This post is for people who aren’t sure how to describe their book to us and just need to know a little bit about book lingo so we’ll both be on the same page.


When you’re describing the cover of the book:

Cover. This is the part you see when the book is closed, whatever it’s made of. There’s the front cover, the back cover, and the spine cover. It should all be connected.

Spine: The “backbone” of the book; the part of the book that you see when you shelve it, the part you hold when you’re balancing the book on one hand while you read it.  A spine can be very plain or embellished.

Two Bibles, showing the spines

Raised ribs or bands: The horizontal lines on the spine, giving a 3-D effect because there’s something under the leather. These used to have a function, but that was a few hundred years ago.  Now they are ornamental. Height and placement can vary.

Boards. These are the front and back parts of a hardcover book. A board is made of thick, hopefully non-acidic, cardboard on the inside, but some older books have very acidic boards. It can be covered with paper, cloth, leather, or some other kind of material.  On an antique family Bible, a thicker cover is made of several boards on top of each other, carved out in the middle, and then it’s covered with leather.

Interior liner: In a standard softcover, this is the part you don’t see, sandwiched in-between the cover material and the end page. In general, that can be anything from card stock to nothing at all.  When using a leather that is more stretchy, this is needed to stabilize the leather.

At Leonard’s we don’t use paper and we’ve discontinued the use of leather for the interior liner. Instead, we most often use a thin fiber liner that adds stability, but not stiffness. Any stiffness or suppleness in a leather option, then, should be from the thickness of the hide and the way it was tanned and finished.
When we want to reduce the flexibility, we use more interior liner.

When you’re describing the insides of the book:

Text block (or book block): The pages; the “guts” of the book.

Sewn binding. This means the book is comprised of groups of pages that are folded together, and they’re all sewn together at the spine edge. If you look down on the top of the book, you should see something that looks like little booklets side by side. They are called “signatures.”

You should be able to get to the middle of one of these signatures and see sewing running up and down the middle of it.Stitching such as this runs down the center of signatures in a sewn binding.

Glued binding. This means the book has pages all cut to the same size and stuck up against a glue strip under the spine. It means trouble when the glue strip pulls away or shrinks. Heat will cause that.  This is also ironically called “perfect binding.”This is what happens when the glue strip from a "perfect bound" book releases from the pages.

Hinge Cloth, or Mull: This is the mesh stuff over the binding. You’re not actually seeing sewing, but the reinforcement material. Actually, you’re not supposed to be able to see it, but if your book is broken at the hinge, you can see things you’re not supposed to see.

Hinge cloth is what actually attaches the cover to the book, under the end page.  Many modern books use what is called “super.” They fall apart because it is not at all “super.”


When you’re describing other things you can see:

End pages: These are generally the long pages that are glued down to the inside of the cover and form the hinge and the first page of the book (often colored, and in a Bible especially, made of leatherette, which is that standard coated paper).

We construct the cover with the end page glued over the raw edge of the leather, a cleaner look.

Hinge: Hinges on a book are formed by the pastedown portion of the end page and the free end page. They’re like the inside of your elbow. If they’re torn, you can see the hinge cloth on the spine.

Lining:  This is a material adhered to the insides of the cover on a softcover Bible, that you can see.  If a Bible is supposed to be leather-lined, then it should be a genuine leather of some kind, but it may be a bonded leather or a synthetic leather, or it could even cloth or paper.  In a few cases, a lining material may only be a thin latex sprayed over the interior lining material, to look like leather.  (That is deceptive.)

In the case of a leather-lined or edge-lined Bible, the end page is only a half end page — just the free portion.

Headbands and Tailbands: These are little strips of cloth, often striped, attached to the spine edges of the pages at the top and bottom of the text block. These, like the raised ribs, used to have a real function, but today, they make the book look nice and cover up raw edges.  They are merely decorative and are not the binding.

Here's a tailband. (If it was a headband, you'd probably see the ribbons.)