Planning Your Repairs

checklistJust like any activity you don’t do often, book repairs should be planned and your work area prepared before you start.

  • Read the directions for any repair thoroughly before attempting the repair.
  • Make sure the workspace is large enough to work comfortably. Clear away excess objects and have the tools and materials needed close at hand.
  • Think about where the repaired books will dry. Materials that are glued or pasted must dry under weight or the paper will buckle.
  • If the book has several problems, start with the simplest and work toward the most complex. In general the text block is repaired first (torn pages, damaged signatures, etc.) then the cover (rebacking, mending damaged comers, etc.). The last part of the book to be repaired is the attachment of the text block to the cover (the crash and endpapers).
  • Try to group similar types of repairs together. In addition to saving time and materials, repeating the same repair several times is a good way to improve your repair techniques.

Initially, it’s a good idea to practice each repair either on a book that is not as special as the one you need to repair or on plain paper. Different types of paper and different book structures will react differently to the paste or glue. For instance, shiny, coated paper will not absorb as much moisture as uncoated paper so less paste is used on the latter kind of paper.

Read the explanation and instructions before beginning a repair. Take time to assemble all the tools and materials called for in the instructions. Reread the instructions after practicing a repair two or three times. They will probably be more understandable and some questions that came up during the repair may be answered. Once it is clear why and how a repair works, it is easier to choose a technique to match a particular repair need and not rely on the written instructions.
The materials and techniques used in conservation book repair should not damage books and, if a repair is not successful, it can usually be reversed and repeated.