Rebacking – Attaching a New Book Spine

book spine damageThe last part of rebacking your hardcover book using Method One is Attaching the New Spine Cloth to the Text Block

  • Position the spine so the glued-down part of the turn-ins are centered on the text block spine, even with the top and bottom of the book boards.
  • Mark the edges of the replacement spine cloth on the cover board.
  • Put a strip of waste paper on the cover, lined up with the marks and glue from the waste paper toward the spine of the text block. Be careful not to get glue on the spine of the text block.

Before proceeding further, make sure the spine is right-side up on the text

  • Position the replacement spine on the book. Center the head and tail; then lay the edge of the replacement spine against the line of glue on the cover.
  • Press the replacement spine onto the book board. Work the book cloth into the joint with a folder.
  • Insert rods into the joint. Dry under weight for a few minutes. 
  • Turn the book. Wrap the replacement spine tightly around the book. Mark the position of the replacement spine on the book cover.
  • Lay a piece of waste paper along the marks.
  • Apply glue working from the waste paper toward the joint. Be careful not to get glue on the spine of the text block.

The replacement spine should fit tight around the spine of the text block.

  • Work the cloth into the joint with a folder.
  • Support the cover with book boards or other books.
  • Apply glue to the extending tabs and fold them onto the endpapers.
  • Rub them down with a folder.
  • Put rods in the joints. Dry the book overnight in a press or under weight.

Rebacking – Constructing a Replacement Spine

book spine damage

Having prepared the spine area of your book (previous posts), we can now use Method One to Reback With Book Cloth On The Outside Of The Original Book Cloth.


Constructing the Replacement Book Cloth Spine

  • Make measurement A (the thickness of the text block from shoulder to shoulder). Add 1” to each side of the spine width in measurement A.
  • Measure the height of the text block (Measurement B) and 1 l/2” to measurement B.
  • Transfer measurement A and B to the book cloth. Be sure the-grain of the book cloth runs up and down the spine of the book then cut the book cloth.

The new book cloth should be as close to the original color and texture as possible. If it is not possible to match the color, select a color that has the least amount of contrast, i.e., new black book cloth on a dark blue book.

  • Center the new book cloth on the front book board so the same amount hangs over the top and bottom.
  • Crease the top and bottom of the book cloth to mark the height of the finished spine.
  • Center measurement A on each crease and mark.
  • Cut V-slits at the crease line marks that correspond to the text block spine measurements.
  • Cut a piece of acid-free paper to line and stiffen the book cloth spine. This liner is called the spine inlay. Sometimes two or more layers of acid-free bond are used for the spine liner. Always make sure the grain of the spine inlay runs in the same direction as the spine of the text block. If it does not, the book will not open easily.
  • Place the spine inlay on a sheet of waste paper. Apply glue to the wrong side in the star burst pattern.
  • Using the text block measurement marks and top and bottom creases, enter the spine inlay on the wrong side of the new spine cloth.
  • Apply glue to the center section of the spine turn-in at the top and bottom of the spine cloth; fold them over, and rub them down with a folder.
  • Protect the spine cloth with a piece of wax paper and place under weight to dry.

If the original spine can be reused, lift up the turn-ins and peel the paper inlay away from the book cloth spine. If the paper is well attached to the spine, use a microspatula or dull knife to scrape it off. Dampening the inlay can release the adhesive. It is not essential to remove every bit of the paper inlay if it doesn’t come off easily. The spine can be easily distorted or damaged so handle it carefully.

  • Using an X-acto knife or scalpel and ruler, trim away the ragged edges of the original spine. The original spine should be slightly narrower than the text block spine, so the original cloth won’t interfere with the joint cloth of the replacement spine when the book opens and closes. Do not trim away any lettering or decoration. If the original spine is being re-used, save it.

If the original spine is too damaged or worn to use, there are other ways to label the spine of the book. A paper label can be hand written, typed or typeset on a computer, then glued to the new spine cloth. Another option is to write directly on the new book cloth with a permanent marker, such as those used to label quilts. Practice on a scrap of book cloth to make sure the label will be legible and attractive. If the option is an unsightly label, consider leaving the title off the spine.

  • Lay the original spine or new label on a piece of waste paper wrong side up.
  • Apply glue in a star burst pattern working from the center toward the edges.
  • Center the original spine or new label on the right side-of the replacement spine. Cover it with a piece of waste paper, and rub it down with a folder. All the edges should be well adhered.
  • Protect the spine cloth with a piece of wax paper, and place under weight to dry.

Rebacking – Lining the Text Block Spine

rebacking a book

Now that you have removed the original spine, we continue with Method 1 for rebacking a hardcover book.

  • Lining the Text Block Spine
  1. When the book cloth spine is removed, examine the paper spine liner attached to the text block. This paper spine liner consolidates the signatures of the text block and helps evenly distribute the stress of opening the book. Many modern book manufacturers do use enough paper liners or a good quality of paper to line the spine. In many instances, the paper spine liner is not even completely glued down. Taking the time to replace the spine liner ensures the book will function better and last longer.
  2. Open the text block to the center of the book and see how the spine arches. Does it form a gentle curve or a sharp “V”? When a book opens with a sharp “V”, all the stress of opening the book is concentrated in one place. A gentle curve evens out the stress of opening the book.
  3. If the original paper liner is not adhered to the spine of the text block, remove it by gently pulling it away or scraping it away with a dull knife. Be careful not to damage the crash or the sewing threads. It is not essential that all the paper be removed.
  4. If the original paper spine liner is well adhered but not heavy enough to form a gentle curve when the book opens, add additional paper liners to create the gentle curve.
  5. Measure the thickness of the text block from shoulder to shoulder with a strip of paper. Save this measurement until the repair is completed.
  6. Transfer the measurement to the spine liner paper and cut a strip of spine liner paper. The cut strip should be longer than the height of the book boards. Remember the grain of the spine liner should run up and down the spine of the book.
  7. It is best to use a medium weight paper to line the text block spine; two or three layers of thin paper is better than one thick layer. Acid-free papers or Japanese repair tissue can be used. The paper spine liner must have the grain running from the head to the tail of the book and should be the exact height and width of the text block spine.
  8. Lay the spine liner against the spine of the text block, mark the height and then trim the spine liner to the exact height of the text block.
  9. Apply adhesive to the spine liner paper in a star burst pattern and position on the text block spine.
  10. Firmly attach the paper spine liner to the text block spine using one or both of the methods below.

1. Use a folder to rub the paper spine liner to the text block spine. Make sure the paper liner is well adhered to the text block; pay special attention that the edges (sides, head and tail) are firmly attached.
2. A 1” stencil brush makes a good tool to firmly attach the spine liner to the text block. Use an up and down tapping motion to work the spine liner into the text block. Pay special attention that the edges (sides, head and tail) are firmly attached.

Let the paper liner dry then open the book. If the open text block forms a “V” instead of a gentle curve, repeat the procedure. Many books need more than one layer of paper liner, especially if they are large or heavy

Rebacking – Preparing the Book

rebacking a book

In this post and the next few, I will cover Rebacking a Hardcover Book – Method 1 (outside the original book cloth).


  • Remove the Original Book Cloth Spine
  1. If the print or decoration on the spine is legible, save the spine to glue to the new book cloth spine. If the print or decoration is not legible, discard the spine after it is removed.
  2. Carefully remove the original spine if it is still attached to the book.
  3. If the cloth in the joint is broken or terribly frayed, gently pull it loose.
  4. If the original spine is more firmly attached to the case, lay a straight edge l/16 – l/8” from the spine edge of the front board and use a knife to cut through the cover cloth.
  5. Be careful not to cut through the crash or the end paper and try not to trim away any print or decoration on the cover.
  6. Turn the book over and repeat on the other side.

Recovering a HardBack Book | Rebacking a Case Bound Book

rebacking a book

Books with worn cloth joints or loose, flapping spines can be repaired by replacing the original book cloth spine.
Before rebacking a book, check the condition of the original crash in the hinge area. If more than l/4 of the crash’s total height is broken, replace it before rebacking the book. That procedure is covered in a separate post.

Two methods of rebacking are covered on this website – each in a separate post. The first method, REBACKING WITH BOOK CLOTH ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ORIGINAL BOOK CLOTH, puts the new book cloth on the outside of the old book cloth with the turn-ins glued on top of the original endpapers. This method can sometimes be faster but the new spine can be difficult to position well since it is constructed off the book. From a cosmetic point of view, more of the repair shows because the book cloth is on the outside of the original book cloth. This method is also described in  “Books Their Care and Repair” by Jane Greenfield,

In the second method, REBACKING WITH THE NEW BOOK CLOTH UNDER THE ORIGINAL BOOK CLOTH AND THE TURN-INS UNDER THE END PAPERS, the new spine is constructed on the book with the turn-ins glued under the end papers. When the original spine is replaced, the new book cloth shows in only a small portion of the joint area.

Often different methods work for different books so practice each method, then decide which to use on a particular book.

Repairing the Spine of a Book – Part 6


  1. Use the rounded end of a microspatula to feed glue between the lifted endpapers and the cover boards. Feed the glue all the way down to the point where the end papers are still attached to the board and into the hinge area.
  2. Use a folder to work the end papers into position, working from the center of the end paper toward the edge of the book board. Wipe away any excess glue that is worked out.
  3. Apply glue to the cut flaps and press them into position. There may be a thin gap between the flap and the edge of the endpaper.
  4. Lay a strip of wax paper in the joint areas. Put the book in a book press or insert rods in the hinges and press under weight for 10 minutes.
  5. Open the book carefully and test the front and back hinges. If the hinges are loose, tighten them following the directions in the post Tightening Book Hinges. If they seem tight, replace the wax paper and return the book to the press or weights and dry overnight.

Repairing the Spine of a Book – Part 5



  1. Before applying any glue to the repair patch turn-in, fold it in position to make sure the patch is placed correctly.
  2. Starting on either edge of the repair patch, carefully begin to tuck the turn-in into the space between the end paper and the board. As one side is tucked in, the rest of the turn-in will follow.
  3. With the entire patch tucked in place, gently crease the top edge of the patch along the boards and in the spine area with your fingers.
  4. Set the book on the work table with the repaired end of the spine resting on the table. The edge of the new spine book cloth should be level with the original boards so it rests flat and even against the table.
  5. If there is space between the table and repair patch or if the book cloth wrinkles against the table, the position of the turn-in is not correct. Readjust the turn-in and check it again.
  6. When the turn-in is positioned correctly, lay the book on the table so that the spine is flat against the table: Use the pointed end of a folder to crease the folded repair patch along the top of the book boards and the spine turn-in. This crease will help correctly position the turn-in after the glue is applied. Folding and creasing the turn-in before it is glued assures the finished turn-in will be in the correct position.
  7. Unfold the turn-in and apply glue to the inside of the patch turn-in. Working from either side of the repair patch, refold the glued repair patch turn-in under the end paper. Continue until the entire patch is tucked in place then crease the edge of the patch with your fingers.
  8. Set the book on the work table with the repaired end of the spine resting on the table. Check that the spine edge of the new spine book cloth is level with the original boards and rests even against the table. Remember, if there is any space visible between the table and the repair patch or if the book cloth wrinkles against the table, the position of the turn-in is not correct. Readjust the turn-in and check it again.
  9. Position the book on the table so that the length of the spine is resting on the table. Use a pointed end of a folder to crease the folded and glued repair patch along the top of the book boards and the spine turn-in.
  10. Use the long edge of a folder to work the repair patch and book cloth into the hinge joints of the book. At this point the patch will be attached to the original book cloth and the book boards.

Repairing the Spine of a Book – Part 4


IMPORTANT: Read through the instructions for gluing the repair patch in place before beginning this procedure. It is important to understand when and where to apply the glue; if the repair is glued in the wrong order, it’s possible to be “glued into a corner”, needing to glue something that is already covered by another part of the repair.

In modern book case construction, the spine of the book cloth and the spine of the text block must move independently of one another in order for the book to open properly. DO NOT glue the repair patch to the spine of the text block (the pages of the book).

There are many older book structures that function differently to this modern construction. If a book looks or operates in an unusual way, carefully research the book structure or consult a trained book conservator before attempting a repair.

  1. With the repair patch in place, use a knife or microspatula to feed glue between the wrong side of the original book cloth spine and the right side of the repair patch. Do not put any glue on the spine of the text block (the pages of the book) or on the cut and lifted flaps of book cloth.
  2. Use a folder to gently press the original book cloth against the repair patch.
  3. Work on both covers and the spine. Wipe away any excess glue that is pushed out the top of the repair patch.
  4. Use the long edge of a folder to work the patch into both cover joints.
  5. Work this area well to make sure the patch is in the proper position. Double check the repair. Make sure the new book cloth patch lies flat against the text block and the original book cloth lies flat against the patch. There should not be any wrinkles or buckles in the patch or the book cloth spine. If it is not a good fit, readjust it or replace it before the glue dries.
  6. Put the book in a book press or insert rods in the hinge areas and press under weight for about 10 minutes to allow the glue to set.



Repairing the Spine of a Book – Part 3



  1. Slip the repair patch in place between the original book cloth and the book board.
  2. Make sure the patch is long enough and wide enough to cover the damaged area.
  3. Use the long edge of a folder to work the patch into both cover joints.
  4. Take a moment to check the position of the patch. The new book cloth patch should lie flat against the book boards and spine of the text block. There should not be any wrinkles or buckles in the patch or the book cloth shine. The patch should extend about 5/8” above the top of the book board and should extend at least l/2” below the bottom of the spine damage. It should also extend past both hinges toward the fore edge of the book.
  5. If the repair patch does not fit correctly, trim it down or cut a new one.

Repairing the Spine of a Book – Part 2

book spine damage


  1. Support the book with another book or a stack of boards. Use an X-acto knife and ruler to cut through the book cloth turn-in along the edge of the endpapers at the head of the book. The cut should be 1 – 2” long.
  2. At the outer edge of the first cut (the end away from the spine), make a 90 degree cut across the book cloth from the edge of the endpaper to the top of the book board.
  3. Use a knife or microspatula to lift the book cloth away from the book board.
  4. If necessary, clip through the original book cloth turn-in at the hinge to allow the cloth to lift up. DO NOT clip through the endpaper or the crash.
  5. Repeat these two cuts on the opposite book board. If the original spine turn-in is completely loose, remove it.
  6. Using a microspatula, dull knife or the rounded end of a folder, lift the book cloth loose from the cover boards. Loosen only as much book cloth as necessary to slip in the repair patch. Work slowly and carefully as the book cloth can stretch or tear.
  7. Insert a dull knife or microspatula under the original turn-in (the part of the book cloth under the endpaper that was cut but not lifted up above) and the book board. The original book cloth will help support the endpaper as it is lifted.
  8. Carefully separate the endpaper away from the board with a gentle prying motion. Lift only as much of the end paper as needed to slip in the repair patch.