This article describes a corner repair and leather reback to an 18th century book.
I’ve just completed quite a satisfying corner repair and leather reback. It’s a good example of what is possible when the corner of a volume has been badly damaged.
This copy of ‘Hoyle’s Games’ dating from around 1760 came in for repair. Though the covers were still firmly attached, there was a fairly large section of the spine missing. There was also a large tear to the leather covering and much damage to one of the corners.
The rebacking process
The spine proved near-impossible to remove without it crumbling to dust. It was of a fairly simple design with plain gold lines and not even a spine label. Consequently, I resolved to replace it with a similar spine but but adding a spine label. This would not be out of place on an 18th century leather binding of this style. The results can be seen here in these ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos:
Corner repair process
The damaged corner area can be seen below. It had lost a fair amount of it’s leather covering. It had also lost a reasonable amount of the fabric of the board itself over the years. The first step, was to lift the remaining leather around the area of the damage. This would enable me to insert the new leather covering material once the corner was re-built. I then re-built the corner to ‘square’ by laminating a piece of new board to the remains of the original. The corner was then covered with a thinly-pared piece of leather to match the original. The remaining original leather around the corner area was then pasted back down. The gold lines around the edges of the cover were then tooled-in over the new leather to match the originals.
Why repair damaged corners?
Had this corner not been repaired, the text pages beneath it would have sustained continued damage at that corner. Of course, the boards extend past the text block solely to protect it. So if the corner is worn away, it is not serving its purpose. So this repair served both a practical and satisfyingly aesthetic purpose! All in all, a successful corner repair and leather reback.
The book also arrived lacking a rear flyleaf. I found a slightly larger near-contemporary leaf with staining around it’s edges. A very close match to that visible on the adjacent pastedown on this volume. Two edges matched very closely, but I had to cut the lower edge of the replacement leaf down to fit the volume. Therefore I coloured it along it’s new lower edge to roughly match the line and colour of the original:
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