Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bible Doctrine, Special Edition

Bookbinding and theology go together. I love to restore old Bibles and those Bible-story books for children from the 1800s. It doesn't have to be serious all the time, however. My husband and a friend were joking about their comprehension of a weighty tome called "Bible Doctrine" (which is actually a fine resource for study and has a place on our bookshelf). Listening in on the good-natured jesting, I had an idea. I found the perfect book at Wonder Book and gave it a new cover. The next time we got together, my husband presented our friend Chris with his very own special edition of "Bible Doctrine."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Photo captions

Eventually I'll figure out how to add photo captions. Till then, for the photos below:
Top left: Repair materials for Bibles, including antiqued fabric headband.
Top right: The repaired Bible for the Heritage Society.
Bottom photo, Barbara is on the left. Note the "paperback to hardback" on the table.

Heritage Day 2010

My husband Darryl, and my neighbor Barbara, helped me again this year. We answered questions, enjoyed the parade, and talked with people who stopped by while I sewed my demonstration textblock (Don Etherington's autobiography in unbound signatures). I set up a photo collage of the Bibles I am repairing for the Heritage Society and directed people to the Heritage Society building where one of the repaired Bibles was on display. The weather was good, unlike last year, when we got rained out at the end. We were on the shady side of the street and two food tents were nearby. We relaxed, hung out, took breaks to look at the rest of the exhibits and vendors up and down Main Street, and thoroughly enjoyed the day. It's because of Heritage Day that my book-repair business has its name, by the way. I needed a business name for the application last year, and Heritage Book and Bible Repair simply fits.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Paperback to Hardback

Sometimes a bookbinder just wants to have fun. Or at least a bookbinder's idea of fun. When I started reading this used paperback, pages began falling out. How annoying! I cut off the covers, reinforced the spine with sawn-in cords, glue, and new mull, and gave it new boards. I decided to practice the quick-and-easy way of creating insets, so I cut a piece of typing paper the same size as the paperback cover illustration and pasted it onto the board. After pressing and drying, I cut around the edges and peeled away the paper, bringing up a layer of board with it, creating the impression for the inset. After covering the boards with black bookcloth, gluing the inset, and finishing the rebinding, I finished reading my mystery.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

V CORPS Operations in the E T O

This military history volume needed a few operations of its own. It had been well-used, battered, and repaired with duct tape, clear packing tape, and hot glue--the evil triumvirate, I call them. An unidentifiable sticky substance created the white patch on the front cover. The owner, a soft-spoken World War II veteran, had loaned the book and other memorabilia to a school class. I enjoyed working on the book, despite the challenges, and delivered it to the gentleman just this morning. He is happy with the repairs.

I asked him a few questions, since he'd told me that the book was one of only 100 copies. It's filled with photographs, declassified documents, and maps. As is true of so many of that generation, he was reticent and modest. But he'd been involved in all the operations described, and he'd been one of those who entered Auschwitz for the first time. He said the soldiers used eyedroppers to drip water into the mouths of the prisoners, 10 drops at a time. Later they added sugar to the water. By the third day, the suffering people trusted them enough to voluntarily open their mouths. Gradually nourishment was added until they could tolerate solid food again.

I told him it had been a pleasure to work on this book for him. He smiled. "There's something about this book I haven't told you," he replied. "A man called me recently and offered [several thousand] dollars for it."

I sincerely thanked him for not telling me that until after the work was completed!

This book, and its owner, have a heroic story to tell. I will never know the full extent of it. But even just this glimpse is a privilege.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Antiquing bookcloth

It's been a while since my last post due to snow shoveling, extra hours at work, and a rebacking that has been more of a challenge than I anticipated. So I'm going into the archives for this entry. For Christmas one year, I offered a free book repair to a friend, who brought me her family Bible. I sponged Venetian Gold paint onto white buckram bookcloth and crumpled it to attain the same look as the original (unsalvageable) antiqued cover; made an inset from the cover illustration; and lifted the illustrated endpapers, covering the joint with brown Moriki tissue.
(1) Photo top: Endpapers, lifted from original cover and re-used; (2) middle, the Bible before repair (note the greenish tone of the brittle, unsalvageable cover); (3) bottom left, the antiqued buckram; (4) bottom right, the finished Bible.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Psalm 91

I mentioned in an earlier post that I enjoy repairing study Bibles whose value lies in their owner's personal history of interaction with Scripture. When the owner of this Bible learned he had a serious illness, he turned to Psalm 91 for comfort. Over time, the Bible broke open at this place.
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence...." The entire psalm offers hope that the Lord hears the cry for help and will answer: "With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
The top photos show how the repairs turned out. Now my work is part of this owner's history with his Bible. He continues to read this psalm and recall the faithfulness of God.
Note: The Austin Burnham photos may have been confusing. The top photo is the repaired book; the middle photo shows the mold-ravaged pages before repair. I forgot to photograph them afterward.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reproduction endpapers

The original endpapers on this children's book (The Boys and Girls of Polly's Ring) had become too brittle to work with. I located a distributor of reproduction late-19th and early-20th-century endpapers and ordered them from England. They weren't an exact match but kept the look close enough, especially after I tea-dyed them to lead naturally to the aged paper of the text.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Samuel Wesley 1742 book continued

I followed the placement of the original cords to sew the pages after guarding the backs of the signatures with Japanese tissue tinted to match the sturdy old rag paper.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Joy of Cooking and Wizard of Oz Pop-Up Book

Pop-up books have always been fun and collectible. These days, "paper engineers" such as Robert Sabuda create amazing 3-D scenes that fascinate all ages. This photo shows his Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, one of the books I repaired and gave as Christmas gifts.
I mentioned my neighbor's Joy of Cooking in a September 2009 post about Middletown's Heritage Day celebration. This was a perfect demonstration book. I removed the shiny tape from the spine, cleaned off the interior text-block, replaced the failed mull and lining, and attached new endpapers as curious folks stopped by the table throughout the day. (The repair went well but slowly due to interruptions, including a torrential downpour that shut down all the booths early.) Later at home, I reunited the two cover pieces with a bookcloth patch, cased in the book, and glued the original spine over the new material.
In an email, Barbara wrote that the repaired book resurrected fond memories: "It's all about childhood, mom in the kitchen, and the smells of something warm and yummy for dinner....... [The book] felt as I remembered it as a child--splattered but solid. I had no idea a repaired old cookbook could bring back such wonderful feelings."

Sunday, January 24, 2010


This little gem recently appeared on our carts of books to be shelved at Wonder Book (, priced at $2.95. It's a second edition of Samuel Wesley's poems, published in 1742. Samuel, a minister and poet, was the father of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist denomination, and Charles Wesley, who wrote well-known hymns such as "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O For a Thousand Tongues." I love to see how literary talents are passed through generations. Perhaps Samuel Wesley's poems are not read by many people today, but his son's hymns continue to move hearts in worship.
The original boards were preserved by an anonymous 20th-century binder, who wrapped them in black fabric and painted the spine silver. I intend to protect and re-attach the boards and create a new spine.
Samuel's poetry is fun to read, actually. Here he gives advice to a friend whose demanding siblings are protesting their brother's upcoming marriage:
You dare not marry, Friend, you own,
For fear your Family should frown;
Why, Wedlock would your Freedom gain,
Which others uses to enchain:
Y' had better follow my Advice,
And marry once, than marry twice;
Betwixt your Sister, and your Brother,
Husband to one, and Wife to t'other.
As my young Wonder Book coworkers might say: "Ooooh, that's harsh!"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Austin Burnham Subscription Book

Here are close-ups of the Austin Burnham Civil War History subscription book I repaired for Harry's Christmas gift (see previous post about Christmas books).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Princess Adventure Bible

A friend asked me to bind a Bible for her granddaughter, using this hot-pink spangled costume fabric. What to use for the spine? I visited my local Salvation Army store and found a hot-pink purse for $1.25. It's chrome-tanned leather, not vegetable tanned, but for my purposes it worked out just fine. This "Princess Adventure Bible" is one of my favorite projects.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Soldier's Bible

The Soldier's Bible
This pocket New Testament, printed by the Reilly & Lee Co. of Chicago, appears to have gone through a war. The metal front cover is a prayer engraved in a black-letter typeface: "May the Lord be with you." The flyleaf inscription is written in blue fountain-pen ink faded from age and damp. I picture the soldier's mother writing, "Love to you B____y from Mother," the simple words conveying her heartfelt prayer for her loved one's safe return. Acid migration from the rusted "turn-ins" has blackened the edges of the pages. This little 3"x5" New Testament is sometimes called a "Heart-Shield Bible" because it fits into a breast pocket, protecting the heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christmas 2009 books

Here’s the Christmas 2009 group, clockwise from the back: (1) An Ernest Nister reproduction “picture wheel” Christmas book—the wheels had been accidentally glued into place and the tabs torn off; (2) Robert Sabuda’s Alice in Wonderland; (3) The Iris Book; (4) a children’s storybook, A Dozen and One: The Boys and girls of Polly’s Ring; (5) A Christmas book of magazine articles from 1884, including several by Louisa May Alcott and other well-known children’s authors of the late-nineteenth century, that had lost its back cover in its 125-year journey; and (5) Austin Burnham’s subscription book for a Civil War History, complete with handwritten subscribers’ lists indicating whether they wanted clothbound or leather.

The Civil War History was a disaster—pages were moldy and crumbling along the gutter about 50 pp deep; the tissue guards for the beautiful engravings had browned; the cover was moldy. Although dear Harry had given it to me expecting to pay for a restoration, there was no way, in my mind. First, I’d normally not even touch it; frankly, its deterioration went way beyond my ability to do a thorough restoration job. Secondly, even if a conservator were to attempt it, the cost would probably run more than $1000. So I did it for love, not money, which involved much washing of pages and covers, and muttering, and brushing-out of pages outdoors while wearing a mask.

Oh, right, I said “enjoyable.” Well, I love to imagine the stories behind these books. I picture Austin Burnham as a Civil War veteran, perhaps wounded in action, going door-to-door selling subscriptions to earn a living after the war. I did find online an Austin Burnham buried in a New England cemetery who was a Civil War Veteran. The subscriptions, however, all came from Pennsylvania towns and the sample pages were printed not only in English, but also in German using a black-letter typeface. Somehow the book appealed to me emotionally and against my better judgment I tackled it. It’s not perfect but Harry can leaf through it now without endangering his health or having it disintegrate in his hands.

The Sabuda pop-up books are simply marvels of paper engineering, marred only by the publisher’s unwise decision to use merely the cover paper as hinges. Of course the joints tore, rendering the book unsaleable. That’s how it ended up in a remainder pile at Wonder Book. I bought a bunch of them, mended them with mull and reinforced the outer joints with black cloth bookbinding tape (which matched the black-outlined cover illustrations), and gave many as Christmas gifts. They appeal to all ages and both genders. A multiply-pierced young man bought one for his girlfriend who collects Alice in Wonderland, and his delight in the book was as enthusiastic as that of my young nieces—and their parents—when they opened them Christmas weekend at Grandma’s.

Every book needing repair has its own story in addition to its text, sometimes known and sometimes imagined.

Christmas books 2009