Monday, 23 February 2009

I am in Utopia.

The Golden Cockerel Press edition. Decorations by Eric Gill, printed by Robert Gibbings in 1929, lovely stuff. Bound in a very un-inspiring, faded blue buckram. Some light damage to the tail of the spine... a perfect candidate for re-binding. The first job is to clean the pages with a soft brush. This is to remove any material that has found a home with-in the pages such as biscuits and small people.

Once the small people have been given a new home the text block is removed. This may appear to be a little bit on the crude side but it is an important step. The boards are a deep yellow in colour, rather like straw. This because one of the components of the board make-up is... straw. We call it Straw Board, gripping stuff.

The next step is to clean the old spine linings off.It is important to be able to understand what sort of old adhesive has been used, in this case Hot or Scotch Glue. It is very similar to Rabbit Skin glue. I place the book, spine up in a finishing press with old boards to support and protect the text block. I apply a coat of paste to the spine and cover with cling film. The cling film keeps the paste moist thus re-activating the old adhesive, allowing me to gently remove the old kraft paper and mull. The sine is cleaned slowly to ensure that the paper is not damaged. More paste is applied as required.

When all the old stuff has been removed the spine is allowed to dry, I usually leave it overnight.

The sewing is removed and any final cleaning is then carried out. The sections can then be pressed individually to remove the old backing and battle can commence.


Paul said...


It looks like you've cut the paste down just beyond the mull to separate the text block from the covers. Why this approach instead of separating the EP from the text block and then slicing down alongside the tb?

Paul said...


When you are re-backing a book, do you ever leave the text block as sewn or do you always assume you'll have to re-sew?

If you're dealing with top edge or foredge decoration, can you re-sew and still manage to realign the leaves well enough so that the decoration isn't disturbed?

the bookbinder said...


both good questions. First I must stress that I always approach each book a-fresh, what works for one book may not be suitable for the next.

The separation of the the text block from the old covers. You are correct that the cut has been made just beyond the mull. I used this method as i was not going to keep the old paste down and was unsure of the amount of adhesive holding the end paper on (the end paper was tipped on). By removing the old spine linings and glue I had a clearer idea as to what was happening with the end paper.

I always try not to re-sew a text block if possible. As you have pointed out the realignment of sections is always with out problems. If the sewing is good then I would always council leaving it well alone. If you wish, the original sewing can always be reinforced with secondary sewing through a suitable material such as linen, fray not or aero linen.

I hope this has been some help.


Paper Dragon Books said...

where d`you get the book from mark?
clients? or personal

The bookbinder said...

Hi Paper Dragon Books, good to hear from you. The book is mine. It is a speculative binding and I hope that it will be for sale at the flow Gallery later in the year.

Paper Dragon Books said...

though so
you always seem to come by the good stuff mark...

the bookbinder said...

I suppose that it is question of looking around. The internet is a wonderful thing. It is not so difficult to get hold of GC Press books this side of the pond.