Book Plates & Maps

This entry is part 7 of 20 in the series The Art of Bookbinding (Joseph W. Zaehnsdorf, 3rd Edt, 1897)

Presuming that we have a book with half a dozen plates, the first thing after ascertaining that the letter-press is perfect, is to see that all the plates are there, by looking to the “List of Plates,” printed generally after the contents. The plates should then be squared or cut truly, using a sharp knife and straight edge. When the plates are printed on paper larger than the book, they must be cut down to the proper size, leaving a somewhat less margin at the back than there will be at the foreedge when the book is cut.

Some plates have to face to the left, some to the right, the frontispiece for instance; but as a general rule, plates should be placed on the right hand, so that on opening the book they all face upwards. When plates consists of subjects that are at a right angle with the text, such as view and landscapes, the inscription should always be placed to the right hand, whether the plate face to the right or to the left page. If the plates are on thick paper they should be guarded, either by adding a piece of paper of the same thickness or by cutting a piece from the plate and then joining the two again together with a piece of linen, so that the plate moves on the linen hinge: the space between the guard and plate should be more than equal to the thickness of the paper. If the plate is almost a cardboard, it is better and stronger if linen be placed both back and front. Should the book consist of plates only, sections may be made by placing two plates and two guards together , and sewing through the centre between the guards, leaving of course a space between the two guards, which will form the back.

With regard to maps that have to be mounted, it is better to mount them on the finest linen, as it takes up the least room in the thickness of the book. The linen should be cut a little larger than the map itself, with a further piece left, on which to mount the extra piece of paper, so that the map may be thrown out as before described. The map should first be trimmed at its back, then pasted with rather thin paste; the linen should then be laid carefully on, and gently rubbed down and turned over, so that the map comes uppermost; the pasted guard should then be placed a little away from the map, and the whole well rubbed down and finally laid out flat to dry. To do this work, the paste must be clean, free from all lumps, and used very evenly and not too thickly, or when dry every mark of the brush will be visible. When the map is dry it should be trimmed all round and folded to its proper size, viz. – a trifle smaller than the book will be when cut. If it is left larger the folds will naturally be cut away, and the only remedy will be a new map, which means a new copy of the work.


For all folded maps or plates a corresponding thickness must be placed in the backs where the maps go, or the foredge will be thicker than the back. Pieces of paper called guards, are folded from 1/4 inch to 1 inch in width, according to the size of the book, and placed in the back, and sewn through as a section. Great care must be taken that these guards are not folded too large, so as the overlap the folds of the map, if they do so, the object of their being placed there to make the thickness of the back and foreedge equal will be defeated.

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