First Book Repair

A little more than a year ago, I decided that after making so many blank books, I wanted to learn how to repair books, too.

I took one of the books from our shelves that was in need of repair, but that was not valuable in a monetary sense. The boards had gotten separated from the book’s spine, both holding on to the book block but not to each other. Two quick cuts along the grove freed the book from its case, and showed the whole mess: The book had been stapled and all the tackets were rusty.Many were broken. The mull on the spine was brittle and flaked off when I just brought my hand near it, sometimes taking with it broken staples.

I then took a decision that I since then regretted more than once. I decided that I wanted to be sorrow, and that I had to take out all the staples.

altes PapierOnce the pages were clear and stacked neatly again. It was pretty clear that sewing the book block would not be easy. Where should I place the sewing stations? I read somewhere that one should make use of old holes as much as possible. But several staples also torn through the pages so that at the position of possible sewing station sometimes there were slits in the signatures. And the space where there had been no staples anywere is pretty limited.

I was so scared of taking the wrong decisions that it was lying in my studio, waiting for me to get some courage for more than a whole year. Recently my husband started in honesty to talk about buying another/ a new copy. He was very kind about it. It is his way of asking gently about whether I am planning to do anything about the book, offering a way out at the same time.

Ah, but if we are going to buy a new copy anyway, I can also try my luck, I figured. So I got started this morning, and for the first time I am dealing with brittle paper, and I am really scared.

I decided to sew it on three tapes. I sawed in at the kettle stitches to align the pages well (my stack cutter doesn’t work on book of this size). The other sewing stations are not pre-punched, and won’t get aligned. I am using the holes of the staples wherever possible, and those were also not aligned.

Sawing in is of course a risk. It further weakens the signatures which do not seem very reliable anyway because of the brittle paper. And after sewing a few signatures I am beginning to think that the 18/3 thread I am using might be too strong for this paper which almost falls apart while I am looking at it. Should I proceed or rather order different thread?

Mhm, writing this all up, I think I am going to finish this for now. What is there to loose, really?

At least this whole project brought me some beautiful photos of old paper beside all the headache.