Limp binding is a bookbinding method in which the book has flexible cloth, leather, vellum, or (rarely) paper sides. When the sides of the book are made of vellum, the bookbinding method is also known as limp vellum.
The cover is made with a single piece of vellum or alternative material, folded around the textblock, the front and back covers being folded double. The quires are sewn onto cords such as alum-tawed thongs and the sewing supports would be laced into the vellum cover. The thongs would also often be used at the fore edge of the covers to create a closure or tie.
In limp binding the covering material is not stiffened by thick boards, although paste-downs, if used, provide some stiffness; some limp bindings are only adhered to the back of the book. Some limp vellum bindings had yapp edges that flop over to protect the textblock.
Limp vellum bindings for commonplace books were being produced at least as early as the 14th century and probably earlier, but it was not usually common until the 16th and 17th centuries. Its usage subsequently declined until "revived by the private presses near the end of the 19th century." From about 1775 to 1825, limp leather was commonly used for pocket books, but by the 1880s limp bindings came to be largely restricted to devotional books, diaries, and sentimental verse, sometimes with yapp edges. Yapp edges are edges on each cover projecting beyond the textblock to reduce damage. They were invented by a 19th-century bookbinder called Yapp and are often found in editions of the Bible.
- Roberts, Matt T.; Etherington, Don (1982). Limp binding. Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books. Conservation OnLine/Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation. ISBN 0-8444-0366-0. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
- "Publishers' Bindings Online: Glossary". H-O. University of Alabama Libraries. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
- Barrios, Pamela (2006). "Notes on the Limp Vellum Binding" (pdf). The Bonefolder. 2 (2): 24. ISSN 1555-6565.
- limpvellum.com at the Wayback Machine (archived 25 November 2013) an online exhibit of the form with an essay on its history
- Fletcher Durant's historical bookbinding models at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 August 2007) from the University of Texas at Austin School of Information
- Barrios, Pamela (2006). "Notes on the Limp Vellum Binding" (pdf). The Bonefolder. 2 (2). ISSN 1555-6565.