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Repairing Rare Books


When it comes to rare books, condition is crucial. A first-edition copy with no damages is much more valuable than a first-edition copy with missing pages and broken binding. So what should you do when you have a book that needs repairs? Here are a few key tips to keep in mind:

1. Know If the Book's Value Justifies Repair: Here's a basic rule of thumb: If fixing a book will cost more than the completed book will be worth, don't do it (unless, of course, the sentimental value will make it worthwhile to you personally). If you are unsure of a book's value, see an appraiser for insight.

2. Evaluate the Cover: You know the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." When it comes to repairing a rare book, exactly the opposite is true. The cover of a book is the first place a book is judged — so consider its condition. If it's a leather cover, how is its color and luster? If it's a cloth cover, are there spots or stains? Some damage may be able to be cleaned to restore the book's appeal; others will need to be restored professionally in order to improve the appearance.

3. Check the Binding: Are all the pages still bound inside your book, or have some fallen out or gotten loose? Bindings are more complicated than glue and paper, so you will likely need to see a professional about reworking in pages that have slipped out.

4. Examine the Content: Last but not least, look at all the pages inside your book. Are pages torn? If so, there are some potential fixes you can do yourself:

a. Document Tape: With thin tissue tape like document tape, you have a way to repair torn pages of books. The tape virtually disappears when applied correctly, creating new adhesions with minimal side effects.

b. Library of Congress Heat-Set Tissue: Available in large sheets that can be cut or torn into the sizes you need, this tissue is strong yet near transparent. You lay a piece of it over a page tear, go over it with a tacking iron and the iron sets it into the paper, invisibly, without water or glue.

For damages too great to tackle on your own, it's always wise to look for a specialist in book restoration and repair. From total rebinding to cover restoration, the services these specialists offer can often make your book's appearance greatly improve.