It’s nice to be back

The long gap between posts is down to a house move – now complete – and distractions like Christmas. But things are near normal again and I have been able to get into my (temporary) bindery.

Which leads me to a short account of work I have just completed on a book of my own, by A G Macdonell, an English humorist who was highly regarded for about 30 years from the mid-1930s but has now sunk into obscurity. His one book still in print is ‘England their England’ chiefly because it contains the funniest account of a village cricket match ever written.

He also wrote ‘A Visit to America’, published in 1935, which I find amusing though nowadays politically incorrect. My copy is a first edition, ex-library, with the lending list still in place so with a record of its original readership intact. Its life in Perth and Kinross County Library lasted from its accession in November 1936 to May 1954 when it was put into Reserve. During that time it was borrowed 36 times, about once every six months. It must have been sold off some time later. I bought it for a few pounds about five years ago. During its previous 80-odd years it had become badly ‘cocked’ and the backstrip was loose.

Correcting a slant that has probably been there for decades requires fully exposing the backs of the sewn sections, setting them back into place, re-setting the backing joints and re-gluing the back. In this case the old back linings came off very easily as the glue had completely dried out and could simply be prised away from the back folds of the sections with a palette knife.

This revealed a quite unusual example of cheap machine binding – the sections are not sewn on tapes but just link-stitched together. But there are tapes under the mull and under the paste-down endpapers. Clearly the binding process included placing pieces of tape across the spine after sewing and gluing them down with the mull. No physical attachment at all to the text block, but enabling the ends of the three tapes to be attached to the covers, under the endpapers.

Anyway, that made the cleaning off of the spine easier, so now to re-shape it. I have shown my method of putting a tube under the foredge in a lay press in a previous post. It worked well here.

The back is now glued and the glue well rubbed into the creases between the sections and allowed to dry. The covers could have been eased off the book before this – they no longer have any physical attachment to the book block – but they must now come off so the backing joints can be re-set with a backing hammer.

The use of the hammer helps to consolidate the re-glued spine which is now ready for repair Fraynot and sewing the first and last sections through it to give a physical attachment between the hinge cloth and the book.

The back is now lined with two thicknesses of 80 gsm paper.

The case is repaired just as previously demonstrated in earlier posts: bookcloth of a suitable colour inserted under the cover cloth with the Fraynot cloth and sharply pressed.

Cover cloth lifted. Note the cover cloth was first cut inside the board and turned back. This helps to conceal the new cloth repair afterwards.

The new cloth spine is lined with quite thin paper (it will have the old cloth spine glued over it so normal lining paper will result in a spine that is too stiff). The turn-ins at head and tail are best done with a ‘fence’ of thin card or acetate so the glued turn-in does not transfer glue to the text block. I have shown this method also in a previous post.

When head and tail are turned in the scuffed and worn surfaces of the old cloth can be coloured with acrylic and sealed with polish.

Job done.

Please note – this is a repair, not a restoration. The book now works properly and looks at home on a bookshelf. And has cost about £25 in bench time. Full restoration to ‘collector’ standard – add a zero!

Finally, this blog is now one year old. It has been viewed about 2000 times, with hits from more than 40 countries, chiefly USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand. But also from China, Russia, Brazil, Germany etc. In the blogoshere that is tiny, but who cares!

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