Images of Key Commercial Bookbinding Machinery from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica

Case-making machine for a commercial bindery (1911)
Case-making machine for a commercial bindery (1911)
In the Wikisource digitized version of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica article on bookbinding we find, besides the more commonly seen images of early bookbindings, images of some early bookbinding machines. These include an the book sewing machine, the case-making machine and the casing-in machine. Because the captions included with the article are valuable and long I have reproduced the series of images with their captions below:

"Machine-binding.—The principal types of machine for commercial binding are described below. They are almost all due to American or German ingenuity. It may be noted that, while books sewn by hand on bands have the loose ends of the bands actually drawn through the boards and strongly fastened to them through their substance, no machines for covering sewn books will do this so effectively. All they will do as a rule is to paste down to the inner surfaces of the boards the loose ends of the tapes on which the sewing is done. So that, although it may last a long time if not much used, a “cased” book is likely to slip out of its cover as soon as the paste fixing it perishes. Modern bookbinding machines of all kinds are usually driven by power, and in consequence of the necessary setting of most of them accurately to some particular size of book, they are not suitable for binding books of different sizes; the full advantage of them can only be taken where there is a large edition of one book.}}

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Fig. 9.—Book-sewing Machine.

"Book-sewing machines (fig. 9) are of two kinds: one sews the books on bands, either flat or round, and the other supplies the place of bands by a kind of chain stitch. The band-working machines bring the return thread back by pulling it through the upper and lower edges of the back of each section, thereby some extent weakening each section, but at the same time this weakening can be to some extent neutralized by careful head-banding. The other system, where the band is replaced by a chain stitch, brings back the return thread inside each section; the objection to this is that there is a flattening out of the back of the book, which becomes a difficulty when the subsequent operation of covering the book begins. The sections are sewn continuously in a long line, and are afterwards cut apart. The threads catch into hooked needles and are drawn through holes made by piercers set to a certain distance; a shuttle like that used in an ordinary sewing-machine sews the inner thread backwards and forwards. Each section is placed upon a sort of metal saddle by the hand of the operator, one after the other, the machine working continuously unless the action is cut off or controlled by a foot-lever or pedal. This machine is much quieter to work, and although the inner threads are too bulky to be quite satisfactory, this is not a serious matter like the cutting of the upper and lower edges of the back already described, and, moreover, is probably capable of being either improved away or so minimized that it will become of small importance.

"The Martini book-sewing machine, which sews books on tape without cutting up head or tail — a most important improvement — and also forms complete Kettle stitches, will sew books of any size up to 18 in. The needles are straight, and the necessary adjustments for various sizes of books are very simple.

"The machine for rounding and backing sewn books requires a rather elaborate and very careful setting of several parts to the exact requirement of each size to be worked. The sewn book with the back glued is caught in a clip and forced between two tight rollers, the result being that the hitherto Rounding and backing.flat back is automatically turned into a rounded shape (figs. 10 and 11). The book is then drawn forward, by a continuance of the onward movement, until it reaches the rounding plate, which is a block of steel with a polished groove a little larger than the size required. This rounding plate moves within a small arc by means of heavy counter-weights, and on the back of the book being strongly pressed against it, it receives the permanent form of the groove cut in it, at the same time a strong grip on each side of the book causes the ledge to rise up along each outer edge of the back. This ledge it is which enables the boards to be subsequently fixed in such a way as to hinge on a line outside the actual and natural boundary of the book. Before the discovery of the possibility of producing this ledge, the boards of books hinged upon a line coincident with the inner edges of the back, the result of which was that when the book was opened there was an invariable tendency to open and pull away the few outer sections of the paper or vellum itself—a destructive and disagreeable peculiarity. These machines are capable, after they are properly set, of rounding and backing about 750 volumes of the same size within an hour.

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Fig. 10.—Section of back of book sewn on bands.
Fig. 11.—Section of same book after it has passed through the machine for rounding and backing.

"The machine for making cases, or “case” covers (fig. 12), for books is large and complicated, but beautifully effective. It contains altogether over fifty springs, some of which are very small, like watch fittings, while others are large and powerful. The machine is fed with pieces of cardboard cut exactly to the sizes of the required boards, other pieces cut to the size of the back, and a long roll of the cloth with which the cases are to be covered, and when set working the roll of doth is gradually unwound and glued by contact with a roller, which is drawn along until it reaches a point where the two boards are ingeniously dropped upon it one by one, then on again to where a long arm swings backwards and forwards, at each movement picking up a piece of cardboard for the back and placing it gently exactly upon the glued bed left for it between the two boards already fixed. Next, as the cloth passes along, it comes under the sharp influence of two rectangular gouges which cut out the corners, the remaining side pieces being gradually but irresistibly turned up by hollow raisers and flattened down by small rollers, a very delicate piece of machinery finishing the corners in a masterly way. Then, lastly, an arrangement of raisers and rollers acting at right angles to the last mentioned turn over and press out the remaining pieces of cloth. Of course each piece of cloth is cut across at the proper point before the turning up begins. This machine is capable of producing 1200 cases in an hour of any size that the machine will take.

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Fig. 12.—Case-making Machine.

"The Smyth casing-in machine (fig. 13) pastes the sides of a book as required and then attaches the cover over all. Cleverly arranged rollers catch the book, and by a carefully regulated pressure fix the cover in the proper position. There is a “jointing-in” device which at a critical moment forces the joints in the cover into the joints in the book. It will work books from 4 to 22 in. in length and from 14 to 3 in. in thickness, and can cover from 10 to 15 books per minute.

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Fig. 13.—Smyth Casing-in Machine. Scale 1:25.

A. Cases.
  1. 1st position.
  2. 2nd position.
  3. 3rd position and finished book. When in 2nd position the book drops to level of paste box.
B. Side of Case Hopper.
C. Paste box.
D. Head Clamp Rod.
E. Head Clamp.

'Here may also be mentioned the Sheridan wrappering machine, which covers magazines and pamphlets ranging from 5 to 12 in. in length at the rate of 40 a minute.

"Wiring is a cheap method of keeping together thin parts of periodicals or tracts. The machine that executes it is simple in construction and use. It drives short wire pin, bent at right angles at each end, through the folds of the sections of a book or through the entire thickness, sideways, after the manner of stabbing. The projecting ends, when through the substance of the paper, are bent over and flattened to as to grip firmly. The metal used for these pins was at first very liable to rust, and consequently did much damage to the paper near it, but this defect has now been largely remedied. At the same time the principle of using hard metal wire instead of flexible hempen thread is essentially vicious, and should only be used as a temporary expedient for publications of little value.

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Fig. 14.—Blocking Machine.

"The machines (fig. 14) now used for blocking designs upon book-covers are practically the same as have been employed for many years. Several small improvements have been introduced as to better inking of the rollers for colour work, and better heating of the blocks used for gold work. A blocking press is now, in consequence of the size of many of the blocks, a large and cumbersome machine. The block itself is fixed firmly in a strong metal bed, and a movable table in front of it is fitted with gauges which keep the cover exactly in its right place. For gold work the block is kept at the proper temperature by means of gas jets, and the cover being properly overlaid with gold leaf is passed, on its table, directly under the block and then pressed steadily upwards against it, lowered, drawn out, and the superfluous gold rubbed off. The same process is followed in the case of colour blocks, only now the block need not be heated, but is inked by means of a roller for each impression. A separate printing is necessary for each colour. These printings always require great care on the part of the operator, who has to watch the working of each pull very carefully, and if any readjustment is wanted, to make it at once, so that it is difficult to estimate at what rate they can be made. In the matter of gold blocking there must be great care exercised in the matter of the heat of the block, for if it is too hot the gold will adhere where it is not wanted, and if too cool it will not adhere where it is required. Great nicety is also necessary as to the exact pressure required as well as the precise number of moments during which the block should be in contact with the gold, which is fastened to the cloth or leather by means of the solidification by heat of egg albumen. Blocking presses are mainly of German make, but Scottish and English presses are also largely used."

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