Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book mending

Odd, for this time of year -- instead of the typical now-it's-here, now-it's-gone afternoon thunderstorm, we had a relatively cool, quiet day of steady rain. Good day to spend mending a few of the world's tatters by repairing books.

This is more a How I spent My Day post than an advice essay, but here's what I did, for what it's worth.

1. I repair a book only when I'm willing to destroy its value. Honest - if you even think it may have value, repair will most likely destroy that value. When in doubt, don't. Repair it only if you want to use it! I don't repair them if I plan to sell them. The ones I mended were only for me and others who asked.

2. The right paper and glue are a must. I go to the craft store and hit the scrapbooking section. This paper is designed to take glue without getting soggy, and it's acid-free, and you can get colors that approximate the various shades of vintage paper. You can also get acid-free glue, and it even comes in a bottle with a nice pinpoint tip. The wax paper is also a must.

3. If one little bit of the original connection is still hanging on, it's worthwhile to me to loosen it. I want to make a whole new hinge.

4. My method is to make a hinge by shingling a new piece under the free edge and then over the other, still-intact side.

5. This part is important and hard to describe: the new hinge needs to be tucked into the binding in a natural S-curve. Otherwise when I open the book after the glue dries, the paper "bridge" that spans the break will just split apart again. You can see this better on the 1912 bird book, its repair job illustrated below.

6. I place wax paper between the repair and the intact side, then close it to let the glue dry.

The last picture shows a wonderful bird book I repaired long ago. I add it because the color contrast of the paper shows the shingled hinge structure better.
Addendum: A comment already! 8~) and I need to add something:
The book I show the steps for, above, and this one also demonstrate that it doesn't matter much which direction the repair goes. If the better free end is on the inside cover (the demo book in the above photos) I use that and glue the hinge onto the free endpage. But if the free endpage edge gives me a better one, as it did in the bird book, I hinge under THAT one and glue it to the inside cover.

It's Chester A. Reed's Birds of Eastern North America. Doubleday, Page, 1912. Color on every page, and a bittersweet reminder of when the ivory-billed woodpecker was merely "rare."

Yep, I wanted to keep and handle this one, which is why I repaired it. It's a wonder I ever sell anything.


ronnie said...

Really interesting! I have a couple of old favourites with this same problem and it never occurred to me how easily I could fix it to make re-reading them more pleasant. I'm going to give this a go for sure. Thanks for the inspiration!

Christy said...

You are a wealth of knowledge!

Nicola said...

To be honest, books that are worth something terrify me. I get scared if I so much as touch them, let alone read them, so they don't really get the chance to get damaged.

My paperbacks are another matter entirely. Maybe I'm just rough on books, or it could be that they spend a lot of time crammed alongside at least three other books in my bag, but paperbacks tend to fall apart on me after a year or so. And I really hate replacing them because a new pristine copy doesn't feel like it belongs to me, it's got no personality. Many's the time I've hauled a huge great stack of paperbacks round to my sister and she's spent the evening slaving over her Binding machine.

Though there has been the odd occasion where she's told me to clear off, stop being so sentimental and just buy another copy....