This article is about a cloth book repair and resewing a disbound text block.
Many of the examples of repairs that I’ve featured in older posts here, are on books bound in leather. Cloth-bound books come in just as often for repair. Many exhibit the same problems as their leather counterparts. The covering material on old cloth bindings can wear thin at the hinges of the covers. Eventually, it can start to tear. Once torn along the whole length of a hinge, it’s not long before the cover will detach from the book. The spine can start to fray and tear or completely detach. If the cloth is brittle, pieces of the spine can break off.
Resewing a disbound text block
If the binding has fallen into pieces, it no longer offers protection to the text block. The text block itself can then become the next victim of the process of damage. It can start to split vertically into a number of parts or even into a pile of loose pages. It’s usually possible to repair a text block that has split into one or two parts. If a book really has become a pile of pages, it can be resewn back into one block again. Generally, the pages would have been sewn together into a book when it was originally bound. Two books came in over recent months that are both good examples of the faults noted above. They give a good idea of what can be achieved with these kinds of repairs:
The spine and covers had detached from this volume. Due to the cloth being brittle, some parts of the spine had broken off and become lost over time. As the binding no longer protected the text block, the text block itself had split into two parts:
First, the two halves of the text block were reunited with a sewn repair. Following this, a new cloth spine was created that rejoined the covers into one binding. This was in turn, reattached to the text block. The remains of the original spine were then mounted onto the new spine. Finally, the lost gold lettering on the spine title was ‘tooled in’ in gold to match the original:
Another example of cloth book repair
This late 19th century volume arrived with the cloth binding starting to tear at it’s hinges. The top and bottom of the spine were starting to fray. Additionally, the text block had started to fall into pieces and required resewing to put it back into one piece again. Unusually, this book had been bound using staples rather than having been sewn with thread. The staples had rusted over time and were the cause of the book becoming disbound. Firstly, I removed the rusty staples. I then sewed the book in a more conventional and robust way with waxed thread. The binding was then repaired in a similar way to the one above. This involved creating a new cloth spine onto which the original cloth spine was mounted: