Cloth Book Repair
Restoration and repair of cloth book bindings
Over many years, the covering material of cloth-bound books can perish and wear thin. Hinges start to split. Eventually one or both covers can become detached. When the covers detach, the spine tends to come away too.
A book’s spine can become frayed and torn at the top where the book is grasped to pull it from a bookshelf. The spine can become frayed at the bottom where it rubs whilst being pushed back onto the shelf. This damage can often lead to splitting at the hinges.
Repairing the spine of a damaged book
As with leather bindings, this kind of damage can be remedied by a process known as ‘rebacking’. To reback a book:
- The original spine is removed from the binding (if it is not already detached).
- I then carefully lift the cloth on the covers along the line of the hinges.
- Following that, I insert a new piece of cloth of a similar colour to create a new spine.
- The lifted cloth is then glued back down.
- During this process, the covers are firmly re-attached to the text block.
- Next, the original spine is carefully glued onto the new one, leaving little of the new cloth visible.
- I then neatly repair the inside hinges with a strip of paper. This will closely match the tone of the original endpapers.
- Finally, if the edges and corners of the binding are frayed or rubbed, I reconsolidate them to leave a hard and durable finish.
It can sometimes be challenging to exactly match the colour and texture of old cloth bindings when repairing them. Many older types of backcloth are no longer available. Nevertheless, I always try to use the closest matching cloth that I can find for each repair.
Cloth book repair cost
If your book still has most of it’s original spine (attached or not), the price for a cloth reback is £100. The price increases slightly for books over 25cm in height. If other repairs are required, the original spine is missing or the endpapers need to be replaced, this incurs an additional charge.
Re-casing cloth book bindings
The binding or ‘case’ of a cloth bound book can become detached from the text block in one piece. The linen attaching the binding to the text block degrades and heavy handling or a sharp knock separates the two components. If the cloth binding is in good condition with no wear or tears at the hinges or spine, the book can be ‘re-cased’. The process firmly re-attaches the text block to it’s binding. It is not a solution that is practical in all instances but when possible, it offers a less expensive repair option for cloth bound books.
When practical to carry out, the price to re-case a cloth-bound book is £45-£60.