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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

hectic times, with puzzles to boot

This week I'm getting ready for the Festival of Books here in Tucson.  More on that later this week.

Last week I got a call from a guy I've done books for in the past.  He had a book he wanted fixed quickly so he brought it over.  I had just a couple of days to get it done.

Here it is:


From the outside it looked like a nice repair.  If you enlarge the picture I think you can see that someone inserted new cloth under the original spine, which is pretty standard.  They did a nice job on it, so at first I wasn't sure what the problem was that needed my attention.

Then I opened the book and saw this:


No picture can capture this, I'm afraid.  The book is about a hundred years old, and the paper they added here (it's the paper sticking up in the air and glued onto the cover board) is a typical new machine made paper.  When compared with the paper in the book, you almost needed sunglasses.  It was that bright.

Originally this book probably had a solid colored endpaper, most likely a shiny yellow or brown.  Almost certainly not white.

My first thought was that the person doing the earlier repair had ruined the original paper, something we all have done at one time or another.  These papers can be very, very thin and   one slight mistake and it's a, well, disappointment.  But maybe it was trashed when it arrived at their bench.

In any event no doubt they chose the best paper they had, but it was like restoring a 68 Mustang and putting a lawn chair in as the driver's seat.

I first removed the offending paper, by wetting it out with methyl cellulose, letting it sit and then scraping it off using a spatula.  That took some time because you don't want to cause any damage to the board or the turnins of the cloth.  But it went well.

At that point I had to reattach three pages that were separated by the textblock. The other problem with that paper is that it pulled off the outer pages because it wasn't put in properly. The mechanics of opening the cover dragged the end sheet up and that pulled those pages off the book.  Paper that old is pretty brittle.

But then came the challenge.  I thought about putting in a colored charcoal weight paper, but they have texture and laid lines and the rest of the pages are pretty smooth finish without laid lines.  

So I decided, quickly, to replace it with a marbled paper.  I have a bunch of marbled paper from Chena River Marblers, who do amazing work.  One  of their papers fit in really well with the cover.  I attached a soft brown paper to the textblock to cover up the back of the marbled paper.

A cloth binding at that time would not have had marbled paper end sheets.  Leather would have, but not cloth.  I was just trying to get the book back in the right ballpark, and I think it did and I was happy with how it came out.

All this went well, but then the customer didn't like it and wanted white paper back on it.  Which is perfectly fine.  It 's a lesson on explaining to customers what the book looked like originally and that I would try to bring it back to what it was, or in this case what I thought it should be.  I write it off to the lack of time.   And if that's the worst mistake I've made in years I don't have much to complain about.  

Want to have some fun?  Ask a bunch of binders about the mistakes they've made.  You'll get laughter, embarrassment, and good commiseration.

It'll take some time to find an appropriate white paper for a book like this, but it can be done. 
Lesson learned.  


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