This article is about replacing an old leather spine repair with a new leather spine. This process is known as ‘rebacking’.
Amongst the books that I’m currently working on is a 1575 edition of Caesar’s Commentaries. This book presents an interesting, though relatively common challenge.
Repairing a failed leather spine repair
The book is not in it’s original binding. It was rebound in full calf in the early 19th century in a style typical of that period. Additionally, the book has been rebacked fairly crudely sometime in the 20th century and the hinges of this reback have since split. Because both covers are now detached, I need to replace the old leather spine repair.
Problems associated with re-repairing an old book
The leather on the boards has been lifted and pasted down once already as part of the older repair’s process. Because I need to lift it again to remove the remains of the old repair, there may be some loss to the original covering material. The fabric of the boards beneath the leather covering may also break away to some degree. The aim is to preserve as much of the original covering material whilst removing the remnants of the old repair.
Without the original spine available as a reference, I’ll have to use my own judgement in deciding how to decorate the new rebacked spine. The aim would be to create an effect in keeping with the style of the re-used covers. The next article will show how the book looks once the old leather spine repair has been replaced.
Here’s the book prior to starting work on it. The 16th century volume had been rebound in a 19th century binding which in turn, had been repaired more recently.
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