Turning a paper back into a hardback – Unofficial History 1970, by Field Marshal Sir William Slim, Corgi Books
This binding was not a valuable book financially, but one whose owner was extremely fond of it. Being a late twentieth century paperback, it was not made to last. The paper is brittle and the binding was in a perfect style, which, ironically, is so far from perfect that one must think the term was made in jest.
A perfect binding implies that loose sheets are stacked and adhered at the spine edge with a thick layer of PVA or similar adhesive. This is then covered with a paper cover, which is adhered over the heavy spine, and tada! You have the modern paperback. Note the lack of sewing, spine lining or any form of reinforcement to keep the book from falling apart. This makes a very clear case as to why your regular paperback will often fall apart on you when reading. If, by some miracle, you can keep the book free from dog ears and spine breakages, it won’t be long before the adhesive gives up the ghost all on its own and falls apart anyway – as mentioned, decidedly less than “perfect”.
In order to create a hardback, as requested by this client, I treated this book quite similarly to a thesis binding – stab-sewn and covered as a quarter-bound flat back. The result was very pleasing, and with a simple cover design and title on the spine, it now has a new lease of life that should last for years to come.
If you have a similar book that you would like to preserve for the future in this way, please do get in touch to discuss the particulars.
TEXTBLOCK has brittle paper, which is discolouring at the edges. BINDING is perfect bound and still in tact at present.
TEXTBLOCK – Keep original cover as first page. – Create holes adjacent to the spine and sew in pamphlet style. – Adhere plain black endpapers. – Line spine with cloth and manilla lining. BINDING – Create new cover – flat back and quater-bound with black cloth spine and printed cover in the style of the original. – Case-in and finish.
The Holy Bible
Full case binding, hollow-back, plain burgundy book cloth with blind-tooled border
University Press, Cambridge (Brooke Crutchley, University Printer) 140x198x39 (WHD)
I completed this volume some months back for an lady who was keen to preserve the book before it fell apart completely. As with so many books owned by individuals, the monetary value of this book was minimal, but the sentimental value was priceless. It is a classic Holy Bible, given to the owner as a child by her Grandmother, and has been loved and treasured ever since. As is often the case with books of such high sentimental value, the volume had deteriorated from such regular use. I greatly enjoy working on these types of books, despite their lack of social status in the book world, as there is little thanks in the conservation world that will match that given by someone whose treasured book has been carefully conserved and given new life for years to come.
BINDING Both boards were attached to the case and the spine was in tact. The shoulders at head and tail were worn, as was the tail at the spine edge. All the corners had minor ware, more so at the head. The case was detached from the textblock at front and at back after the end papers and map. The mull was exposed, worn down and deteriorating, though the tapes were still in tact.
TEXTBLOCK Page 543 was loose. Front end papers, first plate and title page were loose and attached by tape. The front endpaper was heavily damage both by detachment and from tape damage, corner is missing and replaced by tape. The following page also had a missing corner replaced with tape that was discoloured and stained. The title page was detached and stuck together with tape, which discoloured and stained the page. The first page of text was stained by offset tape residue from the title page. The final map and adjacent pages had tape residue damage, both discolouration and staining. They were also slightly detached from textblock, though remained attached to the boards. The tape damage, in all cases, was covering tears to the paper.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION A green paper cover had been adhered together using tape, which was discoloured and stained. The head and tail spine edges of this cover were also worn and damaged.
Boards were removed, whilst keeping sewing tapes intact.
Front and back paste-downs were removed.
Paper repairs were made to loose pages, including infills to those with missing areas and reattachment where necessary by tipping.
Self adhesive tapes were removed and staining was reduced using a calcium hypochlorite bath, followed by washing to reduce the acidity.
The spine was re-lined and reinforced using an aero-cotton transverse lining.
The volume was then rebound using the original cover and the paste-downs were replaced using a sympathetic paper.
Hinges were inserted into the inside covers where necessary and the cover, spine and corners were consolidated.
Finally the paper cover was repaired and rehoused in melinex.
The Principles and Practice of Medicine
by William Osler, M.D., F.R.C.P
Full case binding, hollow-back, blue buckram cloth with gold-foiled title on spine
Young J. Pentland, Edinburgh and London
This is one of the first modern general medical textbooks by a man named Osler. My client, himself a Doctor, asked me to repair it as it is a family heirloom, originally belonging to his great Uncle, who was also a prolific doctor of his time.
BINDING The volume had sustained substantial damage to the spine covering, which was adhered to the boards by pressure sensitive tape. The spine itself was misshapen and weakened due to inserted material. Both boards were detached and had ware to each of their corners
TEXTBLOCK Several pages throughout the book had been damaged through general use and the endpapers were loose. The back endpaper had written ephemera on its adjacent fly-leaf, which had been damaged along the foredge due to the page being loose.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION There was a substantial amount of inserted material, mostly newspaper articles associated with the relevant chapters within the book. These were causing the sewing along the spine to split. At the beginning of the volume were a selection of needles inserted into the contents page causing rust to the page.
Tape was removed from the spine piece and boards using heat and a crepe eraser and the boards and spine piece were cleaned in preparation for repair.
The spine lining was removed and the weak sewing was reinforced using linen thread.
A new spine lining was attached and a false hollow created for the new spine.
The boards were reattached using a transverse lining in linen.
A new toned spine piece was created and attached to the boards.
The old spine with title was adhered onto the new spine.
The inserted material was removed with the locations recorded, and rehoused into a manila folder with a contents page showing the corresponding pages of the book.
The needles that were inserted into the volume were left in their original location to prevent substantial change to the personal input to the volume by the original owner, and they were consolidated to prevent further rusting onto the pages.
As an interesting extra, the original owner had kept several needles, skewering them onto one of the first pages, with dates – unfortunately neither myself nor my client were able to ascertain what they were from – personally I would assume the worst and imagine they were weapons of death, but that may be wayward imagination. My client informed me that these days all medical needles are curved, whereas these were straight.
The conservation of this book is going well and picking up speed now, especially as all the paper repairs are done and dusted! The boards are now on, which worked well. I attached them with Japanese tissue that covered the spine and was stuck onto the inside of the boards. Normally I would try and split the boards, but they are so thin that to split them would almost definitely damage them further.
I have also managed to pair my leather and tone it to a good match of the boards, which I did with selaset dyes. This leather will then cover the spine and go under the leather on the boards to bring the book back into a book format – very exciting! The new leather is very thin in order to match the leather on the boards, so to give it a bit more strength, I’ve lined it with a fraynot fabric.
I have also lined the spine with some western paper, and will be sanding it down a bit to reduce the swell of the sewing supports, it wasn’t dry enough on Friday to do this.
Prior to rebacking a book, the edges of the boards always need to be compensated for the leather coming over from the spine. This is always a fiddly bit as the compensation pieces are invariably thin and spindly. I have done mine on this book with some of the freshly paired leather, as it is a good match.
The next step will to actually put the leather onto the spine, redo the corners a bit, and sort out the end papers and the book will be pretty much done – then for the enclosure for the newsprint! I have done a sample for this which I will post as instructions themselves, as it’s a great little enclosure!
Some months back, we started a fantastic workshop with Kristine Rose from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and last week, we were lucky enough to have Kristine back again to finish the workshop with us, so these are the follow-up instructions. Unfortunately I completely forgot to take any photos during the workshop, so I only have completed ones.
In class, we covered the boards separately, doing the front board with one piece of leather and the back and foredges with the second piece of leather. It is possible to do it as a case binding, with the appropriate measurements for the spine as well. I hadn’t done this method before, so was trying something new.
Covering the front board
Mark out where the board will go on the leather with a biro – on the flesh side.
Wet the leather on the hair side
Paste out on the flesh side, scrape away the excess and paste again to ensure it really gets into the leather.
Place the board onto the pasted leather and turn in the edges leaving the spine open.
If decorating the front board, wet the leather again on the hair-side, place the decorative plate in place and nip for about five minutes
Finally allow to dry fully under boards.
Covering the back board, foredge envelope and foredge flap
Trim a flap piece – this should be the same height as the boards and the width should be of the text block minus about 5mm, so it will come out very thin.
Mark the leather as above – the back board, envelope and flap should be aligned in a straight line and the gap between back board and envelope should be about 6mm either side of the flap
Paste out leather as above
Place boards onto leather and turn in the edges, leaving the spine edge free, ensuring the three pieces of board are kept in line.
Finally allow to fully dry under boards.
Once dry, paste a strip of leather on the inside of the back board, where the turn-in meets the foredge piece and back board.
Once this is dry, it is worth checking whether the cover fits the textblock – if it does not, place spacers either side of the flap and press it for a while, therefore stretching the gaps.
Leaving a few millimeters for squares around the boards, measure the deBleurs for the front and back board as well as the turn-in piece.
Cutting out the deBleurs – add about and inch to the spine edge of the front and back board pieces, this is to stick down onto the text block to hide the spine joint.
Past the three pieces onto the boards and allow to dry.
Once dry, fold back the extra bits on the front and back board to keep them out of the way whilst attaching the boards to the spine.
Attaching the boards to the spine These books would not have been opened more than about 90 degrees, and would have been read using a rull, so at no point would the have been laid flat.
Pair the edges of each of the spine pieces so they are very thin, there should not be any swell on either of them when laid on top of each other.
Lay the board against the book and trim the spine leather of each board so that each covers the spine of the textblock
Paste the spine of the textblock.
Line the front board up against the textblock and push the leather spine piece onto the spine, ensuring the leather is also pushed into the joints. Then do the same with the back board.
Allow them both to dry.
The spine edges were always decorated to hide the joining of the leather, this was done with both tooling and gold paint.
Working in the pastedowns
Paste out the extra paper from the deBleurs, and work each into the spine joint and onto the textblock.
Ensure the book is held at a 90 degree angle when pasting onto the textblock and thoroughly work the paper into the joint.
End caps These books did not have worked end caps like the european bindings, the excess leather was just trimmed at the end of each of the spines.
Painting the cover Islamic books were often painted with gold, where any patterns had been impressed onto the cover. For instructions on how to make gold paint, please see my previous post.
Prior to painting in gold, the cover must first be painted with gum arabic and then allowed to dry and burnished.
The next time I make one, I will take more constructive pictures!
You may recall from my last post that I have been making a book for my lovely sister, this has become as much a practice of the craft for me as it has been making a book for her.
It had some unfortunate slip-ups along the way. All starting well with pairing the corners, which are tricky, considering their size. Maybe I got over enthusiastic or it was late in the day, but the corners were swiftly followed by me ripping the leather spine in half. Not to be dismayed by my lack of skill nor the fact I had no more green, I stuck it back together with selotape and continued to pair. Unfortunately the spine was to see yet more trauma when I tried out my very first blind tooling, and spelt the blasted word wrong – TWICE. It’s a stupidly long complicated word anyway.
So despite its obvious pitfall, I plodded on, and now have some pictures of covering the boards and the completed thing. Phew!!
First came lining the boards on the cover to bring them up to the same level as the boards plus the leather. Then I covered them using a very nice map wrapping paper from Stanfords.
Next came neatning up the insides of the book, which you can see above. Any excess leather and paper would look messy under the endpaper. Following this step I did line the boards as I did on the cover, but forgot to photograph that bit… And the final thing:
Hope she likes it! (better pictures will be added to the gallery this week!!)