Be Sure to See "The Making of a Book" at the bottom of this page!
Restoring a book is usually the most effective way to instantly increase its value, and fine bindings can also increase value as the binding itself is valuable, aside from the work it contains! Of course, restorations must be done carefully and sympathetically to maintain the book's original appearance, and bindings must be of beauty and quality; otherwise, a poor or novice restoration can end up devaluing a book. We provide high quality restorations and bindings for books of all ages! Due to the large number of restorations we do on in-house inventory, we are only able to accept a limited number of projects from clients. The projects we accept are typically for extremely rare, valuable, and historically signifcant material that we feel obligated to accept to be sure that the material will be properly preserved for future generations.
Please contact us today at Restorations@OneRareBook.com for a quote.
Samples of Common Binding Ailments and Restorations
Sample 1: Here is a 4 volume set that has been rebacked with new spines. The original boards were retained. The spines are done in a style faithful to the period of the printing, and they feature blind-stamping as well gold tooling for the title and date. This process involves removal of the old backing and cleaning of the block to remove old glue, re-lining the spine with several layers of glue, linen, paper, and sometimes thin binder's board (depending on the binding). The new leather is applied only after those steps. Many cut-rate binders will skip over those important steps, and the result is visibly cheap. Our work is done properly -- even those parts you can't see.
Sample 2: This is a completely new 1/2 calf leather binding over marbled boards. Everything from the boards to the spine is new. This set features gold work over leather onlays to the spine, gold fillet lines to the 1/2 leather boards, and Italian hand-marbled paper. Again, this example is also done in a style faithful to the period of the book's printing (in this case, the mid-1800s).
Sample 3: Here you see a book that was rebacked with a new spine, and the original boards were preserved. These boards originally suffered from "red rot" -- a common term used to describe the very dry and flakey leather found on many 18th century bindings. During this period, binders stained the leather with a solution which eventually served to dry out the leather. Over time, the leather becomes very frail and will fall apart, crack, and leave the tell-tale red dust (actually dry leather) on your hands. This is a common ailment of bindings from this period. Restoring "red rot" leather requires a few "tricks of the trade." We use a variety of restoration chemicals and preserve the leather using a proprietary process similar to the process used by museums and libraries. Once the process is completed, the beautiful deep colors are restored, the leather is "fixed" or solidified, and the surface is durable and buffed to a shine. The photo on the right shows the finished product; however, if you saw the boards before the restoration, then you probably would not believe they are the same boards!
Sample 4: A five volume set rebacked with new spines over original boards. Only two of the spines were intact when we received the set. But we copied the layout of those original spines, we exactly replicated the original spine layout after the new spines were applied. "New but original" is often our aim for this type of work.
Sample 5: Hand-made silk endbands. We make endbands ourselves using centuries old techniques. It is a rather time-consuming process, but the unique results cannot be matched by the more common machine-made endbands that most binderies use.
Sample 6: Can you guess which books in this photo have been cleaned and which have not? 300 years of accumulating dust, candle smoke, or just about any polutant you can imagine, has the very predictable effect seen on the books on the right side of this set (see photo), where the original cream color of the vellum leather is lost -- until it reaches our shop. We can clean and "freshen" most antique leather bindings. Our cleaning process not only improves the appearance of the binding, but we also recondition sound leather with special leather conditioners to lend a supple feel and to preserve the leather for years to come.
The Making of a Book
When we acquired this book, the binding displayed common flaws, though the spine leather was highly deteriorated (more than we typically find). The boards were detached, the endbands were perished. The contents were quite clean and nice, and the book is extremely rare; however, the poor condition of the binding severely hindered the value of the book.
This photo shows the spine after the old leather was carefully removed (along with the old glue), the back of the text-block was re-glued, new linen liner was laid on, a further lining of paper was laid on, and finally, raised bands (which were positioned exactly as the original bands were positioned) were applied. It is also during this process that new hand-sewn endbands were applied to the head and tail of the spine, along with a nice silk ribbon book marker. At this point, the block is firm and sturdy, and the spine is ready for new leather. High-grade calf leather was stained, pared, and applied over the renewed spine.
Here, you see the new leather has been applied to the spine. The new spine also serves to re-attach the boards as the leather on the boards is lifted and the new leather (extending from the side of the spine) is placed underneathe the board's leather. You will also notice that one of the boards in this photo has been restored whereas the left board has not. The old, dry leather was renewed using our proprietary process, and the beautiful deep colors are refreshed, the leather is renewed and repaired, and a special finish is added to preserve not only the leather but its beauty.
For this book, we also placed new leather on the corners where the old leather had rubbed away. Leather loss on the corners is very common. It is usually preferable to take this step of adding new leather, though it is not entirely necessary in every case.
New, period style endpapers were applied. The original end-papers had some worming holes and obviously, the gutters were split as the boards were detached. Not just any paper will do. Keeping materials appropriate to the period of the book is important. In some cases, we use a plain hand-made laid type of paper common to the period of the book. In this case, we used a period style hand-marbled paper. Modern machine-made decorative papers simply will not do. This book was printed in 1585, and the pattern and style of marbled paper used is typical of what one may have found at the time. "New but original" is always our aim.
At this stage, the book's structure, leather, and endpapers have been restored. Structurally sound, the book now requires only decoration. The book is ready for the addition of a label and the desired level of gold-tooling.
Here, you see the finished product. This book is tooled in full mitred run-up on the spine, along with a red morocco leather title label. The printing date for the book is also tooled at the base of the spine. The amount of gold-tooling used for any book is mostly decided by the book, the owner's taste, and the amount of money one wished to spend on their particular book. What remnants we had of the original spine showed similar tooling, and similar tool design, to what we used. For this book, the spine's appearance is almost exactly as the original would have appeared when it was new. In a sense, our work is often as much replication as it is restoration -- it is typically a combination of both. Certainly, not every book requires this level of finishing. Books of different values will warrant varying levels of work.