A Glossary of Photobook Tools and Terms

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The art and craft of bookmaking long predates photography as an expressive medium. Like any discipline, book design/publishing comes with its own nomenclature. Below are some common terms that you may encounter when you begin making and publishing photo books.

Accordion (Concertina) Fold: Parallel folds that open up like an accordion.

Addendum: Information added to the end of a book after publication.

Appendix: Supplemental information added to the end of a book (tables, glossary, bibliography, etc.).

Awl: A tool used for piercing paper to produce pathways for thread when sewing a text block. For best results, an awl should be just slightly larger than the needle used for sewing.

Caption: Awls are used for cleanly punching holes to provide a pathway for thread.
Awls are used for cleanly punching holes to provide a pathway for thread.

Back Matter: Refers to the appendix, index, and colophon at the end of a book.

Bench Sewing: Sewing through a fold to combine signatures into a text block.

Bleed: Edge of the page that is trimmed. If you want images to extend all the way to the edge of your page, you should allow them to extend a bit into the bleed, so you don’t get a thin white line at the edge of the page.

Bone Folder: A tool used for folding creases to produce crisp folded edges.

Bone folders simplify making clean folds.
Bone folders simplify making clean folds.

Book Board: Rigid board used for making a case.

Book Cloth: Protective cloth used to cover case bound books.

Book cloth comes in many colors, textures, and fabrics.
Book cloth comes in many colors, textures, and fabrics.

Case Binding: Two book boards and a spine combined with a text block to form a hardcover book.

Casing: Process of applying adhesive to the outermost endpapers of a text block and fitting it into a case.

Clamshell Box: A protective box used for storage. When closed, it provides two walls of protection from the enclosed book’s environment.

Clamshell boxes provide an extra layer of protection for your book.
Clamshell boxes provide an extra layer of protection for your book.

CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Key/Black): A four-color, subtractive printing process used by most offset printers.

CMYK vs RBG color.
CMYK vs RBG color.

Colophon: Publishing and printing information, usually located at the end of a book; also, a publisher’s emblem, usually located on the spine and/or title page.

Crop Mark: A line used to designate where to trim a page.

Deboss: A sunken design.

Deckle: A rough, uneven page edge, typically used for decorative effect.

Double Truck: An image that extends across the gutter of a page.

Dummy (Maquette): A mockup of a book used for planning and adjusting layout and design.

Dust Jacket: A removable cover used to protect a book.

A dust jacket will keep your book warm and protected.
A dust jacket will keep your book warm and protected.

Edition: Refers to all copies of a print run.

Emboss: A raised design.

Endpaper: Sheet used to secure a text block to the inside cover of a book; see also: Flyleaf.

Flat Back (Square Back): Case bound book with a flat spine.

Flush Alignment: When all text lines up on the right or left side of a page.

Flyleaf: The first and last pages of a book used to attach the text block to the inside cover; see also: Endpaper.

Folio: One folded sheet of paper (two leaves/four pages). May also refer to page numbering (Drop Folio: numbers on the bottom of the page; Blind Folio: no page numbers).

Fore Edge: Edge of a leaf opposite to its spine.

Front Matter: Title, copyright, and table of contents pages, located at the beginning of a book (copyright may also appear at the end).

Gate Fold: A leaf that is folded inward so that it can be opened and extended.

Gilt: Gold edging on a text block (e.g., on religious books).

Gilt pages lend a regal quality to a book.
Gilt pages lend a regal quality to a book.

Grain: The fibers of a sheet of paper, aligned in one direction. To determine the direction of the grain, carefully bend a sheet of paper horizontally and vertically. Grain will run parallel to the direction of least resistance.

Grain Long: When grain is running the longer side of a sheet.

Grain Short: When grain is running the shorter side of a sheet.

GSM (Grams per Square Meter): A standardized unit of measurement used to compare the density of different paper stocks.

Gutter: Area between the inside margin and binding edge.

Halftone: A printing technique that transforms images into dots of various sizes, allowing an image to be made using one color ink.

Halftone images are able to convey depth using only one color.
Halftone images are able to convey depth using only one color.

Head: The top of a book.

Headband: Ornamental fabric that may be sewn into a text block for additional support.

Headbands are part decorative and part functional.
Headbands are part decorative and part functional.

Inlay: A piece of leather added to a leather-bound book to replace a cutout area to achieve a decorative effect.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number): A unique number used to identify a commercially produced book.

Justified Alignment: When text is spaced in such a way to maintain even lines on both the right and left sides of a page.

Kettle Stitch: Stitching used to secure the heads and tails of signatures in order to create a text block.

Lay Flat Binding: A binding method that allows pages to “lay flat” without distorting images near the gutter.

Leaf: One unit in a text block (front and back pages).

Margin: The area around the text of a page.

Methyl Cellulose: Added to polyvinyl acetate (PVA) in order to increase drying time.

Offset Lithography: A commercial method of printing books that “offsets” ink from plates to rollers that transfer to paper.

Onlay: Similar to an inlay except that the decorative place is secured on top of the cover with adhesive.

Perfect (Adhesive) Binding: Single sheets glued together. This is one of the cheapest but least-durable binding methods.

Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA): A quick-drying, archival, and flexible adhesive used for book binding.

Post Binding: A method usually used for albums wherein flat-headed screws are used to hold a book together.

Print on Demand (POD): A production method where copies are created by an order rather than in editions.

Proof: A preliminary copy of a book used to check print quality.

Recto: The front side of a page.

RGB (Red-Green-Blue): A three-color, additive color process commonly used by electronic screens.

Round Back: A text block with a spine that has been hammered into a rounded shape.

Saddle Stitch: Securing leaves of a folio with thread or staples along its folded edge.

Saddle-stitch bindings are popular for pamphlets and zines.
Saddle-stitch bindings are popular for pamphlets and zines.

Side Stitch Binding: A method in which staples or stitching run along the side of a book.

Signature: Two or more sheets of paper stacked and folded as a group.

Slipcase: A storage box with one open end fitted to a specific book.

Slipcases serve as another excellent way to protect a book.
Slipcases serve as another excellent way to protect a book.

Spine: The back of a book where signatures are combined and reinforced.

Spiral Binding: A method wherein a coil is used to bind pages with holes punched into them.

Spread: Left and right pages viewed together.

Super: A gauzy fabric used to reinforce the spine of a text block.

Tail (Foot): The bottom of a book.

Tape Binding: When the spine of a book is covered with a tape or cloth lining to secure it.

Text/Book Block: A collection of signatures sewn together.

Tipped-In: A page or image that has been added into a book separate from the text block.

Verso: The back side of a page.

Zine: Derived from “magazine,” this is an ephemeral book typically featuring a saddle-stitch binding.

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