I love restoring books, but there is a unique pleasure in taking basic elements such as leather wood and paper and creating something beautiful from design to completion. This book nods to several eras of bookbinding history; the wooden, laced-on cover boards were common in medieval times, and the unfinished page edges have an ancient feel. The half-binding style, with leather corners and spine, became popular in the 17th century, while Pyrography, or wood burning, has been practiced on some level for all of recorded history, becoming popular in its current form in the early 20th century. The tree of life design burned into the aspen wood cover has deep personal meaning for me as an artist—Proverbs 13:12 says a longing fulfilled is a tree of life, and Psalm 1 speaks of the soul being like a tree planted by streams of living water. With solid wood covers, high quality goatskin leather spine and corners, and soft, thick, Fabriano Rosapina pages, this book is sure to be a treasured keepsake.
One of the largest I’ve seen, this battered beauty survived the past century only to be caught in a house fire. Unlike its companion whose cover was charred beyond redemption, this one merely lost its spine and sustained some soot and smoke damage. Some of the pages were torn and tattered, and the sewing had begun to fail in the first third of the book. I stripped it down, repaired the paper as needed and reattached the loose signatures, strengthening the spine in the process. The spine was lined with muslin for additional stability and to form a strong hinge. After consolidating the cover leather where it was suffering from red rot and cleaning it to remove the soot, I reassembled it with a new spine and cased the book back in. A few more cover repairs and some leather toning and treatment, and this grandiose old Bible shines with all its former splendor.
This 160 year old compilation of Shakespeare’s works came to me in fairly sound condition, just missing most of the spine and a little scuffed and battered. The client wanted a new spine put on the book and labeled with gold-tooled titling, and the general wear and tear retouched as much as possible without taking away from the age and authenticity of the book.
This absolutely gorgeous book came to me with both covers detached and the spine missing, taking some cover leather with it. The leather was worn and the beautiful gold tooling on the cover, including the engraved name of the client’s grandfather, was dirty and faded. With a new leather spine in the style of the original, the covers reattached, the leather restored, torn sheets repaired, and the missing ribbon marker replaced with a new one dyed to match the original, this lovely book is ready to be cherished for another century.
Used for years by the client’s preacher grandfather, this Bible was in terrible shape but had great sentimental value. The covers were too deteriorated to save, but she requested I preserve parts of them as labels for the memories. I repaired the tattered pages, sewed it back together, and inset the labels into the new goatskin cover.
A client asked me to convert his paper back facsimile copies of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (originally published in the 1700’s) into more period-appropriate hardcover books.
I found this broken down beauty in a used bookstore just crying out for restoration and couldn’t resist picking it up for my personal collection. 145 years old, this huge Bible had seen a lot of wear and tear. Somewhere in the past century it migrated through the midwest, picking up newspaper clippings and losing a spine. Probably used mostly for display, the outer surface of the leather was worn almost completely away on the back cover from years of sitting on a table and being scooted from place to place. The leather on the edges had cracked, allowing moisture to seep in and warp the boards, popping them apart. Without a spine, the exposed stitching began to fail and the loose signatures took a beating. Something about the book’s history and former loveliness called to me, though, and hours of restoration later I can see why.