Fixing me a book

For the past few days I’ve been working on a book repair. The original binding wasn’t sewn and had only adhesive on the spine. The book has a soft cover and the spine cracked, so many of the pages were falling out of it.

A friend brought the book to me on behalf of someone else and asked me if I could fix it. I have not been trained in the art (yes, it’s an art) of book repair and conservation. I do not want to represent myself as having skills that I simply don’t have. I explained to my friend that if this book had any monetary or sentimental value, then I did not want to put my hands on it. I have limited ability in repair and did not want to do anything that would damage the book’s value. She spoke to her friend and apparently this was okay with him.

Go figure. I get a learning opportunity.

Two books that I have been referring to during the process are The Practical Guide to Book Repair and Conservation by Arthur Johnson and In-House Book Binding and Repair by Sharon McQueen. McQueen’s book had diagrams, which made me happy, so I went with her process on repairing adhesive bound books.

I removed all of the old adhesive from the spine and cleaned up the edges of the pages. I gathered them up and clamped them together to keep them from sliding around. I clamped in a sandwich of wax paper and press boards, as you can see in the image below.

Spine repair on book

Using a knife, I then cut thin channels into the spine that were deep enough to sink a cord. A file can be used to do this as well (and it’s probably much easier, but I don’t have one). I coated the spine with a layer of glue and sunk in the cords. I have since added 7 more coats of glue. McQueen’s book doesn’t specify how many layers of glue to use, but I feel like it needs at least a couple more. When that’s finished, I’ll glue it back into the cover and reinforce the hinges with coordinating bookcloth.

In addition to referring to books in my library, I also did quite a bit of online research on book repair. Universities and libraries have a lot to offer on this topic.

Here are a few of the resources I found:

If you have any other resources for folks to use in book repair (especially free ones), let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

2 Responses to “Fixing me a book”

By Teresa - 1 November 2009 Reply

For a great online source, has for download a guide that basically outlines the strategies used by most libraries (including the one I work at).

By elissa - 4 November 2009 Reply

Teresa –

The link you provided is for the document I listed that was written by Artemis BonaDea. 🙂


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