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Book Arts: Book Arts Glossary


Artists' books combine a variety of different art and craft practices. These include everything from papermaking to bookbinding to letterpress printing, to painting and woodcuts. As such a completely comprehensive glossary would be enormous. This glossary covers only the basic, most commonly used terms and acts as a starting point on your journey to learning more about the world of artists' books. There are several resources provided at the end for further exploration.


Parts of the book

Board: a thin wood or cardboard core around which is wrapped leather, buckram, or paper to make a case or cover for a book

Colophon: a short description of the book that may include such information as the artist’s name, printer or press name, publisher, author, signature, year, edition number, printing methods, typefaces used, paper type and any other materials used, and any other information the artist would like to include

Endpaper: a leaf of paper at the beginning and end of a book, either blank or decorated. Typically fixed to the inside of the cover. 

Signatures: two or more sheets of paper that are stacked and folded as a group. (also called a section)

Spine: the bound edge of a book where the pages are sewn, glued, or otherwise fastened together 


Types of books

Accordion book: the accordion book is often seen as a modification of a scroll. Its form is achieved by folding the paper back and forth onto itself, giving it an accordion-like appearance. There are a variety of different types of accordion books - double accordion, nested accordion, origami accordion, triangle accordion, and so on. (also known as a concertina book)

Altered book: an altered book takes an existing text and changes it to fit an artistic vision. Examples of altered books include blackout poetry, creating a sculpture from a book, adding images or new text or other material (such as thread or hair). 

Chapbook: A chapbook is a booklet of up to about 40 pages, typically containing poems or fiction and often bound with a saddle stitch. Historically, the chapbook was a small pamphlet containing tales, ballads, or tracts sold by peddlers. 

Pop-up book: A pop-up book is created using specific cuts and folds in a way that lets three-dimensional shapes pop up as the pages are opened. 

Small/Private Press book: these are bound books, typically made with handmade papers, handset type, printed in limited editions, often with deluxe bindings.

Zine: a small booklet usually produced via a copy machine. They are typically used to disseminate information related to a single topic - personal, political, or social. The point is often to produce them in a fast and inexpensive way to make them accessible to a larger audience. 


Types of Stitches (for binding)

Coptic Stitch: this stitch makes a sort of chain pattern along the binding. You start from the inside and the number of holes in the signatures can be either odd or even.This type of binding is often used to show the spine and allow the artist to use their own creativity with different colored threads. The thread will pass through each hole twice. (also called a chain stitch)

Kettle Stitch: this refers to a knot tied in the thread that links one signature to the next; kettle stitching looks like a series of knots joined together in a row along the spine. The name refers to the stitch that links one signature to the next.

Long Stitch: the long stitch is a simple bookbinding technique and delivers good binding strength. The technique of the long stitch involves sewing the signature(s) directly to the cover of the book and creating vertical lines along the spine. There are two types of long stitch methods. The first requires cutting or slicing the cover and sewing the signatures through these cuts. The second requires punching holes in the cover and sewing through the holes. 

Pamphlet stitch: a binding typically created by punching three (or more) holes along the fold of the paper or signature and sewing through the holes. 

Saddle Stitch: refers to a popular bookbinding method in which the sheets of paper are folded one inside the other and then either stapled or sewn along the fold line. 

Stab stitch: this stitch is used to to bind a stack of single sheets instead of signatures. The sheets are sewn together along one edge. Because of the visibility of this binding, it is often used as a decorative feature and allows for artistic variation. Historically a Japanese binding.

Whip Stitching: In the whip stitch the thread passes into the top and out of the bottom of each hole along the binding edge of a piece of paper to attach the single leaves together. 



Awl: tool used to make perforations in paper or board. Those perforations are used as guides for the needles when sewing together the books.

Binder’s thread: unbleached linen thread is typically used in book binding. However, other book arts projects can use carpet thread, strong nylon thread, or even waxed dental floss. 

Bonefolder: (also known as bone folder, or folding bone) is a dull-edged hand tool that folds and creases paper in crafts such as bookbinding, cardmaking, origami, and other papercrafts. They can be used to sharpen the signatures (see above), score paper or cloth for folding, etc. 


Illustration Types

Linocut: this is a printmaking technique where a design is cut into a linoleum surface with a sharp knife, or chisel, or gouge. Like a woodcut, the raised areas of the surface create a mirror image of the parts that will show once it has been printed. The linoleum surface is inked and then impressed on paper. This can either be done by hand or with a printing press. (also known as lino print, lino printing, or linoleum art)

Lithograph: Lithography is a printmaking process where the design is drawn on a prepared surface (such as a flat stone or prepared metal plate) and affixed by means of a chemical reaction.

Silkscreen: Silkscreen printing is a technique that involves printing ink through a stencil supported by a fabric mesh stretched across a wooden screen. The design is made by rubbing, rolling, or spraying paint or ink through the cut out areas in the stencil.