Conservation Treatment of a Japanese-style Bookbinding

  Son Altesse La Femme , Paris, 1885 Japanese style book with covering case. The joints of the case are split and the ribbons frayed.

Son Altesse La Femme, Paris, 1885 Japanese style book with covering case. The joints of the case are split and the ribbons frayed.

Rare and valuable books often come through our studio needing just a little bit of TLC. Excessive handling can cause the joints of covers to break down, cloth of bindings to fray, or preliminary pages to come loose. The more the book is used, the worse the damage will become, so it is wise to have it conserved sooner rather than later; repairs can stabilize a book so that it can receive gentle handling without risking more damage. 

 The case, separate from the text block, has broken along the joints.

The case, separate from the text block, has broken along the joints.

This interesting item, Son Altesse La Femme, published in Paris in 1885, is scarce with its hardcover covering case; it is usually found in its paper wraps alone. The Japanese style case of this particular book had suffered the usual damage of broken joints and wear to spine and headcaps. The cover was in two pieces and the ribbons fraying.

 Japanese paper repairs in progress.

Japanese paper repairs in progress.

 Repairing the spine label ribbon.

Repairing the spine label ribbon.

Repairs to the joints were completed using toned Japanese paper and wheat starch paste, a stable, reversible adhesive favoured by most conservators. Further, some touch-ups were applied to the abrasions on the case.

 After Treatment - the joint of the case is repaired.

After Treatment - the joint of the case is repaired.

The book in its case now is restored to a stable and aesthetically pleasing condition. It is strong enough to be handled, and the damage no longer detracts from the overall item. The book has been returned to its owner with many more years of life in it.

 After Treatment - the inside of the case is intact once more.

After Treatment - the inside of the case is intact once more.