Hand-stitched book binding

Book Repair and Restoration

When I undertake a book repair or restoration, I strive to keep the book as close as can be to the condition it was published in. Of course, this is not always possible, especially if some pieces are missing. The pictures throughout this site will show you some before and after repairs and restorations.

Repairing a Detached Spine

Restoration of a dictionary

The picture shows a dictionary whose covers were detached, the spine worn out at top and bottom, and the leather dried out in several areas. In order to bring this book back to life, the leather on the covers was raised to insert a new matching strip of leather. Its purpose was two-fold: to reattach the covers to the book and to put back the existing spine. This operation is known as rebacking. Once this was done (with non-acidic glue), some tooling was added to replace the lost sections. Finally, the leather was dyed to get a uniform color, treated to stop the drying and finally waxed.

Repairing a Detached Spine

Restoring a Cloth Bound Classic

This is another example of rebacking on Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. These books are cloth bound. The spines were detached. Using the same procedure (with cloth instead of leather), a new strip was inserted and the existing spines re-glued on. In addition, the labels were in poor shape and were entirely redone.

Rebacking Book Repair Method

Restoring a spine destroyed by heat and sunlight

The book in this case was sound as far as the contents, but the spine had disintegrated beyond repair. Dry heat and exposure to the sun will damage leather in this fashion. The old spine was removed and a new one replaced it. Raised bands, gold tooling and new labels completed the work.

Creating New Panels

Restoring a book with missing piece of the spine

In this example, the book was missing an entire section of the spine. The remainder was in good condition. To match the existing gild decoration on the small new panel would have been impossible. Since the book was untitled, I used the second panel to put on top and created a title. The customer was astounded by the result (and so was I!)

Rebuilding Panels

Rebuilding a leather spine with new, dyed leather.

These two Alexander Pope’s volumes were in poor condition: dry leather, covers detached, missing top and bottom of spines, disappearing labels. By the way, a book should never be removed from a shelf by pulling it by the top of the spine; inevitably, it will lead to a break of this section. Here again, same procedure. New strips of leather to reattach the covers, rebuild the tops and bottoms of the spine. Brand new labels were glued on. Applying a dye on the leather and treatment followed.

Reusing Labels for Book Restoration

The Complete Angler’s labels were in good condition and were reused in the restoration. The reconstitution of old tooling is almost impossible to do unless the same tools are available.

Creating New Panel from Scratch

Making a new spine from scratch

The spine of K. Nielsen’s masterpiece East of the Sun, West of the Moon was gone. A new one was made from scratch.

The Strathmore Vanderbilt Project

Before and after Book Restoration project for the Strathmore Vanderbilt Country Club.

Before and after pictures of the project for the Strathmore Vanderbilt Country Club in Manhasset, NY. It consisted in replacing old fake leather spines on a door panel in their library with new one, including gilt titles and decorations.

Book Repair and Restoration

In addition to these repairs and restorations, other tasks can be performed, such as:

  • Reattaching loose pages
  • Fixing torn pages
  • Stopping the drying out of leather (as long as it is not beyond the point of no return)
  • Repairing torn dust jackets
  • Strengthening loose hinges

Please call: 631 271 6671 or, use the form below.

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