Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Massive Tome

When my coworker asked me to combine these four volumes of D&D into one volume, I tried to talk him out of it. A huge, Family-Bible-sized book is really impractical for most purposes—heavy, bulky, awkward to handle. But he was perfectly comfortable with that and truly wanted an ancient-looking, massive tome. It seems that massive tomes are becoming my specialty.
Cotton flannel back liner over raised bands, with black linen endband strip.

The marbled text block support will prevent the heavy text block from sagging.

I cut out the section for the chain holder.

Perfect paper, wrong color, so I dyed it with leather dye. And added many coats of decoupage so the dye won't come off on hands (or turn green if it gets wet).

Sunken cords.

I tried many dye combinations.

Printed marbled endpapers with linen hinges, sewn in.

The finished book, with clasp.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Formed In Secret

I missed the deadline for submission to the Guild of Book Workers "Formation" exhibit. As usual, I had no idea of how much work I'd made for myself with this project. I'll find a place for it somewhere. This binding takes its inspiration from a booklet created years ago by a friend who is an artist and pro-life advocate.

FORMED IN SECRET deconstructs two books and combines them using techniques I learned from repairing huge family Bibles. Interior features await discovery by the reader/viewer. Things formed in secret: Pearls, geodes, human beings.
Dimensions: 11inH x 8-1/2inW x 3-3/4in. Open: 16-1/2in
Material: Marbled paper, bookboard, handmade paper, linen thread. Oyster shell, pearl, geode, sonogram.

The door opens to reveal what is formed in secret.....

I used a curved needle to work on this bulky spine. The end pieces reference the leather straps that support massive old tomes such as the Martyrs Mirror in my previous post. The stitching had to be carried to the covers for support, but the words "Formed in Secret" are discernible.

The foredge is supported with a stiff board that is attached by joint tackets.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Martyr's Mirror

When a gentleman from a local Historical Society asked me to repair this massive tome, I hesitated. First, I asked for help from a well-known conservator with a long career's worth of knowledge and experience. He kindly sent me a clutch of photographs from two different Martyrs' Mirrors that he had restored. I knew I couldn't replicate his beautiful work, which included making new brass-studded leather straps, the complete removal and replacement of the corner bosses, and other expert restorations. Because he was unavailable due to his institutional responsibilities, this repair was up to me after all. I carefully examined the book and stated in writing what I could (and could not) accomplish, and the trustees gave the go-ahead. My goal was to make it user-friendly and save original materials as much as possible, which is my goal with all my work. 
The cords were broken and spine detached.

The metal corner bosses had been nailed in, and the nails pounded down on the other side. I couldn't get them up. Remnants of the leather straps are visible.

I added strong thread to the existing cords, to attach them to the boards.

Getting the spine off (so that I could do the structural work underneath) was a time-consuming task.

Original endbands were hand-sewn over cords and then stuck on.

Endbands mended with linen, to be reapplied.

Heavy cotton flannel liner forms a strong attachment to the cover and protects the old, original cords.

Testing dyes to match the cover leather.

The original spine was reapplied over new leather. Now the covers are secure. The unseen extra layer of back liner provides strength, since I did not try to replace the leather straps.

This new leather looked so nice I didn't want to cover it with the old shabby spine at first. But the overall effect is better with the old spine on.

I added new fabric spine liners but left two of the old ones in place.
The original printer's waste cover liners were pasted back down.

I had to invent a support for the foredge, since the clasp hung down after the cover was put on. This enabled me to work on the spine while the book was clamped in place.

The view from the interior of the support, with clasp hanging down. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

John Baskerville’s Bible

 John Baskerville, the inventor of the Baskerville typeface that we still use today, produced this beautiful Bible in 1769 (Old Testament) and 1771 (New Testament). One rare-book site calls it “one of the most beautiful of all English Bibles, from a typographical viewpoint.” (

Title page and engraving of Adam and Eve.

The original spine was broken at the joints.

Cleaning off the spine.

Corner after repair with dyed Moriki.

Corner before repair.

Cotton flannel back liner, smoothed over the original cords.

Starting to remove the spine after several applications of Cellugel to stabilize the leather.

Out of order, but here is the finished work. The original spine is applied over the new, color-matched leather.

The spine came off in one piece.

Tying up the spine, before dyeing the leather.

I tried several combinations of dyes to get the right color.

The uneven tone was just right for the antique cover repair. Moriki is easy to work with.

The current owner wanted to bequeath it to his son to use for personal Bible-reading and family devotions. It was, of course, a tight back (the spine adhered directly to the signatures). I told him that I had seen another copy of this book priced at $5000 in a recent catalog, rebound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. When I explained that changing the structure to a hollow back would make it stronger and more usable, but would reduce the value of the book, he simply said he didn’t care about the monetary value—he wanted his son to be able to use the Bible.

So, taking a deep breath, I removed the spine—all in one piece!—after repeated applications of Cellugel to stabilize the brittle leather. I felt deep respect for the printers and binders who had produced such a high quality work. In my imagination, the book seemed to respond happily to the treatment. The owner and his son were happy with the work. This was one of my favorite projects.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A new piece of equipment at just the right time

This beautiful Baskerville Bible was my major project for two months. (Photos to come when I have more time.) I needed a lying press to work on the spine. Darryl made me this wonderful piece in an hour or two in his shop!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"The Holiness of God" book story

I first posted this on Facebook, but want to connect it here as well. One evening last week, I was talking with my husband Darryl O'Connor about how R.C. Sproul's book, "The Holiness of God," helped me understand my need for a Savior. The very next day, I was shelving at Wonder Book and ran across this study guide. It was 95 cents because it was already written in. I read some of the notes and thought, "This person really understands!" I turned to the title page--and gasped. My friend Cathy Charnley--maid of honor in my wedding, and my friend for 30 years--died of cancer a year ago. Here is her beautiful voice speaking heart to heart with her Lord and mine. Now she sees Him face to face.
     My job at the bookstore isn't prestigious or highly paid. But I believe in its mission of rescuing books, and really enjoy my coworkers. And moments like this happen nowhere else.
   I am writing a novel, THE BROKEN BIBLE (which I hope will become the first in a series) about a Christian bookbinder who solves mysteries. I've enjoyed Kate Carlisle's Bibliophile Mystery Series and want to add my own works, with a Christian emphasis, to this subgenre of cozy mystery fiction. (Bibles often yield amazing stories. Have you heard about the Wicked Bible?)  I like to repair books that aren't particularly rare or valuable, but that have great meaning to their owners--and I like to tell their stories.  This study guide to R.C. Sproul's book is one of those stories.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Flower Guide

The Bird Guide repair (November 2016 post) met with approval when it was shown to the owner's family at Thanksgiving last year. So its companion book, the Flower Guide, came to me for repair this year from the brother of the Bird Guide owner. The cover was completely gone, but an online image yielded a photo inset for the cover and the custom-fitted box. I enjoyed working on this project.