Technique in the spotlight: japanese binding

What is Japanese binding and are there different kinds?

Japanese binding is a special bookbinding technique in which sections of 4 pages are folded at the front and that fold is kept intact: the front is not cut.

The most popular form of japanese binding is threadless binding. With this technique the sections of 4 pages are glued (and not bound with thread) and not cut at the border. The glue can be applied industrially.

Japanese stab binding is a popular technique for manual bookbinding and is perfect for those starting out. For this simple binding, traditionally 4 holes are stabbed into the paper and coloured thread is used to bind them, after which it does not need to be glued (but of course this is an option). You can experiment with different coloured threads for one book so that each item has a special feature. The fold is not always kept intact because the focus here is on the sewing of the sections.

Peek between the pages or not?

A japanese binding on which only the outer sides of the sections are printed gives the pages a thicker look and feel while you flick through.  We applied this to Avec le vent by Nico Dockx. In this book with images of sailing, each page is reminiscent of a real sail thanks to the japanese binding. The air is stuck between the pages and they can round like a real sail. (We are cheating a little bit with this book because the insides of the sections have white drawings that are barely visible.)

For Bangkok by Thomas Vandenberghe we did the opposite. At first glance this book is filled with blank white pages; that is until you sneak a peek between the pages and discover a photo series.  Only the inside of the sections has printed images because this technique really fits Thomas Vandenberghe’s style. He calls himself a diary photographer. His quick snapshots tell intimate stories that we are perhaps not supposed to see, Thomas is not entirely sure. This feeling is reinforced by having to peep between the pages. The book has the traditional japanese stab binding, with a layer of glue that was added manually.

A final option is to print on both the outer sides as the insides of the sections. A layer for my throat is a book with vegetarian and vegan dishes that are inspired on opera pieces, by Erik Vernieuwe and Kris De Smedt, a creative food stylist and a fashion photographer. The English translation of the recipes is printed on the insides of the sections and the reader has to peek between the pages to see them. Those who don’t need the English translation, won’t have to flick past it, whilst those who speak English can opt to cut open the sections. As an extra reward they will see a QR-code with a link to several clips of opera pieces.


Bangkok en A layer for my throat zijn te koop op de Stockmans Art Books webshop.