The history of book blocks
#1
The following is not out of any encyclopedia, or Wiki. So any mistakes are completely my own fault.

"Perfect" binding was invented for those paperback books that the US Military WWII people were going to read. These were rather thin books, usually about 100 pages.
Before that there were magazine style books, with the staples in the center [I should say 'rusting' staples.]
Those paperback books were intended to be read and trashed. They ended up being passed from soldier to soldier.
The acidic paper, the binding, and the conditions of the day, means that any copies that were actually with the soldiers didn't survive well or at all.

But the 'perfect' binding continued, and all of the paper (wraps) cover books we have to this day are perfect bound.
This is usually a good thing. Most of the paper wraps wrinkle while the book is read, but the book can be read several times before any damage is done. [The book looses its 'fine' state - but they are just paperbacks.

There were several years when the 'perfect' binding glue was WAY less than perfect. I believe that my 1981 Fawcett MAID AT ARMS suffers from this problem. I think that (the library copy) was already cracked before I photocopied it.

Luckily for Mass Market, and Trade edition books, this glue problem was corrected, and paper editions will last way longer these days. They are also using paper that is less acidic for the Mass Market books, and many Trade editions are real paper.

Hard cover books are a different story, and I never expected a hard cover book - especially a "Special Edition" to be perfect bound.

But here is the situation: In the dawn of time books were made from vellum, i.e. leather, or sometimes papyrus. If you catch someone doing a panel on antique books (as I have at two conventions) this is an eye opener. The earliest books were scrolls or loose pages. Later single sheets were sewn together, so that they wouldn’t get separated. Even later the sewn together sheets were put into a cover. These were either sewn or glued on, back in the days when glue was water soluble.

In more modern times, or at least for the 20th and 21st centuries. Books are printed on paper [with higher cloth content] and usually folded up, and sewn into ‘signatures’ of about 16 pages. They are sewn onto a web. This is called the block. Only after all of the pages are sewn together are the edges trimmed. Blocks would be bound/glued into leather pounded into shape, then later cloth covered card-board, and finally recently paper covered card-board. The End papers of a book are an important part, as the edges of that web are glued between the boards and the end paper, and finally the free end of the end paper is glued to the first page of the block. Dust Jackets only came into being in the 20th century, and in the early days the jackets were just tossed out. The style of the time was to have cloth or library bindings on the shelves.

If you think back upon any US stately homes, the books in the library are all bound in a similar manner. Yes Thomas Jefferson bought his books as blocks, and had them bound especially for himself. AND yes the books in the Library of Congress are bound with special LoC end papers, and covers.

I have books that are not only specially bound, but boxed. I have books from one publisher (Cheap Street) that are bound with fancy rice paper, leather edges, and clam-shell boxes.

So we now have books sewn onto a web, the web is glued onto a cover.
Now we discuss other methods of getting a hard cover book.

I am looking at a book of photos that my company put out. The thing holding the pages together is a plastic comb. Each page has tiny holes punched into the edge. I believe that the company purchased the cover, and hot sealed the comb together. This was 1989, and after 25 years, the comb has become unsealed. I click it back together every time I pick it up. But the “boards” still look nice.

I would need to look at the several recent printings, of early Norton Books to see how the few hard covers are bound. But as these were purchased as “different covers” I’ve never read them. I made an assumption that these were sewn blocks – but now I’m thinking glued.

LAMPS ON THE BROW by Cahill contained a new Andre Norton story (and others) and I was going to read that book. And so I discovered that the pages had been glued onto the Block. And that the glue was too brittle. At the first crack, I started to hold the book by the spine, and never opened the book beyond 90 degrees. I know that I wrote Cahill, but don’t remember any response. I certainly would have expected a second state of the printing, with more flexible glue, but that never happened.
Irene
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#2
Thanks for the interesting post. I've cut apart some books to make them easier to scan, so I've seen how they are put together. It's nice to know the names of the parts.
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#3
Hands shaking as I write this... "cut apart some books" :jawdrop:

OK that's extreme. I've heard of people reading a door-stop book [Think OUTLANDER books by Gabaldon], who rip off 100 pages at a time to carry with them. Me I'm just glad that the publishers have created e-books, so that I don't have to cut a book, and can carry the light e-book.

Some of the libraries that I have been in, have special photocopy machines, that can hold a 10 pound book, open to 90 degrees, rather than flat open. I think I used one of those long ago. It was certainly handy.
Irene
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#4
I just looked at some modern Hard Cover reprints of Andre Norton books. I don't see the extra glue that is usually between each signature (16 pages) of sewn in pages.

My assumption is that they are all perfect bound.

Just to confirm, I pulled up a newer book [Could be NESFA press] that I will be de-acquisitioning. It has those extra glue between the signatures.

Darn. Now I'm going to start second guessing myself when I buy a $26 book.
Irene
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