How to determine if you have a glued or sewn binding.

There are two quick ways.

First, check towards the edge of the spine where the pages end. If you can see individual signatures (little bundles of pages all stacked on top of one another), then it’s sewn. See below:

Another way to determine if it is sewn is to open the book and look deep into the pages and see if you can see little points or holes. This is where the threads are passed to through to stitch the signatures together. See below:


If your book has a glued binding, you will not see those individual signatures near the spine. See below:

And again, looking into the pages as before, you will not notice those little holes, just a smooth edge where the pages meet This is a sign of a glued binding. See below:


This is just a quick method of determining what sort of bindings you have on your bookshelf.

About Matthew Blair

Sinner saved by grace.
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13 Responses to How to determine if you have a glued or sewn binding.

  1. Pingback: My thought on our bibles and how we interact with them. « the foolish galatian

  2. Erik says:

    I have always wondered while looking at various Bibles in various bookstores whether or not I was holding a sewn or glued Bible. Your photos have solved my dilemma. Thanks for enlightening me. By the way, I am really enjoying your blog. Keep up these very insightful posts!


  3. dogbarber says:

    Thank you for your kind words Erik! I’m glad the post helped you. 🙂

  4. Tom says:

    I can’t really tell if my Bible is sewn or glued. When I look, sometimes it seems like there are threads passing through the pages but when I look on top, it looks like it’s glued.

    Perhaps, since you have reviewed many Crossway/ESV things before, you would know. I use the ESV Personal Size Reference Bible.

    If a Bible has a glued binding, could that prevent it from laying flat at the very beginning and end of the Bible? [My ESV will only start laying flat part way through Exodus!]

  5. dogbarber says:

    If you have a “genuine leather” binding, it’s sewn: any other it’s glued.

  6. Allen Mitchell says:

    > If you have a “genuine leather” binding, it’s sewn: any other it’s glued.

    This is not entirely accurate. There are editions of the Personal Size Reference and the Classic Reference that are TruTone and have sewn bindings. Also the Deluxe Compact editions in TruTone are sewn. I have personally seen one of these (the Classic Reference one with the Eternity design) and it does indeed have a sewn binding.

    New covers in 2008 with sewn bindings:

    Deluxe Compat information:

  7. Allen Mitchell says:

    Hi! I wrote to Crossway inquiring about the Classic Reference in Trutone before I posted here the other day and I just got a response from them about sewn bindings. If I had seen this blog first, I would have asked a more general question. For the Classic Ref., they have transitioned to sewn bindings on all of them, and I suspect they are doing the same on the Personal Size Ref. editions, but someone would need to check on this. I think this is a good thing overall! Also, all of the ESV Study Bibles have sewn bindings.

    From Crossway:

    Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.

    In regards to your inquiry, there are other Reference Bibles with a sewn binding such as the TruTone Brown Cordovan portfolio (ISBN: 9781581347692). All of the newly produced Classic Reference Bibles come with sewn binding. Due to the fact that this has been recent change in production there are still Bibles with glued bindings that are still available. Each Bible for now would need to be assessed on a case by case basis. The Classic Reference Bibles that are on their 7th printing are most like to have sewn binding. If you look at the copyright page of the ESV Bible on the very last line there are many numbers. The last number indicates what number printing it comes from.

    The following Bibles most likely have sewn binding:

    Bible Type

    ESV Classic Reference Bible (Bonded Leather, Black)

    ESV Classic Reference Bible (TruTone, Chestnut, Eternity Design, Red Letter)

    ESV Classic Reference Bible (TruTone, Brown/Cordovan, Portfolio Design, Red Letter)

    ESV Classic Reference Bible: Genuine Leather, Black, Red Letter

    ESV Classic Reference Bible (TruTone, Charcoal, Celtic Cross Design, Red Letter)

    I hope this information is helpful to you. Please feel free to contact us with any future inquiries.

  8. Ron Cassell says:

    I recently purchased a Bible that was bound in genuine leather, according to the box. However, the Bible had a stamp on the back that read “bonded leather.” The book store owner said that he could tell that the Bible was truly genuine leather by the feel. (It was still kind of stiff, but maybe not as stiff as some bonded leather Bibles I have seen.) However, I am wondering how I can determine whether the Bible truly is genuine leather or bonded leather.


  9. Allen Mitchell says:

    You can’t tell the difference by the ‘feel’. I have a genuine leather Bible from the 1960’s that feels completely different from one made today. Unfortunately, most ‘Genuine Leather’ Bibles today have very thin bindings while in the past they were much thicker. Basically, bonded leather Bibles will not be as durable as genuine leather, and only through use will you know for certain. About the only way for a layman to know if a genuine leather is truly genuine and not bonded is if it has a natural grain. This is impossible for bonded leather since it is made from scraps. An imprint is put into all bonded leathers and nearly all of today’s genuine leathers, so it’s pretty hard to tell the difference.

    In my opinion, Crossway’s ‘Genuine Leather’ Bibles don’t have a nice feel at all and are disappointing. Our family has a Calfskin Large Print from them that is exceptional and also a Cordovan Calfskin that is wonderful. Those are premium leathers and the difference from their genuine and bonded leathers is striking.

    If the Bible has ‘Bonded Leather’ stamped into, it more than likely is just that.

  10. Amanda says:

    I know this thread is again a bit, but it came to the top of a Google search, so I figure it must be being viewed still.
    I am a book repairer and restorer and was going to add my 2 cents that I’ve learned in the trade.
    First, I have to second Allen’s response on 2 accounts: Just because a book is full leather bound, does not mean it is a definite signature binding. This is unfortunate, but true. It does increase your chances a little bit, but binding company’s have learned to cut corners and save $$ just like the rest of us. Most people don’t base their purchases on whether or not the book is signature bound. Also, it is correct that you cannot tell genuine leather by its “feel”. The bonded and imitation leather business has just as much product and demand as book cloth and leather. The variety is huge, and can’t be narrowed down by feel.
    Also unfortunate in the business is a company can say genuine leather when it’s bonded, because the leather that is thrown into the pot with the imitation material is actually genuine. This is misleading and most don’t practice it, but I have seen it. This is a picky thing, but in my terms, true genuine leather should be described as *100%* genuine leather. That way, it covers all bases. The leather is genuine AND it is only leather.

    Also a note for Tom or similar cases, if you do see the sewing that should be the surety of a signature binding. In the creating of signatures, they can be made as thin or as thick as is practicle. Thin signatures on top of a tight, pressed binding creates a backbone that is hard to see marks of a signature until dissected.

    I hope this helps! Happy book shopping… it usually is!

  11. fitzpatrick m. says:

    Thanks. I have been so disappointed with bibles I’ve bought. I later discover pages falling out as I handle the bible.

  12. abramkj says:

    Thank you for this! Some years later… still helpful.

  13. Pingback: A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Reviewed | Words on the Word

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