Exposed Smythe

Exposed Smythe

The Rise of Exposed Smythe Sewn Books: A Blend of Tradition and Modern Style

In the world of bookbinding, innovation often meets tradition to create something uniquely captivating. One such innovation gaining popularity is the Exposed Smythe sewn binding style. This method showcases the intricate craftsmanship of bookbinding by leaving the spine uncovered, allowing the beauty of the binding process itself to be on full display. Let’s delve into what Exposed Smythe sewn books are, their features, benefits, and factors to consider.

What Are Exposed Smythe Sewn Books?

Exposed Smythe sewn books are characterized by their open spine, where the folded sections, threads, and glue are visible. Unlike traditional bindings that conceal these elements with a cover, this style leaves them exposed, creating a visually striking and tactile spine. The first of these books were bound for a major printer in Toronto, and since then, they have grown in popularity.

Features of Exposed Smythe Sewn Books

  1. Alternating Smooth and Bumpy Spine: The exposed spine features a tactile blend of smooth and bumpy textures due to the visible threads and glue.
  2. Color Customization: The threads used for binding can be dyed in various colors, and the glue itself can be tinted to add a solid color to the spine.
  3. Unique Thread Effects: Each line of thread can be a different color, creating a rainbow effect along the spine. This customization adds a unique aesthetic appeal.
  4. Shiny Spine: The glue can be dyed and polished, giving the spine a shiny, eye-catching finish.

Benefits of Exposed Smythe Sewn Books

  1. Flat Laying: Like regular Smythe sewn books, exposed Smythe sewn books lay completely flat when open, making them user-friendly for reading and reference.
  2. Durability: Despite the exposed spine, these books retain the durability and strength of traditional Smythe sewn or casebound/hardback books. The exposed threads and glue do not compromise the structural integrity of the book.
  3. Aesthetic Appeal: The exposed elements highlight the craftsmanship involved in bookbinding, giving each book a unique, artisanal look. This style is particularly appealing for artistic publications, special editions, and portfolios.

Factors to Consider

While Exposed Smythe sewn books offer many benefits, there are some factors to consider before choosing this binding style:

  1. Spine Printing Limitations: The open spine does not allow for printing text or titles, so when these books are placed on a bookshelf, the title is not visible.
  2. Material Suitability: The exposed spine can be affected by the materials used in the binding process. It is important to select high-quality threads and glue to ensure the durability and aesthetic quality of the book.

Customization Options

The customization potential for Exposed Smythe sewn books is extensive. Here are a few additional options:

  1. Colored Thread Lines: Printers can print different colored lines on each section, resulting in a multi-colored spine for a visually dynamic effect.
  2. Multiple Colored Threads: Books can be bound with up to 12 different colors of thread, making each spine a unique piece of art.
  3. Dyed Glue: Adding color to the glue used in the binding process can create a cohesive and colorful spine that complements the thread colors.


Exposed Smythe sewn books are a testament to the evolving artistry in bookbinding. By leaving the spine uncovered, these books celebrate the detailed work and craftsmanship that goes into binding a book. They offer a blend of durability, aesthetic appeal, and customization that makes them stand out in a crowded market. Whether this style is a passing fad or a lasting trend, its current popularity suggests that it resonates with those who appreciate both form and function in book design.

If you are considering a unique binding style for your next project, Exposed Smythe sewn books could be the perfect choice. Their ability to lay flat, combined with their customizable aesthetic, ensures they are as functional as they are beautiful. Explore the possibilities and add a touch of modern elegance to your next publication.

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