Archive for April, 2012

First Aid for Front Line Wounded Soldiers of Knowledge

[aka Book Repair for Library Lending Stock]


I recently attended an excellent course on Book Repair led by the Bodleian’s Conservation Team.

One of the aims of the course is to get across a simple message – Don’t Use Sellotape! And having to deal with taking all kinds of different tape from books as I reclassify them, I understand why.  Sellotape damages the books, leaves behind horrible sticky residue and often just looks messy!

Before we could all learn alternative ways to mend our books however, we needed to understand how our books are put together in the first place.

Paperbacks: Paperbacks are a collection of single leaves glued together at the spine of a book.  Both the pages and the glue are flexible.

Hardback (Bound Volumes): Hardback books are a collection of folded sections which are sewn together.  The end-pages of the text block are then glued to the cover boards.  Hardback books have a gap between the spine and the book called the Hollow.

The makeup of a book has implications for its repair.  For example – with paperbacks it is usually okay to repair the odd loose page but not large sections which have come un-stuck.  This is because the glue used to make the book needs to be removed before another adhesive will stick.

With hardback books, because of the folded construction, you need to be aware that if one page is loose, its partner page is likely to be loose too.

Flexibility is a key work in conservation and repair.  Keeping things flexible is important in ensuring further damage is not caused.  However, sometimes there needs to be a compromise and in repairing a book some inflexibility is introduced.


During the day we learned about three types of repair:

Our tools:

[The Bone Folder (next to the scissors) is my favourite – such a cool name!]

1.       Repairing a Loose Spine

The first thing we had to do was make sure the lining was stuck down to the book – I couldn’t fit my brush into the gap so had to use a piece of card to get the glue in the right place!  Next we created a hinge using Japanese paper to reattach the spine.  The book was then bandaged (aww) and left to dry.


2.     Repairing a cut or torn page

There are three main ways to repair a cut:

  1. A square patch covering the tear – this is quite inflexible and has a hard edge
  2. A fish tail patch – this is more round and flexible, you draw the shape in pencil using melinex to protect the book
  3. A water tear patch – you draw the shape onto the Japanese paper using water and tear it out.  It has a very soft and quite flexible finish.

If the cut goes through a piece if text, it can be repaired using small ‘butterfly’ stitches – strips of Japanese paper between the lines of the text.

Repairing a tear can often be done by gluing as, unlike in a cut, the fibres of the paper overlap.


3.      Tipping in a loose leaf

First we had to protect the book by placing strips of silicon paper and blotter over the pages.  Then we put a small amount of paste onto the loose leaf (only a couple of mm wide) and placed the leaf back into the book.  We left it to dry and placed a weight on top to make sure it stuck!


I found the session to be really interesting and have been using the techniques back at St Hugh’s to make some of our poorly books feel better!

I also led a training session showing the rest of the team how to use these techniques – have a look at Laura’s Dark Archive to see how they got on!


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