Book Repair Project
October 24, 2010
1943 Lily Wallace New American Cook Book
I recently acquired this volume at an antique store. It was very cheap,
largely because it was in a bad state of repair. From the front, it doesn’t
look too bad: the spine is obviously loose, and the front cover is only
partially attached to the book block.
Upon turning the book
over, however, the extent
of the damage is more
serious. The back cover
is completely detached
from the rest of the
book. The spine is
attached only partially to
the front cover. A few
pages of the index are
missing, and one page is
loose and badly
As can be seen, even in the
front the hinge is split and
the end paper has been
torn out. The front page is
in sad shape, as well.
What needed to be
The cover needed to be
reattached to the book
The spine needed to be
The loose page needed to
Brodart Basic Repair Kit
Various repair resources
online and included in
Equipment I had on
First, I familiarized myself with the Brodart kit and
guide. I discovered that the guide did not offer many
solutions for my book’s needs.
Next, I visited the website for the University of Illinois
Preservation and Conservation website
According to their procedures, I would need to recase
my book and reconstruct the cover, in addition to the
smaller necessary repairs.
I determined that I did not have some of the supplies
that the website recommended. However, since the
book is not valuable and is for my personal use, I felt
that I could make do with what I had on hand. The
biggest issue was that I had no tools, such as a bone or
I gathered the resources I did have and began to follow
the step-by-step directions I found on the web site.
•I used scissors and an exacto knife to cut
the covers away from the book block
•I peeled off the paper and fabric from the
book block, removing as much of the glue
and material as I could.
•I was not able to remove all of the old glue.
I decided that the logical place to start was with the cover reconstruction. I was not,
however, able to follow the recommended steps; I did not have the necessary cloth
and implements to create a new spine. I decided that I would amend the
techniques suggested in the Brodart manual. Accordingly, I first determined that I
had an almost-intact cover, with split hinges. I then sanded the edges of the end
paper, which would need to be done for the recasing later on.
I knew that the repair tape I had was not wide
enough to cover the spine on the outside to the
width recommended. I decided to try to mitigate
this by reinforcing the hinges on the inside as well
as on the outside.
Using a technique recommended by a colleague, I
brushed the fabric with glue before applying
Brodart’s hinge tape. I then burnished the tape
using the end of a hair pick as a bone folder.
I repeated these steps on the other side of the cover
and spine, using a yardstick to be sure that the boards
were kept even during the repair. I did end up having
to make an adjustment, removing the tape and
retaping. When finished, however, the cover was
square and reassembled.
The next step was to use
the widest cloth tape I
had to reinforce the
outside of the spine. I
cut off a length that was
about an inch longer than
the spine of the book. I
laid the tape face-up on a
flat surface and carefully
lowered the book cover
onto it. I pressed the
spine onto the tape from
the top down to prevent
I folded the ends of the cloth tape over and again
burnished it with the trusty hair pick. When I had
firmly affixed the tape, I once again had a sturdy cover
to go onto my cook book. I set it aside and turned my
attention to the book block.
I wanted to keep the last, loose page. I used the U
of I library site as a guide to anchor the edges of the
page to a new piece of thin paper. I cut a ½” strip
of paper and slid it beneath the remaining
fragments of paper that were attached to the rest of
the signature. I used tweezers and glue to attach
these fragments to the new paper. I lined up the
page with this and used the same method to
adhere the edge of the page to the new paper.
The loose page was
now reattached. I
decided to let it dry for
a while and turned my
attention to creating
new end pages, per the
U of I library web site.
I didn’t have official end paper to use, so I
improvised by using scrapbooking paper,
which seemed thick enough to hold the
weight of the book. I folded the paper in half
and cut it to the dimension of the book.
I then applied glue to the front page in a 3/8”
strip and pressed the folded edge of the end
paper onto it.
I did not have the recommended cambric
tape, so I substituted unbleached muslin. I
cut a piece as long as the spine and 3 inches
I coated the book block edge with glue and
reattached the salvaged headbands, to
reinforce the spine.
I pulled the muslin down until the glue
began to pop through it in beads, as the site I
was using had indicated. When it was
saturated with glue, I placed a strip of heavy
paper on top of it and adhered it firmly.
My book was now ready to rest for a few
hours and dry.
After about four
hours, the glue
seemed dry enough
to proceed to the
I returned the book
block to its case to
align it exactly where
it should be. I then
opened the front
As recommended, I
placed a large piece
of scrap paper
between the leaves of
the end pages. I
coated the top part of
the end paper with
glue, then flipped
the fabric back onto
it and coated that
I removed the scrap
paper , placed waxed
paper between the
halves of the end
paper, and carefully
closed the top cover.
I lifted it quickly to
check whether the
paper was aligned
properly. Seeing that
it had, I closed the
front cover, turned
the book over, and
repeated the process
with the back
endpaper and cover.
The book needed to
be weighted in order
for the glue to dry
Since I have neither
book weights nor a
book press, I
collected volumes of
Far Side and Calvin
and Hobbes cartoons
enough to keep it
flat. I was careful to
keep the book square
and not skew it as I
set the weight down.
The book sagged within what was left of its
case and was clearly damaged.
The book sits straight in its case and
appears more usable.
The back cover is detached, there is a loose
page, and the spine is loose.
The loose page has been reattached, both
covers are reattached, and the spine has
The hinges are split and the spine has come
The spine has been repaired.
The end paper has been split and torn, and
the front page is damaged.
The end paper has been replaced, the
hinges reinforced, and the front page is
The back page has been reinserted and—while still needing care due to its
tattered edges—is firmly anchored and legible.
The new end papers are neatly adhered and the front page is secure once
more. The new end papers should protect it and the back page from further
The outside of the
book has been
modified, but the
goal of the project
has been achieved:
the book has been
stabilized and is once
again a usable source
I knew going in that this project would be a challenge.
The book had multiple problems that needed to be
addressed, and I had very limited tools and supplies. This
does, however, compare with library technical staff in many
libraries who must make do with what they have in order to
serve their patrons and care for their collections.
I would not have attempted this repair on a book which I
thought would get heavy usage. While I have experience
with minor repairs, I have never carried out repairs as
extensive as these before, and I did have to compromise
with some of the supplies. Since the book will be used only
occasionally as a reference, however, I felt that the repairs I
made would be adequate to return the book to a usable
I was glad to have multiple resources—from
preservation web sites to a trusted colleague—to
which I could turn for help. With libraries tending to
be less fully staffed, it is important to locate resources
outside one’s own experience.
The biggest thing I took away from this experience is
a much clearer sense of how a book works, physically
speaking. While I was familiar with the anatomy of a
book, I had never really worked closely with a book’s
inner workings before.
Brodart Guide to Book Care and Repair
University of Illinois Library’s Preservation and
Conservation web site:
I primarily referenced the section on rehanging or
recasing a book: