Rebacking of English and Chinese Dictionary

Repair of half leather binding
2021-12-14
This is the other leather reback that I did recently. The book is half bound in black leather, with the rest of it in green book cloth. From the photos you can see that the leather spine has torn off and the first few pages are detached from the text block. This is an English and Chinese dictionary written by Kwong Ki Chiu, the first Chinese person to write and English dictionary.
We can see that it was a case binding, the boards were not laced in. It makes the binding weaker and the boards more likely to fall off. The deterioration of the covers is evident from the corners, spine and also on the book cloth. It’s hard to tell what caused the discolouration of the book cloth as it is uneven and patchy.
For this repair I started off with taking off the endpapers from the covers, they were blank pages so it didn’t make sense to keep them. I then reinforced the corners with thin wheat starch paste (WSP) and then covered the missing spots with black Japanese paper. The spine of the text block was then cleaned with methyl cellulose poultice to remove the original glue and linings. The first few pages were guarded and made into a signature, and two other blank signatures were created from zerkall: printing and fine art paper in antique colour. The three signatures were sewn onto the text block accordingly.
The spine was lined using Japanese paper with WSP, then lined with airplane cotton with PVA and a hollow was stuck on with PVA one-on two-off. The black goat skin leather was pared on all four sides in preparation for the rebacking. I used WSP as the adhesive for the rebacking, then used PVA to glue down the airplane cotton and the end papers. I did not split the boards to slot in the airplane cotton like before as it was originally a case binding and I wanted to keep it as a case binding.
When the client came to pick up the two rebackings around a month after he dropped them off he had forgotten how they looked originally. He wanted the before photos as a reference to remind himself of the condition that they were in before the repair. As the bookbinder a part of my job is to talk to the client about the rebinding options. We chose to keep to the original materials because of sentimental reasons. In another context, we might have replaced all the leather in the last book and replaced the green book cloth in this one. These decisions are based on the client and their budget. There are other options of rebacking in bookcloth or paper that would have been more cost effective. The quotations of the repair work varies a lot based on the materials used and the time required for the repair.
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