This article is about a vellum binding restoration.
I’ve just completed a very satisfying restoration of a volume bound in a 17th century limp vellum binding. The book, printed in 1674, arrived with it’s contemporary binding in a poor state.
Condition of the vellum binding prior to repair
The lower part of the spine had been torn away and lost. There were holes in the covers and splits at the hinges and edges of the turn-ins. There were also creases in the covering material and part of the lower headband was missing. The book looked liked this when it arrived:
The repair process
In this form of binding, the covers are attached to the text block by the extended cores of the headbands. These are laced through holes in the binding at the head and tail of the spine. The binding was removed by first carefully un-lacing these delicate cores. The damaged pastedowns were then removed and this separated the binding from the text block. The missing section of spine, splits and holes were all repaired from the inside with patches of pared matching vellum.
Half of the lower headband was missing. This was replaced with a new extension to the old core around which a new section of headband was sewn. This left the new core extending out past the headband for re-lacing. The binding was re-lined with handmade paper which smoothed out the various creases. It was then re-laced back onto the text block using the extending headband cores. New paste-downs were made using sheets of matching contemporary handmade paper. Finally, the binding was carefully cleaned to remove 340 years of dirt and grime.
A complex and challenging vellum binding restoration but definitely one of the most satisfying repairs that I’ve completed this past year!