A method used for heavier books of less value. Here the sewing thread passes under the thread of the previous gathering as it crosses the tape sewing support, thereby linking the gatherings together. This gives a much stronger network of support across the spine.

Sewing is the foundation of any binding structure and will dictate how long it will survive and how well it will open and keep it’s shape.


Some techniques are used to save time, such as oversewing. Hours of repair work were saved on this Shakespeare First Folio by trimming the damaged spine folds off, and oversewing groups of leaves together.  The oversewing threads are substituted for the paper folds. Oversewing restricts the opening, adds to the thickness of the spine and the text block tends to separate between the oversewn groups.


A 19th century Germany invention used wire staples to fasten the sections to tapes or a strong webbing. Initially the binding opened well and was very strong. Unfortunately the wire staples rust, the webbing becomes dry and brittle and the structure brakes down. At this point the center folds fall out and are damaged on the fore edges.


The virtues of earlier methods have long been recognized in conservation. Here herringbone sewing over double cord supports, links the sections together, while packing insures a controlled and gentle opening that does not put a strain on the leaves. Such time-consuming and expensive methods can only be justified for very valuable books.

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The spine of an oversewn book after the linings have been removed, showing the stitching of the groups of leaves. The two transverse grooves are the saw cuts where the recessed cord supports lie.

On the inside of the groups of leaves the thread lies on top of the oversewing stitches

The weaknesses between groups of oversewn leaves lead to structural break downs and eventual separation of the groups.

This picture shows the path of the thread over the oversewing stitches.

Herringbone sewing being "packed" for extra strength, and to control the opening of this thick, multi-section manuscript. (Mishne Torah, Spain, 15th century.)

This close-up shows damage to center folds that became loose when the staples rusted.

Deborah Evetts Book Conservation, LLC

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