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The Ultimate Bookbinding Glossary


Here at Paper-Oh we tend to take for granted our bookbinding vocabularies. So while it may seem easy to drop words like “endpaper” and “Smyth sewing” when describing our notebooks and design process, it doesn’t do any good if we can’t explain what we’re talking about! To help you out as you venture into our Downloads & Extras and try some book and paper art tutorials on your own, we thought we’d create this handy glossary of some important bookbinding terms.

Let us know on Twitter or Facebook if there are any other terms you think should have a home here in the Ultimate Paper-Oh Bookbinding Glossary!

Accordion folds

simple zigzag folds creating equally sized panels and two parallel folds that go in opposite directions, resulting in pleats resembling the bellows of an accordion

Acid Free

a paper mixture that has a pH above 7.0, making a more stable paper that will not discolour or break down over time

Belly Band

strip of paper wrapped around a book


inking or printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet before trimming


the pages (signatures) of a book when prepared for casing, but before the case is added

Case Binding

a method of binding in which the book case (cover) is made separately from the bookblock and later attached to it

Cover Spine

the space between the boards of a case to accommodate the thickness of the bookblock


a permanent bend to a page


type or image that is pressed into the surface of the page or cover using a metal plate and great pressure


taking a “die” (a block with a sharp metal cutout, like an industrial cookie cutter) and pressing it hard enough so that the metal cuts entirely through the paper


type or an image that is raised above the surface of the page and is created by pressing the paper between two interlocking parts


leaves of thick paper used to cover the inside of the cover board and support the hinge


a Greek mathematician known as the “Father of Geometry”; the first mathematician to present the elements of geometry in a single, coherent framework

Fly Leaf

the turning page of the endpaper


metallic material used for printing (blocking) the wording on a binding case

Fore Edge

the edge of a leaf or a board opposite from, and parallel to, its binding edge

Grain Direction

the direction in which the majority of the fibres in a piece of paper or board are aligned

Head Trim(ming)

the trimmed top of the book


a narrow band glued to the head and food of the book block, often coloured to match the cover binding


a fold in the endpaper between pastedown and fly leaf

Inner hinge

the fold of the channel lying between the two halves of an endsheet where the bookblock is attached to its cover (case)

Laid Paper

paper that has a finely ribbed appearance


format in which the height of the page is less than the width


a single sheet of paper or half of a folded sheet of paper


the space around the printed or written matter on a page


the Japanese art of folding paper in decorative shapes and figures


the method of wrapping gifts with handmade paper without the use of scissors, tape or glue

Paper Weight

in North America, measured and specified in pounds per ream, per sheet size (referred to as basis or ream weight); everywhere else, measured in grams per square meter (gsm)


endpaper pasted down to the inside of the front and back boards


to pierce and make a hole (or holes) that enable the paper to be torn, like a sheet of stamps


format in which the height of the page is greater than the width


a first, typical or preliminary model of something, from which other forms are developed or copied


a quantity of sheets of the same size and quality; in Europe, the DIN 6730 standard for paper and board includes a definition of 1 ream of A4 80gsm paper (500 sheets)


a right-hand page of an open book, or the front of a loose document

Saddle Stitch

a stitch of thread or a wide staple passed through the fold of a magazine, booklet or signature


the act of creating a line or depression in paper that will help the paper fold


a sheet folded at least once, possibly many times, to become part of a book, magazine (signatures can be in sets of 4, 8, 16, 32 or even 64 pages)

Smyth Sewing

a method of sewing through the fold by machine to join multiple signatures to form a bookblock


the narrow strip where the cover of a book is joined to the pages

Stencil/Blind Embossing

achieved by working with brass or pencil stencils and pressing a pattern into paper using a hand tool

Tail Trim(ming)

the trimmed bottom of the book


a left-hand page of an open book, or the back of a loose document