This is an article on leather spine rebacking where the original style of gold tooling was replicated onto the new leather spine.
Rebacking the spine of a crudely repaired 18th century leather binding
Soon after I started repairing the 1575 edition of Caesar’s Commentaries, a damaged 18th century edition arrived at my workshop. As with the previous copy, this one had also been repaired in the past. Both of it’s hinges had been crudely repaired with strips of lighter coloured leather. The previous repairer had lifted the leather along the edges of the spine and covers. They had inserted the leather strips to provide a little reinforcement before the covers came off completely. Though they’d solved that practical problem, they seemed to have little care for the aesthetics of the repair. As the hinges were now splitting again, it was time to repair the repair.
Problems of lifting the spine of a ‘tight back’ binding
The book was bound as a typical ‘tight back’ binding of the period on raised bands. In this style of binding, the leather of the spine is glued directly to the spine of the text block. As is often the case with this type of binding, the leather on the spine had been pared quite thinly. This made it pretty much impossible to lift the spine to re-use it without the leather crumbling. The combination of age and very thin leather conspired to turn the spine to dust as I tried to lift it. Therefore I resolved to recreate the spine’s tooling as best as I could on the new spine.
Period gold tooling to the new spine
The leather spine rebacking was carried out in the normal fashion. A lettering piece was then applied to the spine. Finally, the spine was lettered and decorated in gold. My aim was to create as near a match to the original spine as possible. Considering that I’d always rather re-use an original spine, the replacement did at least do reasonable justice to the original.
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