It’s over a year since I last added anything to this work diary and 2016 was a very busy year with a wide assortment of books antiquarian and modern passing through the bindery for restoration or repair. From treasured childhood story books to family Bibles and rare antiquarian volumes, I’ve had a steady stream of interesting and varied jobs ‘on the bench’.
Many of the past year’s repairs have been in much the same vein as other examples shown in previous posts in this diary and on other pages on this site, but here are a few that show aspects of my work that I haven’t previously touched on:
RESTORATION OF A TORN AND HEAVILY RUBBED 17th CENTURY BINDING
This rare 17th century French sheepskin-bound volume on swordsmanship was externally in poor condition, with a torn spine and heavily rubbed corners.
Though quite damaged, most of the original spine was still present, so I removed this and set it aside to re-use later. I then rebuilt the corners in new board spliced-in to the original covers and re-covered the new corners in leather to match the original.
Front cover before corner repair.
Front cover after corner repair.
Back cover before corner repair.
Back cover after corner repair.
The book was then rebacked in leather to match the original covering material and the remaining parts of the original spine were laid down onto the new one. Finally, parts of the spine where the original gold tooling had been lost (principally at the head and tail of the spine) were ‘tooled-in’ with gold in a style consistent with the original decoration.
REPAIRS TO THE TITLE PAGE AND FRONTISPIECE BEFORE RESTORING THE BINDING.
This beautifully-illustrated 18th century family Bible had been rebacked at some point in the late 19th/early 20th century and that repair had since failed, resulting in both covers becoming detached. At some point in it’s life, probably as a result of a combination of damp and the front cover being separated from the binding, the frontispiece and title page had become torn and creased with loss at the corners and edges of the pages. The top and bottom edges of the frontispiece had also been roughly trimmed at some point in the past.
I carefully removed the frontispiece and title page from the text block and then damp-pressed them to flatten out the creases as best as possible. Due to the extensive degree of loss to both page’s edges and corners and the fragility of the remaining paper, it was not practical to repair the edges alone as this would have left the pages prone to damage again if handled roughly. Instead, the pages were laminated onto sheets of antique-style modern handmade paper and pressed again. Once dry, the pages were sewn back in and then trimmed to size to match the dimensions of the text block.
Foot of the title page before restoration.
Foot of the title page after restoration.
Gutter before restoration.
Gutter after restoration.
Title page after restoration.
Frontispiece after restoration.
Once the paper repairs were complete, I turned my attention to the binding itself. The covers were in a fairly poor state with the corners and edges heavily worn and the leather covering on the covers quite rubbed and friable.
The corners were rebuilt using new board spliced-in to the original boards and were then re-covered in new leather, preserving as much of the friable original leather covering as was possible. The remains of the old reback were carefully removed and new headbands were sewn to replace the originals which had long-since been lost:
The book was then rebacked in calf to match the original covering material and the spine tooled in gold in a style sympathetic to ‘standard’ family Bibles of the period.
RESTORATION OF A FINELY-BOUND 17th CENTURY BIBLE.
This finely-bound and richly-decorated 17th century Bible had extensive damage to it’s corners and small tears to the ends of the front and rear hinges at the headcaps, but was otherwise sound and in good order.
With a plainer binding, it would have been most expedient to reback the volume to remedy the splits to the hinges, laying down the original spine and consolidating the remains of the corners as best as possible. In this instance though, the rich gilt decoration was an important feature of the binding and as the removal and re-using of a book’s original spine can often result in a small amount of loss as part of the process, it seemed more appropriate to repair the splits to the hinges in situ. The repair would only look ‘complete’ if the corners were also rebuilt and re-covered.
The edges of the splits to the hinges and the upper and lower headcaps were carefully lifted away from the binding and small thinly-pared pieces of matching leather were inserted underneath to create new headcaps extending around to cover the extent of the split leather. The original leather was then pasted down over the new leather patches and the repairs ‘tooled-in’ with gold lines. The corners were rebuilt with new board and covered with thinly-pared leather before the new areas of leather were then tooled in gold in a style sympathetic to the remaining gold decoration. Finally, the rubbed areas of leather on the covers and spine were carefully re-coloured and a leather dressing applied, breathing new life into the dried out leather and giving a more uniform patina to the binding.
LOCALISED REPAIR TO A SPLIT LEATHER HINGE.
The contemporary binding of this 17th century volume was in remarkably good condition apart from a split at it’s upper front hinge and a few small worm-holes on the front cover.
The worm-holes would have been very time-consuming to remedy, but repairing the split in situ was a practical, if fiddly solution that would greatly improve the aesthetic look of the binding without affecting it’s structural integrity.
The edges of the split were carefully teased away from the binding and a small piece of thinly-pared leather was inserted underneath. This was then ‘turned-in’ to repair the missing area of the headcap around the split. The edges were then carefully pasted down again and the existing blind-tooled lines adjacent to the headcap were extended over the visible new leather. The binding was then paste-washed and leather-dressed to even out the colour and leave a durable surface.
If the original spine of a leather-bound book is lost or beyond practical repair, it is almost always possible to replace the spine (rebacking) and decorate the new spine in a style sympathetic to the original, as was the case with these 3 volumes:
Thanks for getting this far. You can see lots of other examples of my work in older posts in this blog.