Whether you are new to book restoration or are an expert in the field, this video is always a joy to watch. It features one of the giants in the book world, Jeff Peachey, whose website I highly recommend checking out.
I think this video serves to beautifully illustrate the art of bookbinding. It has that Old World feel that most people imagine when they hear about book restoration.
This craft can seem mysterious to some. It certainly seemed that way to me at first. There are a lot of components in book binding, at least in the way it used to be done.
Restoration is defined in the dictionary as: the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.
It is a serviceable definition for book restoration as our goal typically is to end up with a book that looks new (or as new as possible) and beautiful. This can vary, based on what a customer would prefer. Some people want this, and some people want the book to retain the old appearance while still being stable.
The key with book restoration is to essentially go in like a savage (I use that term oh so very liberally and dramatically, please do not picture me ripping at books with abandon) and do what is necessary to stabilize the book. Once the book is stable, you work methodically to hide what you've done so the finished product looks like it was never broken and then repaired.
What makes book restoration complicated is that there are so many techniques. This is why it takes so long to learn. And honestly, you never stop learning. That is something that drew me to this field. With restoration there is always something new to learn. A new technique, a new tool, a new material to work with.
And this flexibility is necessary in restoration. There are so many different ways of doing things because there are so many different kinds of damages. Everything that has ever happened to a book will influence how it needs to be restored:
- What kind of adhesives were used to bind the book
- What kind of paper was used
- What kind of leather, or book cloth
- What was the leather treated with
- Where was the book stored
- Were there any previous repairs
Because of this, no two books are alike. One leather reback can take me four hours and come out beautifully with no problems. Another will take a week and will put me through hell. This is also why book restorers work so closely with their customers. We spend a significant amount of time asking questions, discussing options, and explaining the process. A necessity, but an enjoyable one.