From time to time I am asked to quote for rebinding a worn, tatty, stained book which the owner values because of its sentimental value, or because it is a first edition, or signed copy. But the wear and stains are part of its history and, though tatty, the covers are original and therefore part of its essential character. Quite often I suggest a box instead of a rebind, and very occasionally, if the box suggestion is declined, I decline doing the job at all.
Here is a case in point: a first edition of George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, published by Secker and Warburg in 1949 in pale green cloth in a maroon or dark green dust jacket. The dust jacket is missing and the covers are faded and marked with small splashes of tea or coffee. The spine is browned from sunlight, the hinges are frayed and the head and tail worn. The foredge has a small string mark. All these blemishes record its history – the spine is browned because it lost its dust jacket early on, the string mark suggests it has been tied in a bundle at some stage, perhaps in a move from house to house. And the splashes show that it has not always been regarded as a precious ikon of modern English literature.
I decided on a box, so as to keep its character but make it fit for a bookshelf. And also to enable a future owner to make their own decision about rebinding, because however attractive and original, a rebind is by definition irreversible.
P.S. A fitted box like this is about £50 – a full rebind a lot more.