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  • Writer's pictureCam Gray

UK Book Binders Guide to Case Binding

Case binding is the ultimate binding method for prestigious books that have a long shelf life.

Also referred to as 'hardback books', they consist of a printed paper case, specialist paper or cloth material as the cover, wrapped around grey board. This cover is affixed around a thread sewn book block. Whilst other binding methods, including PUR, are available our preferred method is thread sewing as we believe it produces a superior product in respect of strength and durability. In addition, thread sewing provides better lay flat qualities than a PUR bound book block and is the more traditional technique for case bound books.

Case binding is typically used for products such as reference books, year books, children’s books, novels, coffee table books, art books, law books, medical books and most custom books.

The look of the hardback book is also superior with the availability of leather, papers and multiple fabrics that can be used to encase the book. These materials coupled with the variety of specialty finishing techniques, such as debossing or foil blocking, give the case bound book a professional, classy, or artistic look. Endpapers can also offer the opportunity to change the first impression of any book whether choosing plain, coloured or printed finishes to compliment the desired outcome.

A printed dust jacket can also be applied to finish off your book as well as other finishing touches such as applying head and tail bands or ribbon markers.

Grain Direction

As most materials have a grain direction, it is essential to understand the impact that incorrect grain direction can have on a case bound book and why it is so important to book binding.

The general rule is that all materials that make a book, for example paper, cloth and board, should have their grain running from head to tail in the finished book. Whilst we appreciate that this is not always the most economical way of maximising available sheet space when printing or cutting endpapers, failure to observe this rule can cause the book covers to warp when materials with opposing grains are glued together and particularly on certain endpaper stocks can cause unsightly rippling or cockling which can detrimentally impact the first impression when opening the book.

Cover Styles

There are several cover styles when it comes to Case Binding. The first is a Printed Paper Case (PPC) printed on traditional materials. Specialist paper based materials are available that have textured finishes, such as the popular Wibalin which comes in multiple colours and styles. There is also the option to use fabric, cloth or leather material. These materials don’t allow for classic printing and require foil blocking, debossing or wrapping with a printed dust jacket.

A Printed Paper Case is much the same as the cover of a soft back book. It is printed to fit around the greyboard, and requires lamination (UK Book Binders recommends Anti-scuff lamination, which we provide in-house). The Anti-scuff lamination is perfect for this long lasting style of binding. It retains the integrity of the cover, and reduces unsightly scratches.

A second cover style is that of fabric, cloth or leather materials. There are hundreds of options to choose from here. Generally, these materials are foil blocked or debossed to create beautiful and prestigious looking covers.

Foiling and debossing

Foil blocking can be done in an array of colours, to meet your design brief. Often foil blocking is done on the front cover to display a title and logo, also on the spine to display the title, and often the back cover displays artwork too.

Debossing is the opposite process of imprinting the material, causing a depressed effect.

With debossing, you can choose to leave the area untouched or fill it in with ink or foil blocking. Both provide stunning finishes.


Endpapers are the sheets that attach the inside cover with the thread sewn book block. These typically consist of uncoated paper stock that’s slightly heavier than the other interior pages as the added thickness allows them to withstand this tough job. We fold the 4pp endpapers and mechanically attach them to the first and last section prior to sewing the book block.

These are the first pages you will see when you open your hard back book and as such can be printed, coloured or plain depending on style and preference.

Dust jackets

A dust jacket is a detachable outer cover, which also serves to protect the book from damage. It looks much like a traditional soft back cover, though dust jackets require flaps to be folded inside the cover.

Dust jackets were originally designed to protect cloth covered hardback books in the 1800’s. Today, dust jackets are a great way to enhance the presentation of your book with beautiful art. You can get creative with these detachable covers that wrap around your book and are held into place with folded flaps.

Head and Tail bands

Head and Tail bands are the two pieces of coloured fabric found on the top and bottom of case bound books. They can be found in either one solid colour, or two colours intertwined. They are purely for aesthetic purposes, to make the book look more pleasing on the users eye – by hiding the visibility of glue holding the thread sewn sections together.

Although they often go unnoticed, these decorative features can add a lovely splash of colour to your book and give an eye-catching, professional finish. They are available in a range of colours and styles.

Ribbon Markers

Practical and attractive, they help readers to keep their place as they browse through your book. They are available in a variety of colours and represent a more elegant version of a page marker.

This little cloth ribbon is glued under the head band at the top of the inner block and makes it easier to find a specific page in the book. The bookmark has a rightful place in a beautiful publication.

Square backing and Round backing

A square back or round back finish refers to the spine of the book. As you can see a square backed finish gives the spine a flatter look, and rounded increases the curvature.

Square back books are finished using the same thickness board in the spine as that of the front and back cover. Round back books used a ‘hollow’ board known as pressphan hollow which is a thinner strip of board that is flexible to allow for the rounding of the case.

A rounded and backed case bound book gives your spine a classic rounded shape. This older style of bookbinding was used to accommodate hand-sewn signatures and build a shoulder and hinge for the boards of the cover. Modern rounded spines are more of an aesthetic choice. Please also note that thinner spines may not be suitable for round and backing.


Case bound books are sometimes packaged in a protective housing, called slipcases.

Slipcases provide hardback books with extra protection and help to enhance the look of the finished product. Slipcases are often used to house several books together, such as a series or collection.

Is a case bound book the right bind style for your project?

Due to the longevity of a hard back book, you may consider Cook Books, Photo Books, Children's Books, Biographies, among others. Any projects in which you'd like to showcase quality for years to come. Case binding really does stand out versus other finishing styles.

If you have any case binding specs you would like to talk over, or get a quote for, drop me a line at

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