The art of bookbinding: how single sheets become books

Have you ever been interested in how books are actually bound?? There is a lot of tradition behind it and a real artistic claim. Even today, this technique lives on, albeit in a different version. Take a look behind the scenes of a bookbindery with us and see in 6 steps how individual sheets become books.

How books are bound: the process of bookbinding

Bookbinding sounds easier than it is. There is a lot of tradition and craftsmanship behind it.

Bookbinding today clearly works differently than in the past – while we now produce books industrially and in series (Publisher’s binding), until the 19th century. Century still worked by hand (Hand binding).

Interestingly, the process of bookbinding has actually remained the same in principle! Only the execution is in 21. Century of course substantially different.

A modern bookbindery relies primarily on supportive machinery. We briefly introduce the Industrial book binding before. These production steps are important:

1. Processing the sheets

Depending entirely on the printing process, the Printed sheets in other form supplied. A rotogravure or web offset press produces for example Red sheet – they are already folded. The exception is only four-page covers for stitched and perfect bound catalogs. But there are also 4-16 page Plano sheet, which must first be cut and folded:


The folding of the sheets depends on the Folding system dependent – this is determined depending on the arrangement of the pages to each other and depending on the folding machine. There are the cross-fold and the parallel folding, or various combinations of both. After that the sheets are Bundle presses pressed – this creates the right density and strength.


If to the finished book still Inserts If there is a need for additional information, such as maps or illustrations, these must be inserted by hand in exceptional cases. End gluing machines then connect the ends with title and end sheets.

2. Making the book block

So, once the sheets are folded, they are superimposed – for thinner brochures also into each other. The saddle stitcher then does the stitching. Collating must take place in parallel – a visual check. Correct the order of the sheets? The collating process? Once the sheets are complete?

Only when these points can be answered with a definite yes, the Book block connected. This is done by machine with Wire or. thread stitching or with Perfect binding.

3. Process the book block

The next step is the Spine gluing of the book block – with this the folded sheets are additionally fixed in the spine. Then comes the three-sided trimming, the cut dyeing and if desired, another rounds of the block. The spine can also be covered with gauze or folding material and then the capital and the sleeve to be pasted.

4. Producing the cover

The book cover is an important element of a book and must be attractively designed.

The cover is also important for the finished book. Soft covers consist of one piece of elastic cardboard or fabric that hangs together.

In case of Hardcore bindings it consists of four parts, the spine insert, two covers and the respective cover fabric. For this, all relevant parts are cut – the size depends on the dimensions of the book block and also on the type of subsequent connection.

The final assembly of the finished book cover is done separately. If the book block and the book cover are joined later, this is called Hanging. If this step is done by hand and the spine is rounded, then the spine must also be rounded manually so that everything fits together.

5. Decorate the book covers

Now the book is almost ready. But decorating the book covers is also a fascinating job. Through various embossing types, such as relief embossing, blind embossing and hot foil stamping (z.B. machine gilding) gives the book its finishing touches. Additionally you can color or screen printing, or also Inlay work and the Gluing of illustrations, achieve special decorations.

6. joining the book block and the book cover

The last step of bookbinding is about the Hooking the book block to the book cover. Either the endpapers are glued to the book cover, or the block is put into special pockets on the inside of the book cover. The gluing process is the typical way, however. Sometimes the block is also additionally glued to the spine.

A cover can also combine spines and book covers. Sometimes the hanging happens manually, otherwise on Book Hanging Machines. It all depends on the edition size, the volume and the format of the work, as well as some other details.

At the very end, there is a final Pressing. With hard-core bindings, the fold is often also burned in, which makes it easier to open later on. And voilà: a finished book!


In order to have a beautiful and high-quality book bound, precision, experience and adept knowledge are required. Only in this way can the various steps in bookbinding also result in a convincing end product. As a professional printer, Rotolongo offers you exactly that – feel free to contact us for a no-obligation quote.

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