How to Repair and Restore Antiquarian Books | Tips and How-To Guide

September 13, 2013 – 09:43
Antique/Rare Book Restoration | Leonard s Books

The bitter truth about acid


It's become a buzzword. People who don't know anything else about book repair and conservation know to ask “Are the materials acid-Free?” They may not even know why it's important; they just know that it is.

Around the world, books in the tens of millions are literally turning into dust on the shelves—or have already turned to dust. And the more ephemeral items like maps, letters, and documents probably exceed that number. It is indeed a crisis. [Read more]

Bringing new life to tired tomes

This is about your Wounded Wannabe's—the $50 books that, because of a flapping spine or detached cover board or simply looking ugly, are basically Dumpster food. You either don't buy them because they won't repay a rebind or a reback. Or they sit on a morgue shelf in the back room waiting for the book elves to sneak in some night and fix them. Or you grab the leather dressing or the Elmer's and fix them yourself. [Read more]

Resourceful rehinging

I approach explaining how to fix your own books with some trepidation.

On a purely altruistic level, more damage has probably been done to books by booksellers, librarians, owners and— yes—bookbinders in the name of repairing them than by all four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding together.

On a selfish level, I make a tidy part of my income trying to undo the damage. But I have all the business I can handle right now. And the tips and techniques I’m going to outline may let you put some of your Wounded Wannabe’s back together in a way that’s good for the book and your ledger book. [Read more]

Common antiquarian ailments: The pathology of book repair

My standard line as a mender of hurt books is: “Half my work is pathology before I ever get to the surgery.”

A book falls apart for a reason. Sometimes, the reason is obvious—it was dropped, or it got wet, or the materials just rotted. But most of the time you have to let books tell you why they fell apart. And if you learn a little of their language, they’re marvelously communicative.

I’m going to run through a short list of problems that cause dealers to throw themselves and their books on the mercy of binders, discuss what may have caused the problem, and give you an idea of what you should expect from a binder if you find you need one. [Read more]

Tying up loose ends

In discussing paper repair, I ventured the hope that you already knew enough not to use cellophane tape to repair torn pages. One of my dealer clients patiently reminded me that the people from whom he buys books, maps and documents are not so enlightened. And as if to drive the point home, that day's UPS shipment brought a fragile, inscribed Joyce in wraps that had been virtually rebacked in multiple layers of Scotch Magic Tape.

Can anything be done about getting rid of old tape repairs and stains? The short answer is: Maybe... Sometimes... If you're lucky. The long answer follows. Cellophane tape with pressure-sensitive adhesive, what 3M hates to have people refer to generically as "lower-case-scotch tape, " has been around most of this century. And over that time, the chemical formulation of the adhesives has changed repeatedly. And 3M has by no means been the only company manufacturing it. All of these adhesives react differently to the passage of time, to heat, light, humidity, and other environmental factors, and to the chemical composition of the paper, cloth, leather or whatever they come in contact with. And they respond to different solvents-if they even respond. All of which precludes a nice, neat "Do this and your problem will be solved" answer. [Read more]


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