Friday, April 6, 2012

British and Irish Salmonidae, 1887

Hummm, I thought this book might be of interest to some readers of my blog, so I decided to post it. You see, this is an example of a "restoration" gone wrong. Someone, hopefully not a person who makes a living as a conservation bookbinder, tried to "patch up" damaged parts of this cloth binding. Indeed, we sometimes get clients asking us to do very minimum minor restoration on their books, and often what they ask us to do is basically to "patch-it-up". I, personally, don't like those sort of jobs because I know they aren't perfectly fixed and most of the time, it's a tricky job to perform. HOWEVER, those patched-up parts shouldn't be the first parts to be broken or get damaged again as the years go by. You know what I mean? OK, take a look at this book. Normally, the top and bottom spine of a book get damaged even if everything else is still fairly intact, like this book here. So someone tried to "fix" the spine, as you see. The method/approach of which he/she attempted was not totally far off in terms of "patching up the fragments",by any means, yet the integrity of the repairs were incredibly loose (literally) and the craftsmanship was absolutely sloppy, resulting in the parts to have fallen apart too prematurely and damaged the original even more. As a conservation bookbinder, I'm always very nervous and on edge when handling a work because the fate of the book is totally in my hands.- I'm not allowed to make mistakes, let alone damage the book because of me. Anyway, in case I sound like I'm being arrogant by pointing faults of someone else's work here, I just want to clarify that I'm not saying I'm better than other binders. (Absolutely no way! I'm FAR from perfect!!! I'm an amateur compared to the masters in the world!!) What I want to tell you here is to be careful which bookbinder you're gonna ask to restore your precious books. And if you aren't a bookbinder, but wanna fix a book by yourself, no matter how minute the task might look to be, you should consult a bookbinder whose reputation is solid.
Mr. Ross, in case you are reading my blog, I'd like to inform you that it'll be another couple of days till I finish all of your books. - I have two more books to go. I apologize for the delay. I'm a horrible multitask-er, so I can't work on more than one book at a time. We'll e-mail you when they are actually done. Thank you for your patience.


  1. I don't think I would want to tackle a restoration project, as I have had no training in this area. My mother was quite cross, because she told a friend I would repair her old dictionary - and I refused, as I didn't feel competent. A difficult situation...
    I have a couple of lovely old editions of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Alice through the Looking Glass" at home, which I would love to restore - but I'm nervous of making things worse (as you say, it's quite easy to do!).
    My niece's next-door neighbour is a professional book restorer and repairer. She works for museums and private collectors. I was lucky enough to be taken into her studio for a look around (oooo!!) She was working on a collection of very old maps in a map case. It was so interesting to hear her descriptions of how they were tackling this work.
    Perhaps one day I'll have the knowledge to try a few restorations for myself.
    Meanwhile, I will leave it to folks like you and Karen!

    1. Hi Lizzie!
      It's always good to follow your instinct about things like restoring a book - if you don't feel confident to it, you shouldn't. (Murphy's law!?!?) Things like that come up occasionally to me as well, i.e. de-acidification of manuscripts. In which case, even if it's something I might be able to pull off (because I "sort of know" the procedure,) we refer someone else, who specializes paper conservation, to do the job. That's because I NEVER "test" my skills on someone else's property nor do I ever do things that I'm not perfectly confident about doing to them. It's not my specialty to begin with. Anyway, as you're a bookbinder, isn't it nice to know a real professional bookbinder in person!! The real bookbinder should profess all the knowledge and actual skills that involve "bookbinding", and your friend Karen must be someone like that, considering she's working for a museum!! I envy you! If I were you, I'd spend as much time as possible with her, watch what she does!!

      As for your "Alice" books, I don't know what kind of restoration they might require, but you can always make archival boxes for them. THAT you can do as it doesn't involve actual restoration on the books. Boxes will prevent farther damages to the book. :-) And for your mom's friend's dictionary, if it's something as simple as "replacing the case", you can definitely do it without any advice from a person like me, no? If you send me some pictures of the dictionary, I can tell you if it requires to preserve the originals and if it's something you can actually do. I'm saying this because it's just heartbreaking to know the dictionary's sitting there broken! She needs to be fixed and used again! :-)Well, in any case, can Karen do pro-bono work? Then you can watch her working on it, too!

  2. Hello Mie,

    yes, I read you blog with much admiration and appreciation. Please, take the time necessary to do your best efforts. Arigato. Chet

  3. This is suck a great restoration. I can't see the connecting between original book cloth and repair part... How do you do this? I can see you're using actual cloth to restore it, what else? Great job!

  4. *such a great (sorry...)

  5. This is an absolutely phenomenal repair! I have a couple of first edition books with similar rubbing and bumping (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and Murphy by Samuel Beckett at the moment) and I have been scouring the internet for how to perform a similar repair, but with no luck! I just finished rebinding a first of Les Plaisirs et les Jours (1906) by Marcel Proust that someone had given a full duct tape. I used your fantastic YouTube videos to teach myself how to do it! Now complete and restored in full calf. I was wondering, you think it might be possible to explain or do a video on how to do a repair like the above, or might you be able to point me in the direction of that information? I would be immensely grateful. Peter

    1. Hi Peter,
      As you might have noticed, I haven't been able to free up time to create any new videos for years, and I feel sorry for folks who actually still wait for me to make more videos. Next one up is supposed to be about a simple & easy french-joint case making, so if I were to create instructional videos on restoration, it would be years from now. IN the mean time, if you have any questions, I'll try to give you advices over e-mail as much as I can.