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Library Oversewn

Oversewing is a method of sewing thin sections (i.e., piles) of loose leaves, one to another in succession, to create a text block.  This process can be done by hand or by machine.  When done by machine, multiple needles and threads pass obliquely through the bindinghard binding: hand sewing text block clip art piece margin of each section, forming stitches that attach it to previously attached sections.  For all oversewn volumes, a minimum binding margin of 5/8 inch (15 mm) after milling is desirable.  Volumes that have narrow margins may be oversewn on a machine that has been modified by adding a narrow sewing plate:  Because this technique is less strong than regular oversewing it shall be used only as a last option.

All volumes are divided into uniform sections approximately 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick, the thickness varying depending on the nature and condition of the paper.  Sewing shall be no closer than 1/4 inch (6 mm), and no farther than 1 inch (25 mm) from the head and tail of the text block after trimming.  The shuttle thread shall be coated with adhesive during sewing; or a thin line of paste shall be applied along the binding margin of the top sheet of each section prior to sewing. In no case shall the sewing stitches be closer to the text than 1/8 inch (3 mm).

Polyvinyl acetate adhesive is applied to the spines of all sewn text blocks prior to rounding and backing.  The adhesive shall thoroughly coat the spine.  After gluing, blocks shall be stacked squarely and allowed to dry without the use of a heater or other drying device.

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The River Reeves and Then Some, A compilation of the genealogy of Jesse Tinion and Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Reeves of Pike County, Alabama And that of David Reeves and Moses Reeves of Pike County, AlabamaRounding and backing enhances the durability of bound volumes, especially those that are large or heavy.  It also prevents the spines of some volumes from becoming concave. (Gregath Note: Library oversewn books do not have to be rounded and backed to be of high library quality - they do provide a richer appearance.) Text blocks shall be evenly rounded to form a smooth, convex spine and a concave fore edge; and shall be backed to form shoulders that are symmetrical, uniform from head to tail, and nearly equal in size to the anticipated board thickness.  Rounding and backing may be done using a semi-automatic hydraulic machine, a roller backer, or by hand.  Good results often require a combination of hand and machine processes.

The spines of all sewn text blocks shall be lined with a spine lining material that meets specifications cited. The spines of all text blocks that are rounded and backed shall be lined either before or after rounding and backing with a spine lining material that meets specifications.  The lining shall extend to within ½ inch (12 mm) of the head and the tail of the text block, and extend squarely onto each endpaper at least 1 inch (25 mm).  The spines of all volumes over 1-½ inches (35 mm) thick that have been sewn through the fold or re-cased, and all other volumes over 2-½ inches (64 mm) thick, shall be reinforced with an additional layer of material.  This reinforcement can be alkaline paper, no lighter than 60-pound (27.2 kg) text weight, cut to the height and width of the spine, or a second layer of spine lining cloth.

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The boards and the inlay (for the case) shall be squarely and securely adhered to the covering material.  The spaces between the inlay and the boards shall be uniform and approximately 1/4 inch (6 mm) or ½ inch (12 mm) wide depending on the style of hinge.  A piece of cord approximately 1/8 inch (3 mm) in diameter or a piece of braid may be placed at the head and tail of the inlay (head and foot bands).  The corners of the cloth shall be left uncut so that library corners can be made; or corners shall be straight-cut or cut concave at a 45 degree angle so that compliant corners can be made.  The covering material shall be turned in snugly and uniformly, approximately 5/8 inch (15 mm) on all sides, and shall adhere neatly and tightly to the edges of the boards.

For traditional corners: Each of four uncut corners of the overhanging cover material shall be folded at a 45 degree angle and adhered onto the inside surface of the cover boards.  The already glued-off overhang shall be turned-in at the head and tail, fore edge and back edge of the case. For library corners: Each corner of the cover material is folded at a 45-degree angle that permanently affixes to the cover boards. All glued-off overhang shall be turned into the case.

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Get even more technical! The full set of current LBI standards can be freely downloaded in PDF format by going to their website.

Methods of Affixing Leaves: Options and Implications, Paul Parisi
ANSI/NISO/LBI Standard for Library Binding
American Library Association (ALA)

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This Page Last Updated: January 09, 2019

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