Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Introducing the String Binding

Along with processing serial titles for commercial binding, I’ve been working on some in-house treatments for magazines and small pamphlets. Usually, serial titles are sent out to a commercial binder to be bound in hard covers. Occasionally however an in-house treatment is more appropriate. For example, the string binding, adapted by conservator Deborah Howe, is ideal for undersized or short-run serials that are printed as single section issues.

This aspect in particular, whether stapled or pamphlet sewn, is what makes the string binding an easy and fast way to bind multiple issues into a single volume.

The string binding is made of a 20 point board that wraps around the issues, covering the front, spine, and back.

Each issue is secured into the cover with a thick linen thread wrapped tightly around the spine section of the cover and through the center of the magazine.

A separate piece of thread can be used for each issue or a continuous thread can be wrapped through each issue one at a time which saves time in tying knots.

Once all the issues are attached into the 20 point cover a protective piece of book cloth is glued over the spine and strings.

This adds support to the spine and front and back hinges. For volumes that are tall, heavy, or floppy it is best to reinforce the covers with a 40 point board on the inside of each cover.

Written by Elizabeth Rideout.


  1. This is excellent, just what I was looking for! Thank you!

    Just one question: I understand that this would work for periodicals that are saddle-stitched, i.e., single signatures stapled in the middle, but is there a danger of doing this with perfect-bound periodicals, i.e., peridicals that are essentially single sheets bound at the spine with adhesive? I have a concern that the string under tension would either bite into the adhesive or separate the pages from the adhesive.

    1. Yes you are absolutely correct. This style was created for single signatures.

  2. What knot did you use to tie the signatures to the cover? I tried a square not and surgeon's knot, but with string I can't seem to maintain sufficient tension while tying it...

    1. Tying a square knot is simple, but there are things that make it less tight than we'd like. This is hard to explain without a demonstration, but I would suggest two things to think about and practice.

      1. Once you have made your first loop (left over right, for example) if you maintain tension and twist the threads in a clockwise direction to keep the tension in that first loop, you can make your second loop (right over left) and pull the knot tight.

      2. The other thing to remember is that sometimes the knot "flips" and the threads become a granny knot as you pull the second loop tight. Then the tension can't be maintained. If you make some practice knots you can see how easily this can happen.

      I would also recommend to sew each issue separately, as trying to maintain strong tension over multiple attachments of signatures is very hard, in my experience.