Thursday, April 7, 2011

It seems like forever since my last post.  I know I've been busy but obviously it hasn't been noteworthy since I can't really remember what I've accomplished.  I've just come back from a 4 day CBBAG workshop on Book Repair and Restoration.  We were to bring books that needed repair work and the instructor would demonstrate and then guide us through the necessary steps of the process.  Since not all members of the group would have the same problems to repair, we would be exposed to a varied number of issues that can occur with books over time. 

The pre-requisites for this course were Bookbinding I, II and III.  It is necessary that you be able to recognize the type of binding and sewing structure used in the book if you are going to repair the book properly as one type of binding cannot be easily replaced by another.  We looked at the repair process from a professional perspective even though it was unlikely that most of us would be undertaking it as a profession.

It was an extremely interesting course.  The instructor, Dan Mezza, was actually making repairs to a rare book at the time and was able to show us what he was doing in his role as a professional as we tackled books as amateurs.  Most of the books people were working on were from the late 19th century though some, like myself, were working on 20th century books that had sentimental value and needed strengthening to stand up to wear by the newest generation.

One of my books, was the first volume of a Children's companion set published and distributed with the Encyclopedia Britannica, called, "My Book House".  It was a series of twelve volumes that started with nursery rhymes and increased in difficulty to myths and legends.  It was edited by Olive Beaupre Miller and printed in 1954. 
Volume 1, "In the Nursery" had seen a lot of hard use through my sister and myself and then by her three girls.  Now my sister is a Nana with two young grandchildren, about two years of age.  Several of the books will need some repair work to get them ready for this new generation.  Volume 1 was definitely in need of some TLC.


You can see that the joints on either side of the spine were ripped and loose. The boards were coming away from the endpapers.



The corners were soft and splitting.



The endpaper was pulled away from the spine and pages were torn and stained.  (Paper repair and conservation is a 5th course in the series but Dan did take some time to show me how to do some simple repairs though the staining would have to wait).

This book was machine stitched, not hand stitched but the stitching was intact.  I cut away the cloth spine and saved it to be reattached later.  The book was put into a press and a paste poultice was applied to soften the existing adhesive so the paper reinforcing the spine could be removed.  I was careful not to damage the mull that covered the spine and extended over the edges into the boards.

I made a new hollow tube and applied that to the back of the spine. The cloth on the boards was cut back from the spine edge of the boards (so that it would not be a catch point when the boards were opened and closed) and it was loosened from the boards with a microspatula for about 3/4".  This was to allow the new cloth that would be placed on the spine to go under the old cloth on the boards.  The endpapers on the inner sides of the boards were also loosened at the top edges for the same reason.

A green cloth instead of green kozo paper was chosen for this  spine repair because the book was going to see heavy use by young children and the cloth would stand up to their handling better even though the repair would not be as seamless.  The priority in this repair was functionality.

For the corner repairs, the cloth at the corners was split open a little more at the edges and the layers of the boards opened (though most of the corners didn't need that step -- they were already in layers).  Paste was added to the layers, which were closed under pressure and reshaped.  You need to be careful when reshaping them that you don't reshape them more than the general appearance of the book.  Absolutely straight corners on a book curved from constant use will look odd.  Strengthen the corners and reshape them in keeping with the look and age of the book.  In my case, the boards of the book are reasonably straight so the corners were straightened as much as possible. 

After 15 minutes of pressure, the corners are left to air dry.  When the corners are dry, they may be covered in coloured kozo that has be treated with klucel G and cloth can be repasted into position.  If the colours are close, the repair will not be very obvious and the corners will be as hard as the original board.

When the hollow tube has dried on the spine, the tube is cut to the height of the boards and the sides of the tube are slit about an inch on each side, top and bottom so that the cloth can be turned.  The inner portion of the tube is cut away above the spine with a scalpel.  The would not be covered with the cloth and would look odd, so it is removed.

The cloth and spine are pasted, and the cloth is applied to the spine.  The cloth at the head and tail is turned under at the slit in the hollow tube.  The cloth at the head slides between the endpaper and the boards on the inside and the old cloth and boards on the outside.  In my case, the book had a groove and I had to be sure that I worked the cloth into this groove carefully with a teflon folder.

The old cloth on the covers was repasted on the new cloth forming the new hinge (groove).  The old spine cover was trimmed and repasted on the new cloth on the spine.

I'll post a picture of the finished repairs here as soon as I take one.

I did repairs on a second book as well.  It was a much newer book.  The only reason I even attempted repairs on this book was because I loved the illustrations so much.  I picked up the book at a garage sale and the stitching had given way on one section.  It needed resewing but it was machine made and the glue was not reversible.  There was not going to be an easy way to get to the stitching.  I tried to soak off the endpaper and ease it off but the paper tore.  I ended up with this.

One side came loose well, but the other didn't.



This side torn in several places.



This signature came out completely.

The repairs on this book were much easier.  I sewed the signature back into the book block and then used paste to fix the torn endpaper.  Because the tear was jagged, I was able to match up the front and back edges of the tear with paste so that most of the tear was invisible.  Other areas could be recoloured with a bit of watercolour paint.

The next step was to reinforce the spine with a bit of muslin and paste.  I did this to the cover so that I could work it into the weak areas of the hinges.  Next, I wrapped the text block in plastic wrap to keep moisture away and pasted the covers and the endpapers.  I cased in the book, carefully aligning the book block and put it in the nipping press, making sure that I had the grooves carefully placed.  Blotters were then placed between the covers and the text block and book was left to dry under weights. The blotters were changed every half hour or so while I continued repairs on the other book.

This book will never be particularly strong, but it is functional again.  The covers open and the pages turn.

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