Hardcover binding – a guide to different types of binding (part 1)

Hardcover binding – a guide to different types of binding (part 1)

One of the key decisions to be made when printing a book is to choose the type of binding to be applied. You will have to consider what is best for your publication: hardcover or softcover binding? Maybe something different still? To a large extent, the binding is what gives a book its ultimate look. It additionally influences the reader’s purchasing decisions, while later impacting on how user-friendly the given publication is. Whether you like it or not, the way a book is designed and presented is as important as its content. If your potential readers think that the publication is too heavy/ not solid enough/ does not look sophisticated enough/ costs too much, they will not want to add it to their book collection. Which is why it is good to know your readers and their preferences.

Let us be honest, this is only a blog post. It was not written with the aim of enabling the disciples of the art of book-making to attain yet another level of expertise. The objective is simple here: to equip someone wishing to publish a book and wanting to feel comfortable in their dealings with the printing house with basic knowledge on the subject.

Some theory

What is the binding of a book? We often equate binding with a book’s cover. Yet, the matter is slightly more complicated as a cover represents only a part of a book’s binding. The other key component is the interior, i.e. the so-called book block.

cover + book block = binding

At our printing house we use two-part names for the different types of binding. The first part refers to the cover, i.e. hard/ soft, while the second one relates to the way the sheets of the book block are held together, i.e. sewn/ perfect bound.

Hardcover binding – it is complicated on the surface only

This part of the post will be dedicated to hardcover binding. Hardcovers are made up of pastedowns, base cases (front and back) and spine board. The spine board and base cases are there to reinforce the structure; once the book takes its final shape, they become invisible. However, it is always worth being aware of their existence. The spine board, as you can easily guess, is responsible for strengthening the book’s spine. The base cases are used to stiffen the pastedowns, i.e. those parts of the cover that are attached to the first and last page of the book block. The three elements are then held together by the casewrap. The concept becomes a lot less convoluted when you look at the diagram.

casewrapWhere hardcovers are concerned, the book block and the cover itself are held together by the endpaper.


This is a single-fold sheet of paper with higher grammage, glued to the book block and the cover. This type of binding is extremely durable.

oprawa twarda 1

The book block for hardcovers can be either sewn or perfect bound. Thread sewn book blocks are made up of multiple signatures. This simply means that there will be several sheets of paper folded in half and then inserted one into another. The way a signature is put together is very similar to the make-up of a traditional sixteen-page school exercise book. The signatures are held together with hemp thread, which is why we use the name “thread sewn” binding.

grzbiet szyty
In turn, as far as perfect (or glued) binding is concerned, the sheets within the book block are held together with, as the name itself suggests, glue as opposed to thread. Seeing that there is no thread involved in this case, it no longer makes sense to create a book block out of signatures. If you wanted to glue your signatures together, the glue would only bond the outside sheets of each signature, while the rest of them would simply come loose from the block. Thus, instead of signatures, with perfect binding there is a set of sheets of paper bound along the spine of the book with glue. Naturally, the matter is not as straightforward, and the spine has to be prepared suitably before you apply the glue. We will leave the technicalities to the bookbinders, though.

But worry not, you will not need a cheat sheet. Our representatives will not be asking you questions about any of the above. Still, if you are in doubt as to what a given term means, you can always look it up in our glossary.

All in all, there are six types of binding available at our printing house. We will have a closer look at two of them in this post.

Hardcover thread sewn

This is the Rolls-Royce of book binding. It is durable, sophisticated and ideal for upmarket publications. You will have to pay slightly more than for other types of binding, but we are talking Rolls-Royce here, and it is worth its price. Its key feature is its hardiness, and consequently durability. By choosing hardcover thread sewn binding you ensure that your book will be there to keep you company for years to come.

In terms of aesthetic requirements, they can be far more challenging than with other types of binding. As far as the cover is concerned, you do not need to limit yourself to what is most conventional, i.e. a printed one. Instead, go for a covering that will give you a myriad of options. Imitation of leather, linen, or maybe a paper one with a unique texture – these are just some of the materials available. It all depends on your needs and imagination. And there is a wide range of enhancements to choose from to finish it all off. The end result can be truly delightful.

szyta nićmi

Hardcover perfect bound

It is as sophisticated as hardcover thread sewn binding. Above all, hardcover perfect bound publications are appreciated because of the value you get for your money. This type of binding is slightly less expensive than hardcover thread sewn binding. However, the fact that the block of the book is held together with glue has its implications, and the book will not quite open flat. Still, if you care about your finances more than about how far the publication will open, this is the right choice to make. It is the option often selected by those in the fiction publishing business and for publications with a focus on specific subject matter.

oprawa twarda
When designing your cover, similarly as in the case of hardcover thread sewn binding, you are given the option to use different coverings and enhancements. As you can see, there are considerably more similarities between the two types of binding than differences. So what do you do as not to get the two confused? All you have to do is look at the top or bottom edge of your book block. If there are signatures visible at the spine, then you are dealing with hardback thread sewn binding. If the book block is not split into signatures and the edge at the spine is smooth, then you are looking at hardcover perfect binding.

Naturally, there are many more different types of binding than the two discussed above. Come back and read another post in this series to be published soon. To have a look at the detailed parameters of the types of binding offered by our printing house, go to “Our services” or get in touch with our customer advisors.

lidia piasecka

Lidia Piasecka

Graphic designer at Totem.com.pl. She writes because she enjoys it, but only when she isn’t busy drawing. Enthusiast of vintage furniture, she restores them to their original glory. Lover of cats, moths and the Moomins.

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