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 and 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. It can also become frayed at the bottom where it rubs whilst being pushed back onto the shelf. Over time, 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’. When a book is rebacked:

  • 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. This leaves little of the new cloth visible.
  • After this, the inside hinges are neatly repaired with strips of paper. These closely match the tone of the original endpapers.
  • Finally, if the edges or corners are frayed, I reconsolidate them to leave a hard and durable finish.

Sometimes it can be difficult to exactly match the colour and texture of old cloth bindings when repairing them. Many older types of backcloth are no longer available. However, I always try to use the closest matching cloth that I can find for each repair.

  • This book’s spine was torn and the hinges were splitting
  • The book was rebacked, re-using the original spine
  • This book’s spine was detached with some loss. The book was rebacked, re-using the remains of the original spine
  • This book’s covers and spine were torn and detached. The book was rebacked, re-using the original spine

How much does it cost to repair a cloth bound book?

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 replacement, 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’. This process firmly re-attaches the text block to it’s binding. It is not practical in all instances but when possible, it offers a cheaper repair option for cloth bound books.

This book’s binding was cleanly detached from the text block. The text block was re-cased into the binding

Re-casing Pricing

When practical to carry out, the price to re-case a cloth-bound book is £45-£60.

Get a quote for a repair to a cloth-bound book