2/16/2016 Update: with our rebrand to Heirloom Bindery, we have renamed our Signature albums as Heirloom albums, so the names were changed below. Everything else is the same.
We are frequently asked by our collectors to explain the real difference between our Perfect and Heirloom albums, so they can make a decision about which style is best for them and their clients.
In short, the only difference between the two types of album is the binding method - perfect binding with stitching vs. smyth-sewing. The papers, fabrics, stamping, vellum interleaving, etc. are all identical. Our Perfect-bound albums are all printed in pages then sewn together. The complete 'book block' is then hand-bound into the cover in a process called 'perfect binding'.
Heirloom albums, in contrast, are printed as double-sided spreads (so four pages on a single large double-sided sheet). These spreads are then gathered/folded into 8-page 'signatures' (think of a multi-page pamphlet), and each signature is hand-stitched into the book cover independent of the others.
Which is the better method? It depends on what kind of book you are building. We typically recommend Heirloom albums as our 'lay-flat' option, as the binding method allows for the spreads to open more fully, which is best if you are printing a lot of two-page images or you are making smaller parent albums where the gutter margin (the part of the book that disappears into the spine) would have a larger impact on your layout.
The Perfect albums have the advantage of more flexible page-counts (Heirloom books are laid out in multiples of 8 pages), and there are no pages with visible stitching (the middle of each signature has a white linen stitch that runs down the middle).
In the future, we will add additional photos here to help you visualize the differences as well. Stay tuned!