Binding can be defined as the art or trade of fastening written or printed information together. Throughout history there were primitive methods that were developed to hold records together. During 6th century B.C. writing on clay tablets was developed and used in Mesopotamia. The cuneiform system as it was known, is a Latin term meaning wedge shape. This limited writing system consisted of a series of wedge-shaped symbols. These symbols were drawn with a writing instrument known as a reed stylus, which was used to create the wedge-shaped patterns that were impressed into the soft clay. This method of writing using word signs was used in countries such as Akkad, Sumer, Babylon and Assyria. The symbols were referred to as "word signs" because they did not represent the sound of a given language, such as the letters in the contemporary Roman alphabet. Clay tablets were placed in kilns to be “fired on” to harden the soft clay tablets, thus making the information on the stone permanent. Some tablets were encased in clay “envelopes” after they were inscribed upon for safe keeping on a later date. This encasement may have been one of the first methods of holding written information together. The word sign communication method was used for business transactions, contracts, and letters, accounting records of debts, records of credit, recording history and receipts. The encasement of the tablets prevented the tampering of any information inscribed into stone. The tablet encasement was later broken when the debt was paid, enabling the verification of whatever terms were previously agreed upon. Forgery could be easily accomplished on clay tablets. Old information could be chiseled away and new information could be chiseled in its place.
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Early Roll Formats
The first books were known as manuscripts. These books were manually produced or transcribed using brushes, styluses, pens, or pencils, rather than being printed. The materials used as writing surfaces included parchment, vellum, papyrus, and paper. These materials were rolled and were called rolls (Figure 2:1).
Fig. 2:1. Roll format.
Fig. 2:2. An early scroll format.
Early Scroll Formats
Sticks on both ends of the written material often held scrolls (Fig. 2:2). To read a scroll, one had to unroll the written material to reveal a section at a time. This unrolling action was a difficult task, and many attempts were made to find better ways to secure and to read written materials. One method of producing a scroll was to wrap the written material around a single core. This would be similar to the way paper towels are wrapped around the cardboard core. The problem with the single core method is that a reader had to unroll the entire scroll to read the entire volume. A double scroll, which is one with two cores, was developed to prevent the problems with a single core. With this format, text can be accessed from both ends of the scroll. The reader has to unroll and re-roll the scroll to access new pages in the document.
Publishing in Rome
The Roman Empire lasted almost 700 years. The empire started as a small city in Italy and soon spread towards Northern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. They acquired the best that the Greeks left behind in architecture, culture, science, and philosophy. At the Roman Empire’s peak they had a population of well over 100 million people. The first publishers were wealthy men who used slaves as scribes to satisfy their literary thirst. The term given to these slaves was LIBRA’RII.
18 Presswork and Bindery Processes
They were responsible for writing and copying. The freed slaves, however, were referred to as Scribae publici. There were three classes of slaves. The Librarii produced scriptores or handwritten books. These books included new and old publications. The Labrarii copied both old and new volumes, whereas the antiquarii worked with only old