large, open grain and a high polish used for book covers (GG, JC)

Alternate term: French Cape levant

library binding

1. a stronger binding given to a book that is sold to public libraries, due to the heavier use

2. a copy bound for a circulating library, usually half leather

3. a rebound book with the back either stab-sewn (very inflexible) or sewn through the fold (preferred), with a new endpapers and cloth-covered case; lettering in black or white ink or metal foil, usually only on the spine (ED, JC)


Latin for “bookbinder” (GG)

limited edition

refers to an edition (of usually deluxe books) that is small in number, from less than a hundred to several hundred; also denotes a book that will appear in one edition only, and which will never be reprinted in the same setting or materials (GG, JC)

Alternate term: numbered copy

limp binding

the covering material is not stiffened by thick boards, although the pastedowns, if used, will add to the stiffness; some limp bindings are only adhered to the back of the book, remaining completely limp, often considered a temporary binding; some limp vellum bindings had “yapp” edges that flop over the edges to protect the textblock (GG, ED, JC)

Alternate term: limp vellum binding
See also: yapp

line block

photomechanical reproduction, relief block that printed solid lines and areas, rather than tonal ranges (halftone) (BG)

Alternate terms: zinc blocks
See also: halftone

line engraving

an intaglio process by which a line image is created by a burin; the grooves below the surface of the plate hold the ink; generally, a black line or hatched areas on a white background; line quality is often tapered at ends and more stilted compared to etched line (BG)

See also: line etching

line etching

an intaglio process by which a line image is created by first coating a plate with a varnish, and when dry, scratching through this layer with an etching needle revealing the metal underneath; this plate is then placed in an acid bath so that the exposed areas are eaten away; these pitted areas hold the ink; generally, black line/area on white background; line quality is often blunt at both ends and drawing-like (BG)

Alternate term: etching
See also: line engraving

liners, lining papers

1. another term for a pastedown

2. sheets of paper used to cover boards prior to attaching to the book, in order to counter the warping of boards that occurs when the covering material is adhered (GG, ED, JC)


generally, pasting a piece of paper to a board; in a tight-back binding, the attachment of a variety of materials to the back of the book, including the mull and paper, which after sanding, evens and smoothes the surface of the back prior to covering; performed after rounding and backing (GG, ED)

lithographic printing press

the press uses a scraper (as opposed to a platen or cylinder) as the source of contact and pressure to transfer the inked-up image to the paper; the stone or metal plate carrying the lithographic image is placed on the bed of the press, the sometimes dampened paper is laid on top followed by blanket(s) and a piece of tympan board (an oiled board), then the bed is cranked under the wedge-shaped scraper, starting just short of the top of the stone to just short of the bottom (to avoid breaking the stone), which pushes the paper down onto the printing surface to pick up the ink; because the paper rests entirely on the printing surface, there is no edge marks from the stone or plate, and only the area of the paper pressed down by the scraper is flattened in texture (BG)

Alternate terms: planographic
  offset lithographic press (20th c.)
See also: intaglio printing press
  letterpress printing press


Latin: stone writing; a planographic printing process invented by Alois Senefelder in 1796; the lithographic image is created by drawing it (in reverse, or wrong-reading) onto a prepared, thick slab of limestone (or metal plate), and then etching the surface in such a way as to render the image parts receptive to oil-based ink but repellent to water while the nonprinting areas are vice versa (BG)

Alternate term: planography
See also: intaglio

long s

a special character that looks like the lowercase f, but without the right-hand cross stroke; not used to begin or end of word, nor if 2 ss’s; until 1749, the long s was used by all English (and American?) printers, but by 1785, its use began to decline; the Philadelphia type founders, Binny & Ronaldson were the first American type founders to drop it as noted in their 1816 type specimen book (GG)


first practical, thread-sewing machine (as compared to wire-stitching machine) was developed by David Smyth, American, 1871, called Smyth sewing; machine sews the gatherings together as well as sews through the fold, securing all of the folios in the gathering together (GG)

See also: hand-sewn

mandola, mandorla

a oval-shaped panel or frame shape, often enclosing design or lettering (JC)

marbled calf

a decorative process achieved by staining the calf with dilute acid, allowing it to flow in patterns resembled marbling; unless rinsed thoroughly, the acid will severely deteriorate the leather (GG)

See also: sprinkled calf
  tree calf

marbling, pbw00235marbling

a decoration applied to paper that can be used as endpapers, cover papers, and book edges; a trough is filled with a carragheen moss or gum tragacanth solution and on its surface is floated special watercolors plus ox gall (which acts as a ??); depending on the pattern of marbling required, the dots and circles of color are combed or drawn into; sheets of paper to be marbled are washed with alum water, which acts as a mordant for the colors, allow to dry slightly, then floated on the marbling solution, and lifted off and rinsed supported by a board held at an angle to remove excess color and solution and air dried; book edges, after trimming but before rounding and backing, are clamped tightly, washed with alum water, and placed onto the marbling solution, rinsed and dried under pressure; often the marbled surface is waxed and polished; for a description of marbling patterns, see Loring (1952), Nicholson (1986); the workman who marbles paper, the edges of books, or leather, is the “marbler” (GG, ED, JC)

Alternate term: printed marbled patterns (usually lithographically)
See also: marbled calf
  tree calf


1. the non-printed areas surrounding the text: in traditional typographical design, each of the four margins are of different sizes in relation to the measure from textblock to edge; in ascending order of depth: gutter, head, fore-edge, and tail; often in the proportion, respectively, 2:3:4:6; larger tail margins especially denote a deluxe edition; during rebinding, the edges are often retrimmed and the head, outer (fore-edge), and lower (tail) margins can be much reduced under the plough, the inner or gutter margin remains the same (except in stab-sewn library bindings when the text may disappear into the gutter); margins serve as places for signature marks (letters and numbers denoting order of gatherings), folios (page numbers), margin notes, and headers

2. the excess board covering material that become the turn-ins (GG, ED, JC)

See also: 1. mise en page
  2. turn-ins

mechanical wood pulp, groundwood pulp

fibers for a cheap paper made by debarking trees and grinding them into sheds of wood, followed little or no chemical processing; the resulting pulp, after beating, contains much of the native lignin which causes the paper to yellow and become brittle; in America, not used as 100% fiber component of paper until late 19th c.; often mixed with rag paper to lower price (APPA)

Alternate term: newsprint
See also: chemical wood pulp


an intaglio process by which a tonal image is created by rocking in many directions a special engraving tool; the plate is usually covered with tiny pits which hold the ink, producing an velvety overall black image; by scraping and burnishing parts of the mezzotint, whiter areas within the dark background are produced, hence the name meaning, middle or medium tint (BG)


a superficial, whitish, circular mold-growth that occurs in damp, warm, and still environments; if left unchecked, mildew will probably blossom into very damaging mold-growth, usually evidenced by the presence of other colors: red, green, yellow, purple, and black (GG)

Alternate terms: mold
  mould (E.)


strong, brown binder’s board made of recycled paper, rope, etc.; first made by hand in the 18th c., then on the cylinder papermachine in a thick laminate, and once dry, the board is pressed (milled) between a board calender which flattens and smoothes the surface (APPA, ED)

See also: Bristol board


the design of the opened book, two-page spread especially the proportion of the margins to both textblocks or of printed material on any pair of opposing pages such as the title page and frontispiece

mitered corner

1. at the inside head and tail corners of covers, the excess corner of covering material (leather, paper, or cloth) is cut in such a way so that when the material is turned in to the inside, the two edges meet at a 45° angle to the corners

2. the 45° angle cut at the ends of two adjoining pieces of brass rule to allow a seamless fit at a 90° corner (GG, JC)

moire, pba01434moiré

wavy pattern seen in watered silk, a material occasionally used on doublures (RE)



a design, plain or intertwined, based on a person’s initial(s); used to identify that person’s work or ownership (GG)


a fine, hard-wearing leather for bookbinding made from sumac-tanned goatskin; the best quality is hand-boarded to bring up the grain, glazed, and polished; often dyed orange, green, blue and deep red; early importation through Turkey from the Levant (countries bordering on the E. Mediterranean) associated the name “turkey,” but this is a misnomer (GG, JC)

Alternate terms: assisted-
  crushed Levant-
  French Cape Levant
  grained leather
  oasis goat
  Turkey leather
See also: calf

mosaic binding

binding decoration featuring a multicolored and/or multi-textured pattern made up of leather inlays and/or onlays, often gold tooled around the edges to mask the join and to heighten the effect; occasionally painted; emulating the bindings of A.M. Padeloup (GG, ED, JC)

Alternate terms: inlay binding
  onlay binding
See also: inlay


a specific design that appears as a single or is repeated as in a pattern (ODA)

Alternate terms: symbol

mottled calf

a decorated calfskin made by sponging or dabbing it with an acid solution (often copperas) or dyes (GG, ED, JC)

See also: Etruscan binding
  marbled calf
  sprinkled calf
  tree calf


1. a two-part, wooden frame with a wire cover attached to the top of the bottom part for making paper by hand, while the top part of the mould is called the deckle, a simple frame that fits snugly on the bottom part; traditionally, paper was formed on a pair of bottoms with one deckle that fit both, with identical laid or wove wire covers as well as watermarks; the latter practice allowed the vatman (the paper-former) to continuously form a sheet on one of the pair while the coucher transferred the newly formed sheet off onto a felt

2. a wood and metal, two-part, handheld apparatus for the casting of type from a separate copper matrix inserted into the mould

3. a plaster cast or paper flong taken from a form of set type and used to cast a stereotype plate of the form, which is used as the printing surface

4. English spelling of mold (GG)

Alternate terms: hand papermaking mould
  mould-made paper
  mold-made paper (alternate American spelling)


the stub-like extension on a folded map, chart, or other kind of illustration, used to tip it into a book along the gutter; the nib helps the plate to open completely (GG)


a book format consisting, traditionally, of a sheet of paper folded three times, each at a right angle, so that there are 8 leaves and 16 pages; in modern practice, a book size ranging from 7 x 7.25 and 11.5 x 8.25 inches (GG, JC)

Alternate terms:

onlay, pba00421onlay, onlaid

a decorative element, usually of leather that is pared until very thin and adhered onto the latter already adhered to the sides; leather onlays are usually contrasting color(s) and/or textures to the covering leather and often gold-tooled around the join edges to mask the transition and to heighten the effect of the onlay; printed paper onlays were popular in the latter half of the 19th c. (GG, ED, JC)

Alternate term: mosaic bindings
See also: inlay

ooze leather

the flesh side of calfskin or split sheepskin treated to make a velvety or suede finish; used for small volumes of poetry; used extensively by the Roycroft Shop in the first decades of the 20th c. as a standard binding material with a thin cardboard as a stiffener and watered-silk doublures; in most cases, the latter have deteriorated badly, presumably because the leather was not good quality (GG)

Alternate term: suede leather

oriental leaf

cheap leaf substitute for gold leaf, made of an alloy of bronze and brass, and used in casing work (GG)

See also: dutch gold leaf
  gold leaf

original boards

a designation for those books published between 1770 and 1830 (before the introduction of book cloth) that remain in their original, “temporary” bindings, usually with paper-covered covers and paper labels; other bibliographers note that the presence of paper labels denotes a “permanent” binding, see Sadleir (1990) (GG)


an oriental-style binding consisting of an accordion-folded text (many sheets of paper joined together) stab- or side-sewn along the back from the front to the back with silk thread in a variety of decorative, whipstitched patterns (ED)

Alternate term: oriental side-sewing


decoration that is usually non-pictorial in nature, such as geometric designs, arabesques, ribbon- and strapwork, etc.; also the presence of contrasting color and textures, of course, gold

Alternate term: adornment

padded sides

a binding where cotton wool (raw cotton or cotton batting) is placed between the leather and the board (GG)

Return to PBO home