The Breeches Bible I mentioned last week had been re-bound at least once before I bought it, as you can see from this picture:
It was normal in the trade to plough the edges after re-binding, to give a smooth finish but this often went too far and it is common to find books where the ‘headline’ to the pages is partly cut away. Even if it isn’t, as in the above picture, the proportions of the page are spoilt. Obviously I did not cut the edges again, and wherever possible I avoid doing so. In the pictures below the sections were re-sewn after pulling the book apart for re-binding but all edges were left untouched.
But in this case I did plough the edges as the book had very generous page margins.
Sometimes one’s design idea forces the issue: when I bound up the unbound sheets of the catalogue of the Anthony Dowd Collection I wanted bright colours to echo those of most of his commissioned bindings so I coloured each section of the text differently. Hence, cutting the edges was out, and careful sewing was required.
Binders should bear in mind that all private press books, and many simply well laid-out publishers’ editions, have margins that are part of the aesthetic of the book and should not be changed at all.