Repairing Signatures

loose pagesAll paper tears should be mended before re-attaching a signature to the text block. Various techniques for repairing damaged paper are discussed in earlier posts within the Book Repair Basics category.

Examine the sewing holes on the fold of each folio. If the sewing holes are enlarged or the paper between the holes is damaged, the fold should be repaired before the folio is re-attached to the text block. If the damage is limited to one or two sewing holes or to only part of the fold, repairing that portion of the fold is sufficient.
It is not always necessary to repair each folio of a signature. The center and outside folios often sustain the most damage. Repairing only those two folios is faster and decreases the thickness of repair tissue in the repaired signature.
When most or all of the folios in a signature are badly damaged, each folio should be repaired.
Repair the folds of the folios in the folded position. Paper repaired flat then folded tends to have a very sharp crease while the original signature folds tend to be rounded. Repairing the folios in the folded position helps retain the proper shape and placement of the fold.

Damaged Folios and Signatures

Over the next few posts, I will cover a variety of techniques for repairing or re-attaching damaged, separated leaves, folios and signatures.

Leaves – one single 2 sided sheet or page

Folios – a single folded sheet comprised of 2 leaves

Signatures  – gatherings of usually 4 folios



All of these can separate from the text block. Each can be repaired in several ways. Read through each of the options and select the one that will work best for your specific book.


Recasing a Hardcover Book – Method 2

Damaged Book HingesMETHOD 2:

Original Pastedown Lifted Off Board or Endpaper Replaced
Double check to see that the text block is correctly positioned in the case. The text block and cover need to be right side up to one another. The text block should be positioned correctly at the edge of the case.

  • Slip a large piece of wax paper into the fold of the endpaper to act as a moisture barrier. The wax paper should be larger than the endpaper.
  • Cover the wax paper with a sheet of waste paper. The waste sheet should also be larger than the endpaper.
  • Use a large brush to apply glue to the endpaper under the loose edge of crash.
  • Lay the crash onto the endpaper and work it in place with a folder. Be especially careful to work the crash into the text block shoulder.
  • Apply glue to the rest of the endpaper in a stat-burst  pattern.

As the glue moistens the endpaper it may begin to curl. Reverse the curl by
gently bending the paper in the opposite direction of the curl until it relaxes.
The glue will not begin to dry for several minutes so there is time to work
with the endpaper.

  • Remove the waste paper, keeping the wax paper in place.
  • When the endpaper is glued and flat, carefully lower the cover. Press down on the cover or rub lightly with a folder.
  • Open the cover slightly and check the pastedown. Do not fully open the cover unless absolutely necessary.
  • If the pastedown is in the wrong position, quickly lift it up and reposition it, then lay the cover back down.
  • If there are wrinkles or air bubbles in the pastedown, support the cover on the work table and use the side of your palm to smooth out the wrinkles. Work from the center to the edges of the pastedown in a starburst pattern.
  • Work the case cloth into the joint with the long end of a folder, insert rods and press the book under weight.
  • Let the endpaper dry for at least one half hour; then repeat for the opposite cover.
  • Dry the repaired book overnight. The book must dry under weight or the boards will warp and the endpapers will wrinkle.

Recasing a Hardcover Book – Method 1

Damaged Book HingesMETHOD 1:

Pastedown Still Attached To The Board
Before casing-in the text block, make sure the spine is right side up to the text block.


  • Slide the loose edge of the crash under the lifted pastedown.
  • Trim the crash if it does not fit and trim the corners diagonally.
  • When the loose edge of crash fits well, remove it.
  • Apply glue to the book board, working glue all the way down into the area where the pastedown and the book board are connected. Do not glue the lifted pastedown.
  • Slide the loose edge of the crash back under the lifted pastedown. Work it onto the glued board. Make sure there are no lumps in the crash.
  • Put a piece of wax paper in the hinge area and close the book.
  • Use the long edge of a folder to work the book cloth joint in place.
  • Open the book and support the cover on another book or a stack of boards.
  • Lift the loosened pastedown, and apply glue between the pastedown and the crash.
  • Use the flat edge of a folder to work the pastedown into position and to move any excess glue towards the hinge. Wipe away any excess glue.
  • Replace the wax paper in the hinge area and close the book.
  • Rework the joint into position with the long edge of a folder.
  • Turn the book over, and repeat for the other hinge.
  • When the second hinge is repaired, insert rods in both joints and dry under pressure.

After the repair is dry, open the case and inspect the repair. Use the techniques in TIGHTENING OR REPAIRING CASE HINGES to finish or camouflage the repairs if needed

Recasing – Two Damaged Hinges

Damaged Book HingesWhen both hinges are damaged or broken, the crash must be replaced before the text block is reattached to the case.
Cut or tear through any of the crash that is still attached in the hinge area.
If the endpapers need to be replaced or repaired, do those repairs first.

  • Clean the spine. Remove the old crash and any paper liners that come off easily. If the book is sewn, take-care not to damage the sewing threads. Remember, it is not essential to remove all the spine lining paper but do remove the paper that comes off easily.
  • Check the sewing threads. If any are broken and need repair, fix them first.
  • Check the signatures. If any are damaged and need repair, fix them.

In strict conservation repair, the spine should be lined with Japanese repair tissue before a text block is recased. Since this layer is applied with wheat paste, it is reversible in water and acts as a liner for the other layers of spine materials. The spines of books that are considered valuable should be lined with Japanese repair tissue. Otherwise, proceed to attaching the crash.

Japanese Tissue Lining: Cut a piece of Japanese repair tissue the height and width of the text block spine, with the grain running parallel to the spine of the text block. Apply paste to the tissue in a starburst pattern and attach it to the text block spine. Use a folder or 1” stencil brush to tap the tissue onto the spine. Let dry thoroughly before proceeding.


  • Cut a new piece of crash l/2” shorter than the height of the text block and about 4” wider than the spine of the text block.
  • Lay the text block on the edge of the work table and add weight. The entire spine should be accessible.
  • Apply PVA or PVA/paste mixture to the spine area. Center the crash on the glued spine, and work it down with a folder or a 1” stencil brush.
  • Let the crash dry on the text block spine.
  • Line the spine. The number and type of spine liners depends on the size of the book. 
  • When the pastedown is still attached to the board, use Method 1 (separate post) for recasing the book.
  • If the original pastedown has been lifted off the cover boards or if the endsheets have been replaced, use Method 2 (separate post) to attach the text block into the case.
  • If the original pastedown is being reused, gently slide a dull knife or a folder under the spine edge of each pastedown to carefully lift the pastedown away from the board.
  • Work the knife or folder under the original crash to support the paper.
  • Lift only enough pastedown to slip in the new crash. Place the text block into the case.

Recasing – One Damaged Hinge

book hinge repair

Examine both hinges very carefully to be sure only one hinge needs repair.

If more than l/4 if the crash on either hinge is damaged, that hinge must be replaced. Recasing the text block – two damaged hinges is the next post in this series.

  1. Cut through any crash that is still intact in the damaged hinge area so the cover falls away from the text block.
  2. Check the original spine liners. It they are not glued down, carefully feed PVA or PVA/mixture between the spine liner and the spine of the text block.
  3. Use a folder or 1” stencil brush to work the liner in place.
  4. If the spine liners are damaged or if they are not heavy enough, reline the spine using the directions in Lining the Text Block Spine after the new crash is mounted on the spine.
  5. Examine the endpapers. If either is missing or damaged, replace or repair it before going further.
  6. Support the loose cover with a book or stack of boards; then slide a dull knife or a folder between the pastedown and the book board. Work carefully so as not tear the pastedown and lift only enough of the pastedown to slip in the new crash. The pastedown can tear easily so try to work the folder or knife under the old crash to support the pastedown as it is lifted up.
  7.  Cut a new piece of crash l/2” shorter than the height of the text block and the width of the text block plus about 2”.
  8.  Put a weight on top of the test block then apply PVA or PVA/mixture to the spine of the text block.
  9.  Place the new crash onto the spine. The crash should cover the entire width of the spine and extend at least 1 l/2” past the shoulder of the text block.
  10.  Use a folder or stencil brush to work the crash onto the spine. Let dry thoroughly.
  11.  When the crash is dry, check the spine lining paper. If the spine liners are damaged or if they are not heavy enough, reline the spine using the directions in Lining the Text Block Spine. The number and kind of spine liners depend on the volume. Even if the spine does not need lining, it is still a good idea to put one thin layer of paper or Japanese repair tissue over the crash to anchor it to the text block. Let it dry before proceeding.
  12.  Slide the loose edge of the crash under the lifted pastedown to check for fit. If the loose flap of the crash is too wide, trim it to fit.
  13.  Lift the crash out from under the pastedown and diagonally clip the ends of the corners. They tend to fold under as the crash is inserted under the lifted pastedown.
  14.  Apply glue to the book board. Do not glue the lifted pastedown.
  15.  Slide the loose flap of crash back under the lifted pastedown. Work it into place, making sure there are no lumps or folds in the crash.
  16.  Place a piece of wax paper in the hinge area and close the cover. Use the long edge of a folder to work the joint into place.
  17.  Open the book and support the cover on another book or a stack of boards.
  18.  Lift the pastedown and apply glue between the pastedown and the crash/board.
  19.  Use the flat edge of a folder to press the pastedown into position, working from the fore edge toward the hinge area. Wipe away any excess glue.
  20.  Put a piece of wax paper in the hinge area and close the cover.
  21.  Use the long edge of a folder to work the joint into place. Insert rods in both joints, and dry under pressure.
  22.  Open the cover. Inspect the repair. Use the techniques in Repairing Torn Endpapers and Tightening Case Hinges to finish or camouflage the repair.


Recasing a Hard Cover Book

In the next few posts I will talk about recasing a text block into the cover of a book.

The hinge is the weakest part of a case bound book. As explained in an earlier post on how books are put together, the text block is constructed in one operation while the case is constructed in another operation.


The spine of the text block is covered with crash, and the crash is attached to the book board. The crash is covered by the pasted down endpaper.
Over time, gravity pulls the text block away from the cover, or the crash can
be damaged which allows the text block to separate from the cover. If the
cover is in good condition, the text block can be recased into the original

Some text blocks are so large and heavy that they will always be prone to
falling out of their cases. In such a circumstance, it is wise to recase the
text block so it is flush with the bottom of the case. That way the shelf can
support the entire text block.

The book case joints must be in excellent condition to reuse the case as is.
If the joint area is worn, repair the cover using the techniques outlined in
earlier posts as a guideline. The repair will differ slightly from the instructions if the text block is not be attached to the cover boards but the basic principles are the same.
When the rebacking (spine and hinge repair) is complete, recase the text
Check the endpapers carefully and determine whether they can be reused or
if they need to be replaced or repaired.

Rebacking Method 2 – Mounting the Original Spine onto the New Book Cloth Spine


  • Peel as much of the original paper spine inlay from the original spine cloth as possible. If the paper is well adhered to the cloth, don’t force it off the spine cloth.
  • Trim the frayed edges with a straight edge and X-acto knife, taking care not to remove any of the letters or design.
  • Lay the original spine against the new book cloth spine to check for a proper fit. The original spine should not extend into the hinge area as it will add bulk that will inhibit the cover from opening freely. Trim the original if it is too wide.
  • Lay the original spine wrong side up on a piece of waste paper and apply PVA glue in a star burst pattern.
  • Position the original spine over the new book cloth spine.


  • Cover the original spine with a piece of wax paper and rub down with a folder.
  • With the wax paper still covering the spine, wrap the book snugly in an elastic bandage (the kind used for a sprained ankle). Pull the bandage tight as the book is wrapped. The bandage will apply even pressure over the entire curved spine.
  • When the spine is dry, double check that all the edges are adhered.

Rebacking Method 2 – Attaching The Second Side of the New Book Cloth Spine

rebacking a book

  • Cover the spine inlay with wax paper and blotters. Apply weight and let dry.
  • When the spine inlay is dry, gently wrap it around the text block with the new book cloth on top of the original book cloth.
  • Use the long edge of a folder to work the cloth into the hinge area.
  • Lift the original book cloth and lay the new spine cloth in place. If the new spine cloth is too wide to fit, trim it down.
  • Lift up the new book cloth and apply PVA glue to the book board.
  • Work the glue all the way back into the area where the original book cloth and book board are still attached.

DO NOT put glue in the joint area or glue down the original book cloth.


  • Lay the new book cloth back in place. Work the cloth into the hinge area with the long edge of a folder.
  • Protect the cloth with wax paper if necessary.
  • Put the book under weight to dry for at least 10 minutes so the glue will set.
  • If the new spine cloth extends past the top or bottom of the book more than 5/8”, trim it down.
  • Clip the points off the corners for ease in turning-in.
  • Protect the bottom extension of spine book cloth by placing the book on another stack of boards or another book.
  • Carefully tuck in the right side of the turn-in, then the spine area, and finally the left side of the turn-in.
  • 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.
  • Set the book on the work table to check the position of the turn-in area. The edge of the new spine book cloth should be level with the original boards so it rests flat and even against the table. If there is space between the table and the new spine book cloth or if the book cloth wrinkles against the table, the turn-in is not correct. Readjust the turn in. Check it again.
  • When the turn-in is positioned correctly, lay the book on its spine. Use a folder to crease the turn-in in position. This crease sets the turn-in position and makes it easy to reposition it once the glue is applied.
  • Unfold the turn-in, brush on PVA glue, and carefully refold.
  • Use a folder to crease the glued turn-in into its previously creased position.
  • Re-check to make sure the spine area sits flat against the edge of a work table. If there is a gap or wrinkles, reposition the turn-in before the glue dries.
  • Wipe away any excess glue. Work the new book cloth into the hinge area with a folder.
  • Put wax paper inside the book hinge area to protect the end sheet from excess glue. Insert rods or knitting needles in the joint and dry under weight.
  • Let dry for at least ten minutes and repeat the procedure on the other end of the book.
  • Apply glue to the raised flaps, and lay them into position, pressing them onto the new book cloth. There may be a slight gap between the flap and the edge of the endpaper.
  • Lay a strip of wax paper in the joint areas, insert rods or knitting needles and dry overnight under weight.

Rebacking Method 2 – Measuring the Width of the Joint

spinesAfter the glue has set, use one of the following methods to mark the width of the joint. This gives the position of the spine inlay on the new spine cloth.



Method 1:

  • Lay the book on the work surface with the new spine cloth against the table, wrong side up.
  • Slip a rod into the joint against the table, press down gently on the joint area.
  • Mark the position where the shoulder of the text block spine meets the new book cloth.
  • Repeat this measurement on the other end of the book.

Method 2:

  • The joint width can also be measured with the book upright.
  • Protect the new book cloth by supporting the text block on the edge of the work table or a pile of books.
  • Wrap the new book cloth around the spine and press the new cloth into the joint with your fingers.
  • Mark the position of shoulder on the new book cloth.
  • Repeat on the other end of the book.

Lay the paper spine inlay on a piece of waste paper and apply glue in a star burst pattern.
Use the pencil marks to position the glued spine inlay onto the wrong side of the new book cloth spine making sure the inlay is even with the top and bottom edges of the cover boards.