Repair of an 18th century Half-Leather Bound Book

  Love in a Village , 1787, a half-leather bound volume with both boards off.

Love in a Village, 1787, a half-leather bound volume with both boards off.

This lovely little volume, Love in a Village: A Comic Opera, published in 1787, came in with both the front and back covers detached. This is a very common type of damage on old and rare books; use and handling can weaken the leather at the joints over time, and eventually they give way entirely.

 Both the front and back covers were detached on the volume.

Both the front and back covers were detached on the volume.

In addition the endcaps at both head and tail of the book were missing. The repair entailed reattaching the boards and reconstructing the endcaps, using primarily toned Japanese paper.

 Preparing to lift the leather for reattachment.

Preparing to lift the leather for reattachment.

Japanese paper is a handmade mulberry paper frequently used by conservators for strong yet flexible repairs. The long fibres of the plant material used to make the paper provide great strength, making it perfect for a repair such as reattaching a light board joint. The cover is small and light enough that the paper alone is strong enough to attach the board and withstand gentle use. The thin paper can slide underneath the original leather without causing any extra bulk.

 Japanese paper is a strong yet flexible material for performing repairs.

Japanese paper is a strong yet flexible material for performing repairs.

 Toned Japanese paper is used to reconstruct the endcap of the book.

Toned Japanese paper is used to reconstruct the endcap of the book.

After treatment, the boards are back in place, the inside joints also covered with Japanese paper, and the covers can be opened and closed gently - the book is usable again. It is always satisfying to return an attractive rare volume to a usable condition. 

 The repaired joint of the front cover.

The repaired joint of the front cover.

 The joint is repaired from the inside as well. The front free end paper features some very elegant notations by a previous owner.

The joint is repaired from the inside as well. The front free end paper features some very elegant notations by a previous owner.