The Project Gutenberg eBook, Mending and Repair of Books, by Margaret Wright Brown, et al

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Title: Mending and Repair of Books

Author: Margaret Wright Brown

Release Date: March 7, 2012 [eBook #39075]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



E-text prepared by Chris Curnow, Ernest Schaal,
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Book cover

Mending and Repair
of Books


compiled by




revised by


Supervisor of Binding, Cleveland Public Library







Introductory Note 7

When to Bind or When to Mend 9

The Mending Table: Its Supplies 11

Paste, the Mending Medium 12

Ways to Mend 13

Ways to Clean 19

Binding Record 21

Temporary Binders 23

[pg 7]


THE task of mending demands so much of the time and energy of library workers and is a factor of such economic importance in every public library that it cannot be put aside as incidental.

It is hoped that these suggestions may give definite aid in this homely task which is ever present in all libraries.

No attempt has been made to give instruction in the advanced processes of mending, as this at once encroaches on the art of binding.

The best mending can be done only where an acquaintance with the construction of the book has been acquired through a study of the various processes of binding. Librarians are urged to visit binderies to see the various processes; and to study the art of binding under personal instruction of experienced binders whenever this is feasible.

It is not probable that any one librarian will use all of the processes suggested, and some of these will apply only to exceptional cases; but the directions cover diversified conditions in order that the librarian may have the necessary information whenever required.

The experienced mender. This handbook has not been prepared for the use of the larger libraries where a bindery is a part of the equipment, or where there are members of the staff trained in binding and hence experienced menders.

The inexperienced mender. The purpose of this handbook is to give practical aid and guidance to librarians who are entirely inexperienced in the work of mending and repair of books and whose knowledge must be gained through self-instruction.

The compilers have drawn upon many sources and have endeavored to make available the suggestions received and methods used by many librarians and practical binders, and grateful acknowledgment is herewith made for the co-operation and helpful suggestions received from them.

[pg 9]

Mending and Repair of Books


THE question when to bind or when to mend is of daily recurrence, and a decision must be made upon the examination of every circulating book returned, before placing it on the shelves. The answer will depend largely on the policy of the library regarding the binding question.

No library can afford to circulate shabby, soiled or ragged books, because:

(1) From an economic standpoint, a book's ultimate usefulness, or life, is materially shortened by neglect to bind at first sign of need.

(2) When books are given proper care by the library, standards are set which insure a like treatment on the part of the reading public.

(3) The reading public has a right to expect that its books shall be clean and whole, and that its property shall be in proper condition for satisfactory use.


When the stitches break and a section or a few leaves fall out, the book should be sent to the bindery immediately.

This is happening daily with the original publishers' bindings. If the book is removed from the shelves the librarian is at once confronted by the problem of being unable to answer the unceasing cry for the last new novel, as it is the fiction which is usually in this condition. However, if the book is allowed to circulate a few more times there are "pages missing" and the book has become valueless.

No book should be rebound with pages missing.

When the stitches have not broken, but either a few or all the sections have become loose:

There is no excuse for the librarian to leave upon her shelves or permit to circulate books that are held together [pg 10] only by the slender threads with which they are sewed and threatening at any moment to come tumbling forth from the cover. Such books speak in no uncertain terms for rebinding or permanent withdrawal from the shelves.

Shall books be sent to the bindery when in greatest demand?

YES, when they cannot be circulated further without permanent injury to them.

Such books should be hastened through the bindery by statement to binder regarding immediate need. If your present binder cannot bind promptly, find one who will.

The prompt rebinding of a book more than doubles its life. If the book has been reinforced at first sign of giving way (see page 16) all the temporary assistance that can safely be given has been rendered and if the book is of permanent value to the library it must be rebound.


When the stitches are not broken or loosened, and still hold sections firmly together.

When the joints are loose.

When the book has once been rebound.

The tendency among librarians is to mend too much before rebinding. Mending makes rebinding more difficult and jeopardizes the life of the book.

It is only in rare cases, as for example when a book is out of print, and yet valuable to the library, that a second rebinding is justified.


Will it be cheaper to mend a book and, when its short life is done, withdraw and replace with a new copy?

YES, when the original cost is less than rebinding.

Note—In the decision to replace, the labor of accessioning and withdrawal must always be taken into account.

The fresh, clean copies of the "easy books" and other good, inexpensive juvenile books are to be preferred to rebound copies. If the original binding is so poor that a second copy would shortly be in the same condition as the first, it is then advisable to send the book promptly to the bindery for recasing, preferably before circulating.

[pg 11] Greater durability is thus insured. If the book has an attractive original cover it is preserved and the value of the book enhanced thereby.

YES, when the paper is of such poor quality that the leaves break away from the stitching.

YES, when the book is extremely soiled; replace, even if it costs more than rebinding.

YES, when a new edition, or better books on the same subject have been published.

In replacing fiction, inexpensive editions are available for many popular titles in the Grosset & Dunlap edition, Burt Home Library, Everyman's Library, etc.

Some inexpensive editions rebind and wear as well as the first editions. Others because of narrow margins or quality of paper do not pay to rebind. A little observation and experience will soon prove what titles can be rebound to advantage.


A piece of glass or white oil cloth, cut to fit the size of the table, will be found most conducive to cleanliness, as it can be quickly and easily washed.

Paste. Mixed paste or powder form. See page 12.

Cloth. White outing flannel, cheese cloth and cheap grade of canton flannel, purchased by the yard at any dry goods store.

Art Vellum in assorted colors, cut in strips.

Muslin cut in strips.

Paper. Onion skin bond, cockle finish, 9 lb. weight cut into strips for use; tissue paper.

Brushes. Flat, rubber-set photographer's brush, about 1 inch wide; also artist's round bristle 1/2 inch thick.

Scissors. Slender, six-inch blade, good quality.

Knife. Shoemaker's long blade, square at end, or common paring-knife purchased at hardware store.

Folder. Bone, purchased at stationer's.

Needles. Sharps, No. 1, or any strong and not too coarse darning needle.

[pg 12] Thread. Hayes' linen, No. 25; Barbour's linen, No. 40.

Pressing tins. 6 8 in., obtained at tin shop. Zinc is pleasanter to use and will not rust.

Cleansers. Wash for pages; wash for book covers; powdered pumice stone; art gum, sponge rubber.

Shellac. Consult local druggist or paint dealer regarding the best white shellac.

Press. An old letter-press can usually be purchased locally for a small sum. Prices on new copying press 10 12 in. obtained of local stationer. If press is not secured, old pieces of marble can be used. Bricks covered with paper make good pressing weights.

A local bindery or any binder's supply house will furnish mending materials; also price list and samples of materials may be obtained from the following:

Democrat Printing Co., Madison, Wisconsin.

Gaylord Bros., Syracuse, New York.


Paste may be used with less danger of injury to the book than glue, and is the only mending medium which should be used on books that are to be rebound. Under no condition should mucilage be used on any book which is to be rebound. Some librarians persist in doing this and then expect the binder to do good work. Glue should be used only by experienced menders.

Use. Paste for small surfaces is more evenly spread with the finger, and there is less waste than with a brush. Spread thinly, using only enough paste to make paper stick securely.

Thick paste spreads more smoothly than thin and is not taken up quickly by the paper. This is an important point, for if the paper stretches or expands the work can not be done in a satisfactory way.

Provide cheese cloth cut in small pieces for use in rubbing down the pasted parts, and for keeping the fingers clean, etc. These should be used only a few times.

Cleanliness and neatness are absolutely essential to good mending.

[pg 13] There are various powdered pastes on the market used by book-binders, bill-posters, paper-hangers and others. Spon Tem or Steko, manufactured by Clark Paper & Twine Co., Rochester, N. Y., and Rex Dry Paste, Geneva, N. Y., are both excellent in adhesive qualities and easily prepared, mixing with either hot or cold water and without cooking.

An excellent mixed paste is made by the Commercial Paste Co., Columbus, Ohio, called Gleich's "Gluey" Paste. This, as its name implies, has some glue mixed with it and is quick drying and strongly adhesive. Arabol Book Glue, Arabol Mnfg. Co., 100 William St., N. Y. City, is highly recommended. Purchase in large or small quantities. The various pastes used in the school "hand work" are good, and come under the general name of school pastes.

Recipe for Flour Paste. Mix a thin batter of flour and water, cook and as it thickens add hot water until right consistency and until thoroughly cooked. It will be well cooked when all milky appearance of the flour and water has disappeared and when bubbles of air begin to explode through the mixture. After taking from the fire a preservative may be added if desired, such as a half teaspoonful of oil of wintergreen to a pint of paste.

At times it is desirable to do some simple pasting, such as tipping in a single leaf or label, and for such work any good library paste is a great convenience.


Avoid too much mending.

Paper used for mending should be cut lengthwise with the grain of the paper.

Cloth should be cut the long way of the material.

In mending always use paper of lighter weight than the book. For books printed on heavily coated paper, tissue or bond is too light, but paper cut from margins of advertising pages of magazines is a suitable weight.


Torn through the printing may be mended as follows:

(1) Use ungummed, transparent mending paper, cutting it the size and shape of the tear, and about one-half [pg 14] inch wide. Apply a thin coat of paste to the strip and fit it carefully over the tear, having first placed a strip of waste paper under the torn leaf to absorb extra paste.

(2) For finer or better class of books, upon which more time and care may profitably be spent, rub a very little paste on the torn edges, place torn edges together, then take a rather large piece of ordinary tissue paper and rub it gently along the tear so that the tissue paper will adhere to the torn edges.

Put under press, and when dry the superfluous tissue paper should be torn off, using care to pull always toward the tear and from both sides at the same time. The delicate fibre of the tissue paper acts as an adhesive and it is almost impossible to discern the way in which the mending has been done.

Torn in the margin

Use thin, firm mending paper, preferably a tint to match paper of the book.

Cut a strip one-half inch wide corresponding to the size and shape of the tear, apply paste and trim even with the edge of the leaf.

When these processes are used, place books in press or under a weight, until thoroughly dry.

There are gummed papers for this purpose but care should be taken in their selection as some are likely to darken and discolor.


When loose leaves are replaced the greatest care should be taken to make sure that they do not extend beyond the edge of the book. If this occurs, it shows careless or inexperienced mending.

Loose leaves may be inserted in several ways:

(1) If the leaf fits exactly into the book, it may be tipped in by applying paste to one-eighth inch of its inner margin.

Place the loose leaf in the book, the outer edge even with the book, and rub down the pasted inner margin against the next leaf with bone folder.

Put the book in press until dry.

[pg 15] Illustrations may be tipped-in in this way when it is desirable to preserve them.

(2) If it is found by measuring that the leaf when inserted, will extend beyond the edge of the book, fold the leaf at the inner margin over a ruler edge, or other straight edge, slightly more than one-eighth of an inch, thus making a hinge. Apply paste to this hinge with the finger. Place leaf in the book and push well back; rub the little pasted hinge down with bone folder, being careful to leave no free paste.

(3) In case the quality of the paper of the leaf to be inserted will not stand the tipping-in process, or is badly worn at the inner margin, it may be inserted by a guard. Fold a half-inch strip of onion skin paper, lengthwise. Apply a thin coat of paste to the outside of this strip. Attach half of the strip to the inner edge of the loose leaf, and the other half to the adjoining page in the book, close in by the fold. Trim edge of leaf if it projects. Put in press until dry.

Do not use gummed muslin for this work. It destroys the chance of proper rebinding and detracts from the appearance of the rebound book.


When more than one section, sometimes called signature, is loose in a book which is worth rebinding, it should be rebound at once.

When the thread in one section only is broken, or one section only is loose in a rebound book and the rest of the binding is intact, the section should be inserted. To avoid further ravelling, it is necessary to secure the broken threads of the book either by fastening them together, or attaching to new threads; also that the loose section is sewed or tied through the super on the back of the book.

Loose sections may be inserted as follows:

If the folds of the leaves in the loose section are torn or thin, they should be mended before replacing the section. Take a half-inch strip of thin, firm paper, the length of the page; fold through the middle lengthwise and paste down through the center fold of the leaves. A touch of paste along the fold of each will hold all the sheets together.

Open the book at the place where the section is loose.

[pg 16] (When the book is open the back of the book separates from the cover.)

Open the loose section and place it in the proper position in the book. Near the top and bottom in the center fold of the section will be seen the holes which were made by the binder.

Thread a needle with Barbour's linen thread No. 40, or Hayes' linen thread No. 25, and tie new thread to broken end of thread in book.

Pass the needle through the hole at the top of the loose section and out between the book and its loose back. Do not pull the thread clear through.

Drop the needle and thread down between the back of the book and the loose back to the bottom.

Run the needle and thread from the outside in through the hole at the bottom of the loose section.

Pass the needle and thread around again in the same way. Draw tight and tie with a hard knot at the point of beginning.


Books in the ordinary case or publishers' binding will, after a short period of use, show signs of weakness in the joints (where the book and cover are attached). The paper cracks and both it and the super on the back of the book loosen and unless immediate attention is given the stitching breaks and the book must go to the bindery.

This super is a loosely woven cotton cloth which is glued on the backs of books to help hold the sections together, and extends from the back of the book to the inside of the cover to help hold the book and cover together. In the publishers' bindings, this super is usually all that holds a book in the cover.

Loose joints may be

Reinforced by tightening and stripping.

Hold the book open in an upright position on the table. The back will separate in a curve from body of book; with the round brush apply paste between the loose back and the book, along the joints only. If too much paste is used it will spread over the back, causing the cloth cover to become wrinkled and title illegible. Close [pg 17] the book, care being taken to push book well back in cover, and with bone folder rub well along the joints, squeezing out any extra paste at head and foot. Dry under weight for a half-day at least.

Then with knife clean off the ragged edges of torn paper along the joint inside the cover. Place the book flat upon the table, the front cover open, take book of similar thickness and place under open cover.

Take a strip of muslin or paper. Cut this strip the exact length of the book, and apply thick paste so that the paper or cloth will not stretch.

Paste one-half of this strip to the fly-leaf and the other half of the strip on the cover of the book. Make sure that the strip is smoothly laid, not stretched too tightly from book to cover, or it will pull up first pages when book is used; if too loosely stretched it is unsightly and fails of its purpose; allow the book to remain open until the strip is dry. Repeat this process for the back cover.


When the stitching has not broken, and the paper is of good quality a book may be removed entirely from its cover and recased.

In recasing, painstaking care is required and books must be in condition specified to obtain satisfactory results.

Take a sharp knife and cut through the super at both joints. This super is easily lifted from the inside of the book cover. Pull it off the back of the book, taking great care in this, and remove all particles of dried glue.

Take white outing flannel, which is light in weight and double-faced, or canton flannel (downy side towards the book), or cheesecloth. Cut a strip as long as the back of the book and two inches wider; paste this over the back only, allowing an inch extension on each side. Do not, in this first process, put paste on the extensions. Draw the cloth over the rounded edges of the back (or joints); rub the back well with bone folder and also over the rounded edges, but do not paste the cloth down beyond the rounded edges. During this process hold the back of the book so that the sections, or signatures, will not separate. After thorough rubbing let dry.

Apply paste to inside of book covers one inch next to the joints; do not put paste on back of book. Place book in cover, pushing well back, making sure that it is correctly [pg 18] placed. Paste down the one-inch extension of cloth, laying waste paper between it and book; close book, rub joints well with bone folder and allow to dry thoroughly.

Strip joints, following instructions for re-inforcing; paste clean paper lining on book covers, press and dry. The book should then be opened as carefully as a new book.


This adds greatly to the appearance of the mended or repaired books. Do not place weights over the rounded back of a book.

Place the pressing boards or tins over the covers of the book only, even with, but not extending over, the joints.

Pressure on the rounded back will weaken a book in the most vital part.


use too much paste.

use Lepage's glue or any mucilage.

use cloth strips in a book except at the joint.

paste heavily up the back unless a very old and not valuable book.

overmend on a book which will ultimately be bound.

allow loose pages to be slipped up in the book above the top of book.

use heavier paper for patching than paper of book.


handle books carefully.

allow sufficient drying.

have plenty of waste papers and discard when soiled.

wash brushes well each day.

pile up books alternating the backs with the foredges. They will stand erect and not slip or slide.


When a page is missing and it is impossible to replace the book with a new copy, the page may be typewritten and tipped in.

[pg 19] When it is necessary to rebind the book, the margin of the typewritten page should be left an inch wider on each side than the regular margin. This is for the convenience of the binder, who will trim down the margin in process of rebinding.

Make typewritten page conform to size and shape of printed page.


When there is an injury to a book which is allowed to remain in circulation, the reading public should be made aware that the damage is known to the library by a notation, with date, near the injury, e.g.,

"Damage noted 1 Mr. '20, Free Public Library."


The book should be cleaned as well as mended. Careful attention should be given to the cleanliness of the books in circulation. There is nothing that more quickly creates a distaste for the use of a public library than the handling of soiled and grimy books.

Careful study of the paper upon which books are printed is necessary, and in cleaning the fact that different papers and finishes require different treatment must be taken into account. The spongy feather-weight paper upon which much of the fiction is printed is difficult to clean. Pencil marks may be erased with art gum used gently; soil of any other kind is almost impossible to remove. Heavily clay-coated paper may be cleaned with powdered pumice or a hard eraser. Highly calendered paper and any hand made paper may be cleaned with a damp cloth; cleaning but a few pages at a time and allowing book to remain open until dry.


Soiled pages may be cleaned in the following ways:

With art gum, rub gently and slowly, holding the page flat with the left hand to prevent tearing.

With powdered pumice stone, rub on with a clean cloth. With damp cloth, be careful that cloth is not too wet.

[pg 20] Rub always from inner margin of the page outward, to prevent crumpling.

Brush off carefully all particles of rubber, or pumice stone, allowing none to remain in the folds between the leaves.

Mud stains may be removed by using a soft brush or sponge, with a preparation of the following proportions: One cup water, one teaspoon ammonia, four drops carbolic acid. Avoid too much rubbing or print will blur. Slip the pressing tin under the page, and after washing, place white blotting paper on each side of the leaf.

Ink stains may be removed by one of the standard ink eradicators to be obtained of local stationer or druggist.

Edges of the leaves may be cleaned by sandpapering, holding the leaves of the book very firmly together, or putting book into press.


Soiled covers may be cleaned by using a hard eraser, pumice stone or soap and water. The best results are obtained by the use of the following wash:

Two parts good vinegar and one part water. Apply with a clean cloth and rub hard until dirt is removed, then place upright to dry. This should not be used on leather.

The book should then be shellacked.

Shellacked covers. New books may receive preliminary care by shellacking before placing in circulation. Shellacking the covers, especially those in light colors, provides great protection from dirt, and they are then easily washed with the vinegar and water. Another coat of shellac is advisable after washing.

To shellac, hold the book by the printed matter and apply the shellac, which may be diluted with a little wood alcohol, taking care to shellac the edges well. Give two coats; between coats suspend on a cord over night to dry. After the last coat, rub with soft cloth slightly oiled with olive oil. This prevents sticking.

If the books are labeled before shellacking, the ink must be allowed to dry thoroughly or it may run; in removing the labels, use wood alcohol first to cut the shellac and then soak off with blotting paper and water.

[pg 21] Care should be taken in the selection of the shellac; if not, the books will be gummy and hard.

The leather on bound magazines and books often becomes very dry and will split and crack. This is especially true of books not greatly used, as the oil of the hands acts as a great preservative. To prevent this cracking and splitting, some oil is necessary. Vaseline is good for this, applied with a cotton pad covered with a soft cloth, and should remain on the leather for a day to permit absorption of the oil. Some leathers will absorb a second application, after which books may be rubbed down and returned to shelves. The oil or vaseline does not harm the gilding. This may be done once a year, depending upon the condition of heat in library and upon age and condition of leather bound books.

Worn covers may be replaced on books with leather backs by removing cloth from the boards dry, and using this as a pattern from which to cut new cloth or paper. Reline inside of boards with paper.

Covers split at joint. Strips of cloth in assorted colors may be obtained with other mending supplies to reinforce covers split at the joints.

This cloth may be obtained gummed or ungummed; if ungummed, use paste; if gummed, moisten with thin paste.


Preparation of books for the bindery. Closely related to the work of mending and repair of books is the preparation of books for the bindery. Binders have complained of the careless and unbusiness-like methods of some librarians in this matter. Attention should always be given to the following:

Handle a book to be bound with more care than when the binding is sound.

Collate every book to make sure that no pages are missing, unless it is ascertained that the binder includes this process in his work.

Many librarians have ceased to make bindery slips, except in the case of important books requiring complicated titles or for magazines. When slip is not made, an excellent way to indicate the lettering for the back of [pg 22] book is to underscore lightly in lead pencil on title page, the specific words in title desired; for author underscore twice.

The material to be used for binding is generally decided upon in advance by conference or correspondence with binder.

Magazines should be carefully examined to make sure that each volume is complete, including title page and index. The librarian should write to the publisher for these, if they are not received within a reasonable time after the volume is completed. If missing, instruct binder to bind in stubs so that they may be inserted when obtained.

In giving directions for magazines to be bound with stubs, state whether stubs are to be at the beginning or end of the volume. Look over previous volumes of set that your volumes may be uniform in the placing of the index, and follow the printer's arrangement.

Send an alphabetical list of the books to the bindery for checking purposes. Keep a duplicate copy.

File alphabetically in charging tray the book cards that have been removed from the books; charge these to the bindery.

Magazines should have a bindery slip made and a sample volume already bound sent that each set may be uniform as to color of cover, lettering, etc. A rubbing of a bound volume can easily be made and sent in place of the volume. If the binder has previously bound magazines for you he has doubtless made sample backs for his own convenience. The slip should show definitely the placing and abbreviations of volume numbers, dates, etc.

When books are returned from the bindery. Examine carefully for flexibility—should not be too stiff and hard to open; evenness of cover; compactness; correct and even lettering; reasonably wide margins.

Check books with duplicate list.

Pay no bills until all mistakes are rectified. Mistakes in lettering can be corrected, and when this occurs return to the bindery.

Enter in accession book under "remarks," opposite the entry of each book the date when the book was rebound: [pg 23] e. g., "reb'd 1 Jc., '20"; also on inside of lower front cover near the joint. A rubber stamp at small expense may be ordered from any stamp works, with the word "reb'd" to be inserted in the pencil date holder with the date. This saves writing.

Enter on the monthly report blank the total number of books rebound. (This gives data for yearly total and obviates the necessity of keeping binding book.)


The Gaylord Bros.' red rope binder provides an inexpensive magazine binder, both for the current periodicals in use in the reading room and those in circulation. The cover of the magazine may be pasted on the outside of the binder, and after the current month the magazine may be circulated just as a book, without damage for future binding. A good quality of wrapping paper may be used in place of the red rope paper. It is less expensive and wears fairly well.

Information as to terms used in binding and mending and illustrations of the structure of a book may be found in the following:

A. L. A. Committee—Binding for libraries A. L. A. Publishing Board

Bailey, A. L.—Library Bookbinding Wilson Co.

Cockrell, Douglass—Book binding and the care of books Appleton

Coutts, H. T., and Stephens, G. A.—Manual of library book binding Libraco, London

Dana, J. C.—Book binding for libraries Library Bureau

Transcriber's Note:

Errors in punctuations and inconsistent hyphenation were not corrected unless otherwise noted.

On page 17, "next the" was replaced with "next to the".

On page 20, a period was added after "crumpling".




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