Monday, December 28, 2009

Rebacking Full Leather Bindings

Rebacking is a treatment typically performed when the text block has broken at the joint in the following three ways: where the endpapers fold, where the boards are connected to the text block (linen or mull spine liner in cloth bindings and the cords that lace on boards in leather bindings), and the cover material. Rebacking consists of constructing a new spine piece out of durable/flexible paper, and using it to reattach the text block and boards so the book can function properly.
To illustrate the process with full leather bindings, I selected four dictionaries from the collection at Syracuse which needed rebacking. All front covers were detached from the text block, and about half of the back covers. Spines had split away from the covers and had several bits missing and all the endbands cracked and coming away from the text block. The following images depict this condition.
The first step is to clean and reline the spines. I removed the old covers, spines and broken endbands. Using silicon release paper lined boards, I cleaned each spine with methyl cellulose, being mindful of the raised cords. When the spine was clean, I lined the entire spine with Japanese tissue. Since it is necessary for the cords to remain uncovered, I wanted to practice with two main methods of attaching the linen lining. For two books, I cut the linen into strips the exact distance between the cords, and lined each section between cords and at the head/tail. This took much longer, but laid flatter. For the other, I cut one long strip of linen, and then cut out spaces for each cord, which was faster, but bunched and wrinkled by the shoulder. Once the linen was attached I began resewing the endbands. Due to the large size of these books (approximately 18" tall), I had to move from the bench to the board shear to get the right height for sewing.
When the endbands were completed I began preparing the spine pieces. For leather bindings, PC4 paper is used. It is a heavyweight paper, which is toned with methyl cellulose and acrylics. PC4 paper is relatively flexible when damp, but dries rather hard, functioning as the spine and the stiffener. The PC4 paper is cut into strips the length and width of the spine, accounting for turn-ins, and is parred at the edges. In order to fit tightly over the cords, the prepared spine piece must be molded. This is done using a finishing press (with screws along the sides) and cords. The PC4 paper must be dampened and placed in position. When this is done cords are wrapped around the raised cords of the spine, and secured at the screws like so:
While the spine pieces were drying, I worked on lifted the endpapers and leather on the covers. I then began re-attaching the boards to the text blocks via the linen. First I placed a sheet of waste paper and silicon release paper under the linen. Next, I glued out the linen (PVA) and removed the waste sheet. Then I  placed the covers on so the linen would stick to the board where the endpaper was lifted away, and kept the book closed to dry. Once it was dry, I began attaching the PC4 spines.
I began by putting the spine piece in position. I work with the book flat on the bench so the spine piece is weighted down by the text block. I glued out the board underneath the lifted leather (PVA) and continuously pressed down the PC4 paper until it stuck. Then I placed silicon release paper between the PC4 paper and the lifted leather (to prevent moisture from being introduced to the leather too soon), and flipped the book over to dry under the weight of the text block. I did this to all four books, then repeated the process with the other side. Then I glued down the lifted leather (PVA). Once all the spine pieces were attached to both covers, I glued down the head and tail turn-ins. When those had dried, I glued down the lifted endpapers (PVA), and then covered the hinge with a strip of Japanese tissue (paste).
After all the inside hinge repairs were done, I glued the remaining original spine pieces to the new PC4 spine (PVA) and consolidated the leather with Klucel G. Next I repaired the corners and put Japanese paper along the leather at the joint and along the edges of the original spine pieces. I used two different methods for this as well. On two books I used morike (top), which had to be cut to shape with a water pen, but was already a similar color and therefore easier to tone. On the other two I used dry tear strips (bottom), which allowed for fast and easy application, but proved more difficult to tone. Finally, I rubbed some SC 6000 over the joints to add some shine to the toned Japanese tissue and prevent the acrylic from cracking with use (Winter 2009).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Japanese Style Binding

I wanted to do a Japanese binding as a variant from the Western styles I have been working with. I wanted a beveled edge, so I tore my folios from larger sheets of Gutenberg Laid. Traditional Japanese bindings have a relatively soft cover, so I used 20 point board. To cover the board, I cut my cloth to the necessary size and glued it down only at the turn-ins. I took one of my folios, tore it in half, and drummed the single sheets against the covered boards. I positioned the folios (fold at the foredge) and the boards, and used bulldog clips to keep everything in position while I drilled the holes with a Dremel. The design I chose for the spine sewing was "The Noble Bind" (Winter 2009).*
*From Japanese Bookbinding by Kojiro Ikegami.

Secret Belgian Binding

The Secret Belgian Binding was rediscovered by Hedi Kyle. I came across a copy of the instruction manual at Syracuse and decided to try the binding style. This is my Belgian:
The sewing was a little difficult. The hardest part was the getting the signatures attached to the spine sewing. I was using a pre-cut  text block, and cut my boards to fit that. My book was shorter and more square than the instructions size, and I wonder if my text block would have slipped less if I used the taller, rectangular dimensions.
The book cloth I chose caused the most problems. If I covered the boards too soon after applying the PVA, the glue caused the cloth to darken in several spots. I had to wait to for the glue to be almost entirely dry, then cover the board and reactive the PVA using a tacking iron. I also mistakenly tried to cut the corners at a 45 degree angle, and fold them over. This fabric frayed excessively after I folded the corners, and I had to apply some glue to keep the fibers down. If I was to use this book cloth again I would try lining it with Japanese tissue or even a different style of corners (Fall 2009).

Vellum Millimeter Binding

This is one of the first binding styles I learned in my bookbinding class. The text block Fine Printers Finely Bound Too was an exhibition catalog for the 1986 Guild of Book Workers exhibit held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was cased in using the German method This is also the first time I have ever used a letter press (Fall 2009).

Medieval and Early Modern Stationer's Binding

This is the stationer's binding I made during my workshop with Chela Metzger at Syracuse University, as part of the Brodsky Lecture Series. We were given a blank, pre-punched text block, a piece of parchment, and leather scraps and strips. First we had to sew the text block on leather tapes. Next we folded the parchment (with white paper inside to make the parchment less see through, and to bring out the natural colors of the parchment. Then we attached leather shapes over the spine and punched holes for the overband designs and the star(s) on the flap. We were given notes on Italian and Spanish style stationer's bindings, including different templates for traditional overbands and stars, and were able to design our own from there. The designs were created by lacing leather strips through the punched holes. Once all the lacing was done, we attached the text block to the cover using parchment strips for tackets and constructed the leather button (Fall 2008).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Encapsulation/Screw Post Binding

Encapsulation is an excellent treatment for fragile materials which will be handled frequently. Most commonly at Syracuse, this is done for newspapers. This particular newspaper was a Japanese-American Publication during World War II. The paper was highly acidic and brittle. Most of the original folds had become splits. Some pages were still attached, and had to be split for the encapsulation.* My first step was to go through the pages and number them with pencil in an inconspicuous place. Next, I washed the pages, between Reemay, in filtered water and deacidified them using magnesium bicarbonate (Mg(HCO3)2), then dried the pages on blotting papers. When the pages were dried, I repaired any large tears with heat set tissue.
The next step was to make the Mylar sleeves which would support the pages. To do this, I measured the pages, multiplied the width by about 2.5, plus extra space needed for the spine piece (approximately 2"). I also added about 2" to the length. Then I folded the Mylar in half, using a bone folder to get a crisp edge, and put this edge in the heating press for about 4 seconds. This welds the Mylar together, and it is critical the the edges are flush. Therefore, when the first edge is sealed, the Mylar is taken to the board shear and the next edge is trimmed (using the welded edge to make a right angle) and welded. After this was done, I put a page from the newspaper inside the Mylar to determine the squares, making sure the spine edge was NOT welded. Once I was pleased with the placement of the page, I trimmed and welded the third side (with the page inside the Mylar). I repeated this process for all the pages, and then punched holes (carefully positioned to be visually pleasing) on the spine side of the Mylar.

When all the pages are encapsulated, I measured and cut board for the covers. This is two large covers and three small strips for the "U" shaped spine.  My spine pieces were 2 - height x 3/4" and 1 - h x 1/4". Covering these pieces is tricky because you need to account for the board thickness. The best way to do this is to glue one strip down (green) and then glue out the middle piece (blue), butt it against the other piece and wrap the book cloth around. This way when the middle piece sticks to the cloth, it will pull away from the other piece and leave the correct space for the board thickness. Adjust the distance slightly to account for two cloth thicknesses. Then just glue the third piece on the same distance apart.

Also the corners of the book cloth for the spine piece should be as follows:
When the "U" piece and covers are covered with book cloth (and end sheets on the covers), I drilled holes through them with the Dremel drill to match the holes punched in the Mylar sleeves. Finally, I attached everything with screws and posts (Fall 2009).

Paperback Repair

This is a really basic treatment for perfect bound paperback books. With this particular book, the text block had delaminated and split into different sections, as well as separating from the covers.

The first step was to reattach the text block. I lined the pages up at the foredge, and trimmed approximately one millimeter off the spine with a guillotine. Next I added a scrap piece of paper to the top and bottom of the text block for protection, lined the pages up at the spine, rebound the text block as a perfect binding with PVA, and dried under weight. Then I removed the scrap pieces of paper and reattached the text block to the case using PVA on the spine. I dried the book closed, under weight.
Because of the previous trim on the spine, the text block was just a little too short for the case. To correct this I simply took the book back to the guillotine and trimmed all three edges to fit. For this final trim, I kept the book between thin boards, so that the guillotine would not mark the cover.
This is the completed repair (Winter 2009).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This was the first miniature to come into the conservation lab, (at least while I was working) and I jumped on the opportunity to treat it. I wanted to see the difference scale made in treatment. The treatment methods used were the same, but it was definitely harder to work with such small amounts of material. This miniature's text block was detached from the case and the first flysheet was detached. The case was in two pieces, and the leather was splitting in several places.
I reconnected the leather case and repaired the edges with Japanese tissue and PVA.  This picture was taken in the middle of that process. I ended up having to put Japanese tissue over the entire strap because the bonded leather continued to split after my initial repair every time I touched it. After the tissue repairs were complete, I consolidated the leather with Klucel G.

I reattached the flysheet to the text block using Japanese paper and paste. Then I attached the text block to the case by lining the spine with tissue, leaving approximately 1/4" overhang, which I used to connect the text block to the case (using paste). When that dried, I toned the case with acrylics.

When the book was finished, I made a foam case and constructed a phase box for it (Fall 2009).

Monday, November 30, 2009


Occasionally in the library, I encounter books with covers so badly damaged it is easier (and cheaper) to recase the text block than to mend the original covers. Recasing is also a treatment option for damaged books that are not especially valuable.
This is an example of a book I recased. It was originally a quarter bound leather, tight backed (fastback), with marble paper covered boards. The paper was torn and faded with dirt and age. The spine had completely delaminated and split off the front board (Top). Delamination at the spine also caused the text block to split (Bottom).

I started by removing the cover. I pressed the sections of the text block together between boards, and cleaned the spine with methyl cellulose to removed the old liner and adhesive. The sewing was cut in several places, so I had to pull the text block apart. I washed and deacidified the sections in filtered water and magnesium bicarbonate [Mg2(CO3)2]. After the pages dried, I repaired damaged areas with heat set tissue, and guarded each section using wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue. I realigned the signatures, resewed the text block, adding dove gray endpapers and lined the spine with Japanese tissue. The addition of materials from guarding caused swell in the spine, so I rounded it to reduce this swell.

I decided to mimic the original case design with a quarter binding in PC4 paper. I cut the boards to fit, attached the PC4 spine and trimmed the PC4 to be even and straight on both covers. Next, I covered the remainder of the boards with book cloth. Then I trimmed the turn-ins, infilled the boards, and attached the text block. After pressing the book with jointing boards, I attached the labels, which were pre-coated with Klucel G to prevent the ink from smearing (Summer 2009).

The above image on the left shows the finished product and the right depicts the stability of the text block after treatment. The below images are additional before and after examples of recased books. These book were bound entirely in book cloth (2008).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wet Cleaning - Prints

A friend of mine was dog sitting, and the puppy urinated on a print she had leaned against the wall. The original matte and foam core were badly stained. Luckily only the lower right-hand corner of the print was affected. In order to remove the urine, the print needed to be washed. I first tested the inks by wiping small areas of each color with damp q-tips. This is a before picture of the corner.
I washed the print between sheets of reemay in a filtered* water bath (Top). This removed most of the staining. Some areas were worse than others, so I removed them using filtered water on a vacuum suction table. I dried the print in the drying rack, and then reintroduced moisture using Gortex and pressed the print under weight to flatten it again. The picture on the bottom shows the corner after washing.

I was unable to wash the matte board. I cut a small piece of similar matte to test, and it completely delaminated in water. So in an effort to soften the stain, I sprayed the stained area with isopropyl alcohol, and walked it out along the edge. This did sterilize it, but did nothing to the stain. I did keep the matte and return it to the owner because the artist's insignia (a small paw print) was cut into the board.
The foam core was completely ruined. The artist statement was attached to the back of the foam core, but was not affected by the urine stain. However, twenty years had made it highly acidic. After removing it from the foam core, I washed it between reemay in filtered water, then deacidified it with a magnesium bicarbonate solution (Mg(HCO3)2). These images show the before (Top) and after (Bottom).

I cut a new matte for the print, but left the artist statement detached, in an archival envelope, in case the owner wanted to get the image re-matted by the artist.

*The Syracuse University lab does not have de-ionized water. Instead, the water is run through a particle and charcoal filter.

Dry Cleaning - Smoke Sponges

There are several dry techniques for cleaning paper, including the use of white vinyl erasers and smoke sponges. Smoke sponges are made from vulcanized natural rubber, and are the same product used to clean smoke dust of walls after building fires. They come in large bricks, which we cut in to smaller pieces in the lab, and then gently rub on the surface of the paper.

This is a print I cleaned and re-framed. The glass was originally stained yellow in several areas, and the protective lining around the edge of the frame had split, which enabled insects to get inside. There were two dead silverfish pressed under the glass. I removed the print from the frame and took this picture.

I noticed the image had a lot of surface dirt. It was also evident from the consistency of the brushstrokes that this was a replica, with some sort of clear coating on the paper. I tested an inconspicuous area with the smoke sponges, which removed substantial dirt without damage to the paper. I continued to treat the image with smoke sponges. This image shows an area that was partially cleaned. The left side is untouched, and the right side was treated with smoke sponges.

After treating the entire image with smoke sponges, I cleaned the glass from the frame. Most of it had to be scraped with a razor to removed caked on dirt. I also cleaned the frame with smoke sponges. I reframed the image, adding a new backing board of corrugated cardboard, and lined the backing board/frame edge with linen tape, so there was no gap in the back. I also replaced the framing wire. This is the finished object after treatment (Summer 2009).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Japanese Tissue Repair - Hinge

Japanese paper is commonly used in book repair because it is thin and strong. For joint and hinge repairs, the paper is cut into thin strips, just wide enough to cover the damaged areas. Don Etherington suggests using morike for the outer hinge because it comes in a variety of colors to match the cloth or leather. He also advises coating the morike in Klucel G because it darkens the color and prevents the paper from fraying when rubbed.*
These strips are adhered to the area with either polyvinyl-acetate (PVA) or a starch paste. (PVA is used for leather bindings or book covers, and paste is used on any part which touches the text block). It is crucial to remember to treat the inside of the hinge first. Even though the Japanese papers are thin, sometimes they create enough swell to split a previous repair on the outer hinge.
The following images depict basic Japanese tissue repair on a leather binding. This particular book had a leather inner and outer hinge, and almost no joint. Because of this, use caused the leather to crack (Top: cover view; Bottom; inner hinge).

PVA was used to attach thin strips of Japanese tissue to cover and support the damaged areas. After drying, the tissue was toned with acrylics. Then I applied SC 6000 to the toned area on the cover. The SC 6000 will protect the acrylic pigments from cracking with use, and also ads a slight shine, which mimics that of the leather (Summer 2009).

*Use of Japanese Tissue in Conservation, presented by Don Etherington as part of the CBBAG Restoration and Repair: Part of the home study programme.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Phase Boxes

The first thing I learned to do was construct phase boxes. This is a effective prevention treatment because the boxes are dimensionally stable, hold the book securely and protect against dust and dirt. The materials and time (approximately 15 minutes per box) can be costly, therefore phase boxes are reserved for special collections. There are two basic techniques, a one and two piece box. Manuals for construction are available online at:
I have used both techniques. I find the two piece box enables you to use materials more efficiently, but I prefer the one piece because it is faster. These are some images of a two piece phase box in various stages of completion (Summer 2008).