The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding

by Arthur W. Johnson

Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1978

readability rating
4 star readability rating Very good explanations and comprehensive diagrams make this an invaluable reference.
content rating
4 star content rating A good survey of many techniques, from the simple to the advanced.

This is the basic bookbinding book, recommended by pretty much everyone. For good reason. It has quickly become my favourite bookbinding book, the one I go back to over and over.

The Good Stuff
Johnson exlplains a wide variety of techniques, covering pretty much all of forwarding and finishing. He also gives details of eight binding styles, from cased bindings, flexible bindings, and library-style bindings through limp and vellum styles. His overviews of areas like endpaper structures are clear and comprehensive, and his diagnostic information is invaluable.
Could Do Better
Like any binder, he has prejudices which come out in his prose. He does not always back these perjorative comments up with clear reasons; the reader must simply trust him that these things are Bad.
He is also very discouraging to anyone unable to buy or store expensive presses. At the start of his chapter on equipment, he says "To learn and to teach bookbinding, it is essential to have professional equipment." Having made my own presses, I must respectfully disagree, and had I had no other books than his, I might have given up on binding.
Best Bit
Johnson is generally very good at explaining not just what to do, but why to do it. Until I read his work, I didn't understand why books were rounded and backed, or what created the swell. The book even describes what to do when these elements go wrong.