Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cook's Voyages

Half the fun in the restoration business is working on great books few of us ever get to see. These photos are of a 1779 2-volume edition of Captain James Cook's "Voyage toward the South Pole, and around the World. Performed in His Majesty's Ships The Resolution and Adventure." The textblocks were fairly tight, though some fold-out maps needed mending. New headbands were sewn over round cores and the whole rebound in sprinkled calf. I'm trying out new calf, still searching for a replacement of Pearce's inimitable (and no longer available) vegetable-tanned calf. This is from Franz Hoffman in Germany and tooled very nicely, though it wasn't fun at all to pare. (The animal is a little older and the hide much tougher.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Flowers Personified: A Leather Rebacking

The hand-colored title page and a closeup of new leather turn-ins.

Cloth joints oversewn and a picture of the detached spine The close-up shows new leather worked under old and new headcaps formed, prior to color touchup and blending..

Close-ups of the reattached spine, with new leather running from the reattached spine to the triple gold lines.

"Flowers Personified" is an unusually beautiful volume, handcolored throughout "with 52 female figures adorned with flower costumes." The textblock was in very good condition but, as is typical with books of this period (mid 19th century), there was virtually nothing holding the boards on beyond the thin covering leather and paper inner joints. As a result, both spine and boards were detached.
After cleaning the back of the textblock, linen joints were oversewn. This is a somewhat invasive procedure, but is at times invaluable for catching up loose sections front and back and for providing solid support across the joints. (The debate can rage on in the comments if you like.) To finish preparation of the textblock, the spine was relined with a new hollow.
The leather on the boards was lifted (you can see the cut right next to the three gold lines) and matching black morocco was worked around the spine and underneath the original sides. The original spine was cleaned from the backside (extra layers of lining material removed), headcap areas were thinned, and then it was laid back over the new spine. New leather was blended with the old and though the camera flash is merciless, the repairs are fairly invisible to the untrained eye. This type of rebacking is perhaps the most common "surgery" performed by book doctors, and similar techniques are used for clothbound books.