Bookrepair Terminology

This post is for people who aren’t sure how to describe their book to us and just need to know a little bit about book lingo so we’ll both be on the same page.

Spine:
The “backbone” of the book; the part of the book that you see when you shelve it, the part you hold when you’re balancing the book on one hand while you read it.
Raised ribs or bands:
The horizontal lines on the spine, giving a 3-D effect because there’s something under the leather. These used to have a function. Now they are ornamental. Height and placement can vary.
Cover:
This is the part you see when the book is closed, whatever it’s made of. There’s the front cover, the back cover, and the spine cover. It should all be connected.
Boards:
These are the front and back parts of a hardcover book. A board is made of thick, hopefully non-acidic, cardboard, but some antiquarian books have very acidic boards. On an antique family Bible, a thicker cover is made of several boards on top of each other, carved out in the middle.
Text block:
The pages; the “guts” of the book.
Sewn binding:
This means the book is comprised of groups of pages that are folded together, and they’re all sewn together at the spine edge. If you look down on the top of the book, you should see something that looks like little booklets side by side. They are called “signatures.”
Glued binding:
This means the book has pages all cut to the same size and stuck up against a glue strip at the spine. It means trouble when the glue strip pulls away or shrinks. Heat will cause that. This is also ironically called “perfect binding.”
Mull, or Hinge Cloth:
This is the mesh stuff over the sewn spine. You’re not actually seeing the sewing, but the reinforcement material. Actually, you’re not supposed to be able to see it, but if your book is broken at the hinge, you can see things you’re not supposed to see. Many modern books use what is called “super.” They fall apart because it is not at all “super.”
Hinge:
Hinges on a book are formed by the pastedown end page and the free end page. They’re like the inside of your elbow. If they’re torn, you can see the hinge cloth on the spine.
End pages:
These are the long pages that are glued down to the inside of the cover and form the hinge and the first page of the book (often colored, and in a Bible especially, made of leatherette). On Bibles, these are sometimes called “liners”, but often Bibles have an interior lining material between the leather and the end page to stabilize the leather, so to avoid confusion we prefer to use the term “end pages.”
Interior liner:
This is the part you don’t see, sandwiched in-between the cover leather and the pastedown end page. In general, that can be anything from card stock to nothing at all.
At The Treasured Book we don’t use card stock and we’ve discontinued the use of leather for the interior liner. Instead, we will often use a thin fiber liner that adds stability to the leather, but not stiffness. Any stiffness or suppleness in a leather option, then, would be from the thickness of the hide and the way it was tanned and finished.
When we want to reduce the flexibility, we use more interior liner.
Headbands and Tailbands:
These are little strips of cloth, often striped, attached to the spine edges of the pages at the top and bottom of the text block. These, like the raised ribs, used to have a real function, but today, they make the book look nice and cover up raw edges.