Friday, September 21, 2012

Project: Spine Repair

Every once in a while I get a project that's rather interesting. Take this project: I will be repairing the spine of an old bible that was originally bound in the late 1800's. The client wants me to raise the tapes to make them more pronounced and then cover the spine and boards as a half-bound book.

This book is a Fanshaw Bible for the 'American Bible Society' printed in 1834 (ok, so I guessed on the 'late 1800's part). It measures 12 inches by 9.5 inches with a three inch spine (boards included).

What I've been asked to do is to raise the tapes a bit higher to resemble thick cords, recover the spine with new leather to ensure that it can be used as a bible once more. Additionally the client wants the cover boards covered with kraft paper (as the original boards have been torn and faded over time - I understand that the bible was recovered from a Barn) and the corners reinforced with new leather.

Progress on the book continues. I've mounted leather spacers on the tapes to raise them higher on the spine as a design feature. The book has been covered with brown, kraft paper to help reinforce the structural strength of the cover boards and give the spine more flexibility without additional damage. 

Four, three-quarter inch tapes are used to hold this book together. Surprisingly, even after more than a hundred and fifty years the tapes are still secure the stitching hasn't frayed.

I had to take a picture of the mega-tapes that the binders used to produce this book. Three-quarter inch tapes are used for massive books and with two and a half inches of text - it needs the support.

The quality of the cover boards, even now after nearly a hundred and seventy years, is amazing. You can still see the design that was printed on the cover boards all those years ago and even with all of the damage that the book has seen it's still maintained a sense of its own character.

As you can see - the spine virtually disintegrated of the original cover and the boards are faded and in need of repair or replacement.

The cover page of the bible.
The new tapes drying.

The bible has been covered in a single layer of Kraft paper with the tapes bolded (pressed and the sides cut to keep the shapes more pronounced)

I set the book in the pressing frame so that I could tie up the tapes.By using the pressing frame, the book doesn't have to support itself on its covers (which still aren't as sturdy as they should be) and I can use the sides of the boards to mount some pseudo-lacing frame pegs.
To tie up the tapes I needed to install some pegs so that the cords would have something to hold onto. Rather than using permanent pegs I just used some thumb tacks since they're cheap, disposable and removable once I'm done.

So here's what the spine looks like when the tapes are tied up. The ties are used to press the leather down against the spine on either side of the tape and therefore accentuate them.

I have to wait for the glue to dry and then I can start tacking down the spine leather onto the cover boards.


  1. You know, you've still got that 19th century Douay Rheims bible of mine that I gave you to re-bind. ;)

  2. Yup - but that's a re-bind / repair job. This is a "make it work as a book again" job.

    Let me get your book posted today and we can start playing with ideas for how you want it repaired.