Leather bound books can become tender at the hinges of the front and back covers where the leather covering is at its thinnest. One or both hinges can split, eventually leading to the covers becoming detached. Sometimes the spine or parts of the spine can become detached as a result of this. This is especially common in 19th Century bindings. Headcaps (the top and bottom of the spine) are also vulnerable as the upper headcap is often the place that a book is grasped when pulling it from a bookshelf, whilst the lower headcap is the area that receives the most wear when the book is returned to the shelf. These can become worn away, precipitating the disintegration of the spine.

Any of these problems can be remedied by a process known as 'rebacking' where the spine of the book is carefully removed (where possible), the leather closest to the hinges on the covers lifted and a new piece of leather inserted to create a new spine. The lifted leather is then carefully pasted down again and the original spine if reusable, is pasted onto the new spine. Missing areas of leather on the spine are then re-tooled in gold to closely match the original, the inside (paper) hinges are then replaced with a strip of paper chosen to closely match the original endpaper and the edges and corners of the binding if frayed or rubbed, are reconsolidated to provide a hard and durable finish.

It is not always possible to save the original spines of leather bound books as sometimes the leather is just too worn and friable to lift without it crumbling. Sometimes the original spine may have become detached in years gone by and is lost. In either case, I endeavour to sympathetically re-tool the new spine in gold to closely match the style and look of the original, the end result retaining the aesthetic 'feel' of the book, commensurate with its age.

These examples show 'before' and 'after' images of the process outlined above.
The images can be clicked to show larger versions.

Shrewsbury Leather Binding1 Shrewsbury Leather Binding2 Shrewsbury Leather Binding3 Terence Leather Binding1 Terence Leather Binding2 Terence Leather Binding3 Register Leather Binding1 Register Leather Binding2


The corners of leather bindings are another vulnerable spot where the combination of very thin leather and years of being banged or rubbed against bookshelves can cause the leather covering to tear and crumble and the fabric of the cover to become heavily worn away.

It is often possible to repair the corners of books damaged in this way by lifting the remaining leather at the

corners, rebuilding the tips of the covers and then re-covering them in new leather to match the original which is then pasted back down. Gold or blind-tooled lines (where originally present), can be re-tooled over the new leather to match the original, resulting in a near-invisible repair.

These examples show 'before' and 'after' images of this process.
The images can be clicked to show larger versions.

La Cuisiniere Corner1 La Cuisiniere Corner2 Machiavelli Corner1 Machiavelli Corner2

On some leather bindings, it is possible to only repair a split hinge or damaged headcap without disturbing the rest of the binding. This is a more difficult process which is only possible on certain types of binding. These kinds of repairs offer an aesthetic solution to the damage, but offer little long term structural integrity as the new leather has to be pared very thin in order to create an unobtrusive result.

Nevertheless, I am happy to offer a quotation for this kind of repair where the quality of the original binding is such that it would be undesirable to damage the rest of an otherwise intact binding, in order to repair it.

Sussex Book Restoration–––––Tel: +44 (0)1273 230532–––––Email: Sussex Book Restoration


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