Bookbinding is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It usually involves attaching a book cover to the resulting text-block. Before the computer age, the bookbinding trade involved two divisions.
First, there is stationery or vellum binding which deals with making new books intended to be written into, such as accounting ledgers, business journals, and guest log books, along with other general office stationery such as note books, manifold books, portfolios, etc. Second is letterpress binding which deals with making new books intended to be read from and includes fine binding, library binding, edition binding, and publisher’s bindings.
A result of the new bindings is a third division dealing with the repair, restoration, and conservation of old used bindings. With the digital age, personal computers have replaced the pen and paper based accounting that used to drive most of the work in stationery binding. Today, modern bookbinding is divided between hand binding by individual craftsmen versus mass-produced bindings by high speed machines in a bindery factory.
The craft of bookbinding probably originated in India, where religious sutras were copied on to palm leaves (cut into two, lengthwise) with a metal stylus. The leaf was then dried and rubbed with ink, which would form a stain in the wound. The finished leaves were given numbers, and two long twines were threaded through each end through wooden boards, making a palm-leaf book. When the book was closed, the excess twine would be wrapped around the boards to protect the manuscript leaves. Buddhist monks took the idea through Persia, Afghanistan, and Iran, to China in the first century BC.
Similar techniques can also be found in ancient Egypt where priestly texts were compiled on scrolls and books of papyrus. Another version of bookmaking can be seen through the ancient Mayan codex; only four are known to have survived the Spanish invasion of Latin America.