Bible Repair

2018-08-24
I just returned a bible that I repaired to the client. This client is a childhood friend of mine, we went to church together and grew up together. His dad recently got ordained to be a pastor, so as his gift to his dad's accomplishment he asked me to repair this bible. When I got the bible it was in a bad condition, the cover was held together by tape and so were most of the pages of the textblock.
The textblock has detached from the covers, the first two signatures had tape on all pages and some on both sides of a page. The delicate nature of the paper causes the paper to easily crease and also tear. There are all sorts of different pressure sensitive tape that was used to tape parts back, some of the tape has been on the pages for so long that it has started yellowing and staining the pages.
This is the first page of the old testament, it's quite a bit shorter than the other pages as I think it got torn out of the bible at a certain point in time and a part of the page was creased and lost. The page was taped back into the bible with really wide pressure sensitive tape. In the past I have dealt with different books with tape, removing the plastic backing is not the challenging part, it is the tacky residue that stays on the paper that is challenging to remove. For this job I considered finding other ways to replace the pages, an option was to make copies of the pages and create new signatures from the copies, or another option would be to take apart another bible and get the pages you want from it to replace the old signatures. I opted out of the two options and tried my best with tape removal, which takes a lot more time but then figured the end result would be the best.
There's a joke about how the last book of the bible is maps, not all bibles have the book of maps, but this one did. The paper that the maps were printed on is different to the textblock, the paper is a heavier weight than the bible paper. There was also a lot of tape on the maps and it was challenging to remove the tape off of this paper. I ended up doing some research about how to remove the tackiness of the adhesive off the paper, I was taught to use alcohol to remove it, but for such fragile paper it's very tough to let the alcohol soak into the adhesive and then rub it off with a crepe eraser without further damaging the paper. I ended up trying something new, which is to use fine methyl cellulose powder to rub off the adhesive, when you push the powder onto the adhesive, it picks up the adhesive and rubs off relatively easily.
The photo above is the first page of the old testament after the tape removal and paper repair. I used Japanese paper to repair the missing parts of the page and also for any other tears in the different pages. The Japanese paper is glued with pastes that is reversible by moisture, which is preferred over tape any day! Tape is not your best friend when repairing books, it really can be your worst nightmare.
It took a lot of time and patience to salvage all the pages, there were times when I felt a bit hopeless as to when it will end. I would think I was done and then somehow the bible would open to another page of tape. After repairing all the pages individually, I sewed the signatures back onto the textblock and added two extra blank signatures in the front and the back of the bible. I lined the spine with paper and cloth and gave it a hollow to strengthen the book at the spine and cased it into a black goat skin leather cover.
When my client picked up the book he said oh it looks like the original bible. I think that's a good thing? I embossed the words onto the cover by cutting out the words from the original cover and used that as a stencil to emboss using my heated tool. I then used silver acrylic to colour in the embossed words.
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