D. J. McAdam

Where the World Goes for Free Advice

Care, Handling and Storage of Asian Style Bindings

[Note: This information is taken from The Library of Congress.  For more advice, see Caring for Your Book Collection.]

Asian binding

Advice for Book Caretakers: Asian Style Bindings

Considerations
Specific handling considerations are based on the style of book. There are two basic types of Asian style bindings for paper based books, the accordion style and the side-sewn style. Each format requires a handling approach specific to its needs.

Before handling any book, consider:
-does the binding open easily?
-is the binding broken?
-is the paper is brittle, flexible, torn?
-does this type of binding require special support to avoid damage during viewing?

Accordion Style Books
An accordion style book is made of one long continuous length of paper or card folded in alternate directions which piles up, back and forth, to make a textblock or album.

The folds of an accordion style book are the most vulnerable points of this style of book. Much strain is put on the folds, or joints, as the pages are turned because the joint carries the weight of the folio or the group of folios, particularly when the pages are out of alignment. The folds are often broken, torn or doubly creased.

Avoid strain on the folded accordion joints by keeping the text block in alignment by careful placement when turning the pages of the book. This will prevent twisting the folded joints which can lead to a tear or to forming a new crease.

When open, keep the textblock level and flat to avoid straining the fold caused when one side of the book is higher than the other side. This can be done by using flat supports under the thinner side of the textblock to make the opening level, and changing the height of the supports as the pages are turned and the difference in heights gradually evens out and then switches to the other half of the textblock. The supports can be multiple sheets of mat board or thin, flat cushions which can be stacked to give varying thicknesses.

Side-sewn Style Books
Side-sewn style books typically have soft covers with visible sewing along the spine edge. The text paper fold is at the foredge and the cut edges at the spine. The folded text papers and two covers are stitched together through punched holes approximately one cm. in from the spine. Some covers are stiffened paper and can provide some protection from creasing or tearing, yet many covers are simply brittle paper, often weaker than the text paper itself. These soft books do not have much to protect them from impact or from the edges and corners being creased or crushed. Often many books, referred to as fascicles, will comprise one title and are best held together in a cloth covered wrapper case.

Individual Fascicles
When handling soft side-sewn books, keep in mind that the strength of an individual side-sewn fascicle is along the sewn edge. Carefully support the soft, flexible fascicle with both hands:
1) Pick up the fascicle at the sewn edge of the text.
2) Support the rest of the text with the palm of your other hand when removing from the stack or table, particularly when the covers of the book do not provide support.
3) If the book has flexible text paper, it will open easily and can be viewed opened out on a table surface. If the paper is not flexible, a cradle will provide the needed support to avoid damage to the stiff or brittle paper. See "Cradle" below.

Groups of Fascicles
The principal understanding for handling multiple fascicles within one title is that the strength is in the group. Not unlike this advice for travelers: "You know what happens to a banana when it leaves the bunch." The fascicle which sticks out from the stack will be bent back, creased, torn or broken. Alignment of the fascicles within the wrapper is the most important aspect of protecting them from this type of damage. Make sure they are aligned by:
1) Carefully re-placing the fascicle on the stack while supporting the text block with the palm of your hand.
2) Aligning the fascicles by gently nudging into place with the soft sides of your fingers before closing the cloth covered wrapper around the stack.

Cradles
Use of cradles or bolsters to support books while viewing or reading is highly recommended for books which do not open easily. The cradles support the sides of the books and soft, flexible weights can be used to hold the book open. This prevents creasing or breaking the stiff, often brittle paper at the point of flexing.

Storage of Books
Asian style books were designed to be stored horizontally. Titles and numbers were written on the bottom edge of the text to assist the reader in locating the book. Wrappers which hold groups of fascicles together typically do not cover the head or tail leaving the title information exposed.

If vertical storage is the preferred method for collection management, the books will need the support of a box or wrapper. Without this support, the soft books will slump and become distorted because they cannot support themselves. Additionally, insertion and removal of an unboxed soft book in a line of upright books can easily cause the soft paper to break, tear or crease.

Books in headless wrappers stored vertically are open for dust and light damage at the head and can be covered with paper to avoid damage from dust and light.

Handling Instructions for Readers of Asian Style Books

Before handling any book, consider:
-does the binding open easily?
-is the binding broken?
-is the paper brittle, flexible, torn?
-does this type of binding require special support to avoid damage during viewing?

Accordion Style Books
An accordion style book is made of one long continuous length of paper or card folded in alternate directions which piles up, back and forth, to make a textblock or album.

-Avoid strain on the folded accordion joints by keeping the text block in alignment by careful placement when turning the pages of the book. This will prevent twisting the folded joints which can lead to a tear or to forming a new crease.

-When open, keep the textblock level and flat to avoid straining the fold by using flat supports under the thinner side of the textblock to make the opening level. Change the height of the supports as the pages are turned and the difference in heights gradually evens out and then switches to the other half of the textblock.

-The supports can be multiple sheets of mat board or thin, flat cushions which can be stacked to give varying thicknesses.

Side-sewn Style Books
Individual Fascicles
-Keep in mind that the strength of an individual side-sewn fascicle is along the sewn edge. Carefully support the soft, flexible fascicle with both hands.

-Pick up the fascicle at the sewn edge of the text.

-Support the rest of the text with the palm of your other hand when removing from the stack or table, particularly when the covers of the book do not provide support.

-If the book has flexible text paper, it will open easily and can be viewed opened out on a table surface. If the paper is not flexible, a cradle will provide the needed support to avoid damage to the stiff or brittle paper. See "Cradles" below.

Groups of Fascicles
Alignment of the fascicles within the wrapper is the most important aspect of protecting them from being bent, creased, torn or broken because the strength is in the group.

-Make sure they are aligned by carefully re-placing the fascicle on the stack while supporting the text block with the palm of your hand.

-Align the fascicles by gently nudging into place with the soft sides of your fingers before closing the cloth covered wrapper around the stack.

Cradles
-For books which do not open easily, place the book in a cradle or between two bolsters which support both boards of the book in a 90-120 degree angle.

-Soft, flexible weights can be used to gently hold the book open at the angle which causes least resistance.