Category Archives: Book repair

Rebinding of Altar Missal

I have recently been busy with rebinding some Roman Catholic altar missals. About a year ago the Catholic Church introduced a new English translation of the Mass, which of course necessitated that all English-speaking parishes get new books. However, the – very substantial – version of this text for use on the altar does not seem to have been well bound and I was approached by a priest who was concerned that his books were beginning to come apart. We decided to rebind them in a simple but sturdy leather binding.  Here are some before and after photos.

The original binding. They had used an elaborate foiling block, but on a very cheap synthetic material. The book block itself was well stitched and glued, but not well attached to the rather flimsy cover.

One of the back covers that was beginning to tear. When I took the book apart I discovered that this was not just due to the inferior material used . There was also very little mull used and it had not been well glued.

I rebound the books in dark brown leather, with substantial cover boards, beveled edges and a simple Cross debossed on the front cover.

As this is a very heavy book that will be used often, I strengthened the book block with an extra layer of mull, and added a hollow which helps to prevent the book block becoming detached from the cover.

Some recent Bibles

I haven’t been very good about posting on here recently, partly because of business and the pressures of moving and partly because I’ve often forgotten to take photos of my work. I hope that things will get more organised in the future.

In the last few months I’ve repaired and recovered a number of soft-covered Bibles, something that I hadn’t done much of before but which there seems to be a demand for. Personally I’ve been more inclined to prefer Bibles bound in hard covers, so soft-cover leather binding has been a new experience for me. Here are a few that I remembered to take photos of.

Book restoration

I recently completed a fairly extensive restoration of a book which was in pretty bad condition. The cover had come off, the spine was gone and quite a number of the pages were loose and torn.

Here are some photos of what it looked like “before”:

I took the book apart and carefully removed quite a lot of sellotape. This is one of a book restorer’s worst enemies and should never be used to repair books as it colours the paper and leaves a horrible gluey substance behind that has to be chemically dissolved and carefully scraped away.

I then washed the pages. I normally avoid chemical bleaching, but washing in ordinary water can help to not only clean the paper, but also to remove the acid that has built up in it.

The next step was mending the torn pages with Japanese paper. The outer pages of most of the signatures or sections of the book had torn in two and so these had to be reattached using Japanese paper if I was to be able to restitch the book.

The leaves were then refolded, arranged in their signatures and placed in the press before being restitched.

The book block was then given new end pages, glued,  given a hollow and a new spine was made. I realise now that I should have taken more photos at this point, but such is life.

The new spine was attached, the cover boards were mended as far as possible while keeping the look of the original book, and were attached and glued down.

Another family Bible restored

I have just restored another family Bible, this time a Swedish one. I’m afraid that I forgot to take photos of how it was before restoration – it was a case bound Bible (from the early twentieth century) with the book block basically intact except for a few tears to the paper. However, the cover was coming off and the spine was badly damaged. I gave it a new cover (quarter bound with leather and linen as the original had been) and reattached the leather from the spine and the linen from the front and back covers (which must have a name in English, but I can only think of the Dutch word!). I also gave it new end pages and headbands. Anyway, here is the final result:

Restoration of Family Bible

Here are some photos of my latest project, the restoration of a – rather huge – Dutch Statenbijbel. It was basically intact, except for a couple of loose signatures, but the cover was coming off and the leather was in quite bad condition. A number of the pages were also quite torn.

I mended the tears in the pages with Japanese paper and paste, reattached loose pages and signatures and gave the book block new end pages. Because the leather was very brittle, I gave the book a new leather spine and glued the remnants of the old spine onto the new leather. Here is the completed result.

Some more book repair

I’m afraid that I forgot to take “before” photos of these books. They all had pretty badly damaged covers that needed to be replaced, although the book blocks were all in a good condition. I replaced the end pages, reglued them and trimmed them and made new quarter bound covers with black leather and coated linnen. Here are the results:

Another book repair

Here is fairly straightforward book repair.

The book block was in good condition although the cover had come off and was pretty damaged.

I gave the bookblock new end pages, trimmed it, and cased it into a new cover quarter binding it in black leather and coated linnen.

A recent repair job

I’m afraid that I forgot to take “before” photos of this book. It was quite badly damaged in that the cover had come off and was in the process of falling apart. The book block itself was basically intact except for the last two signatures which had come loose and some of their pages were so badly damaged as to be unusable. I replaced these pages with photocopies, reattached the signatures, mended some tears with Japanese paper, and gave the book new cream end pages and a new cover. It is quarter bound in brown leather and coated linen.

The bottom corner of the page was replaced using Japanese paper

Photocopied pages that were inserted into the book.

Two Bibles

I’m inclined to think that these bibles are among the more pleasing aspects of my work until now. They were both moderately damaged, and I rebound them both using black leather and handmade paper end pages with black leather headbands. The most striking feature are the embossed designs on the cover.

The book block of the first was reasonably intact, except for the first signature that had come loose, but the cover was in tatters.

Here it is before:

and here it is afterwards:

The second bible had a somewhat more damaged book block with some loose and damaged pages that needed to be repaired with Japanese paper and stitched into the book.

Here it is before:

And here it is afterwards:

A simple repair job

This was a fairly straightforward repair job. As often happens with heavy, glossy art books, the book block had come off the cover and broken the end pages. The cover was in good shape although the dust cover was badly torn. The stitching was still in place but much of the glue on the spine was gone.

I gave it new end pages and re-glued the book block keeping the original stitching. I also gave it a triple lining, something that helps to secure a heavy book block to the cover, and put it back into its original cover. The various remaining bits of the dust jacket were glued to a strong paper and deco-varnished to protect them and prevent further deterioration.


As an aside, the book contains not only icon prints from Stavronikita Monastery on Mount Athos, but also prints of some of their embroidered vestments. Given that I’ve become fascinated by the possibilities of doing embroidered book covers (not that I’m likely to have much time for that) I want to scan some of the photos before giving it back to the friend I’m binding it for.