Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The BookMan

One of the problems many of us face is the fact that old books tend to disintegrate especially if used extensively. I recently received some correspondence from a man in Green Bay, Wisconsin who specializes in restoring old books, especially Bibles. I am certainly not in a position to endorse his business, since I have not used it, but I thought his website was very informative. The website is appropriately called What is most interesting about this website is the step-by-step images with the explanation of how the work is done.

In his correspondence he outlines the process:
Most books need me to :
  • Remove covers
  • Remove all the old glue (they used hide glue years ago and after a few year it gets brittle and cracks). I use a VPA glue that doesn't get hard.
  • Remove the old mull (cheese cloth like material that holds the binding together)
  • On some books I will resew the signatures
  • Replace with a new, stronger mull and PVA glue
  • Split the cover just under the outside cloth/leather and fold back to expose the strawboard. I'll glue the new mull to this.
  • Re-use all of the original cover, closing any gaps and rips as much as possible.
 I am sure there are other book restoration companies around the U.S. but since this is a labor intensive activity and since even family heirlooms can lose their apparent value when in poor condition and may get thrown out, I thought it would be interesting to highlight this type of business, especially with the series of photos on his website.

I might put in one caution. If a book is rare or has intrinsic historical value, I would consult a competent rare book dealer to see what effect restoration of the book would have on its value. Sometimes, historical artifacts are best conserved in their original condition without an attempt to restore them. This would not apply to a family Bible however, since the book itself must be conserved and unless extremely rare should be repaired. Care should be taken to preserve any pages that contain inscriptions also.

For more information about book restoration see the Library of Congress. You may also wish to consult the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works


  1. I have had a couple of very old books rebound at The Bookcraftsman in Mentone, CA. Seems to specialize in bibles as well.

  2. I have a cousin here in Jersusalem who binds and restore very old books. For the university etc.