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The Fix: The trials and tribulations of post binding repair

The Book Conservation Lab often receives items that require new sewing or new adhesive on the text block as part of their treatment. Infrequently, an item arrives that has been bound atypically and extraordinary repair measures are needed.


Title Page


The International Air Guide, No. 1, from 1931, belonging to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Library, was originally bound with metal screw posts that were not preservation friendly. The metal structure was rusting and the cloth surrounding it on the lower portion of the spine covering was severely frayed and nearly detached.


Back open rusted metal and torn spine

Intl Air Guide 1


In order to rehabilitate the book, prevent further damage to the cloth and the leaves from rusting metal, and preserve the look of the original binding structure, a fresh spine covering with new screw posts was employed.

First, the old screws were undone on the exterior of the upper board:

Removing rusted screws


Next, the rusted metal structure was removed and discarded.

Intl Air Guide 2

Detail of removed damaged case


Then, new book cloth was chosen that closely matched the cover color on the original boards. A new spine covering was designed  with acid and rust free materials (flexible but sturdy polyester strips and thin book board) that would mimic the old metal apparatus and cooperate with the new aluminum screw posts.

Newly adhered spine piece and Vyvek to replace metal


Measurements were calculated to match the holes already punched along the margin of the loose leaves and then holes were drilled through the board, the polyester strips and the cloth in order to accommodate the screw posts.

Intl Air Guide 3


Cloth on the boards was neatly lifted:




The boards and the spine piece were aligned to determine correct placement around the text block:

Boards lined up with new spine covering


The spine covering was attached to the text block with the aluminum screw posts:

Attaching new posts


Then, the upper and lower boards were adhered to the flanges of the spine covering:

Upper Board adhered to flange of new cloth


The inner hinges were reinforced with toned Japanese paper:

Upper board inner hinge adhered and reinforced


At last, the spine label piece from the original cloth was trimmed and adhered to the spine covering.

Original spine label trimmed and adhered


Now repaired, the guide can withstand consultation. The risk of potential damage from rusting metal to the text block and the cloth covering has been eliminated.




One Comment

  1. SueZ

    You know you have a super awesome/interesting job, yes?
    Thanks for sharing!

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