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Recommendations for a suitable Book binding glues

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Greensands20/04/2022 09:29:07
344 forum posts
66 photos

Can anyone recommend a suitable book binding glue for the repair of broken spines etc and general provision of TLC to some well loved books. I am tempted to use a PVA adhesive (Evo-stik W perhaps?) but feel that this would not be sufficiently flexible for the purpose. All suggestions most welcomed.

Grindstone Cowboy20/04/2022 09:44:53
858 forum posts
64 photos

I'm by no means an expert, but many years ago when I helped out in the school library repairing books, Copydex was the glue of choice.


Bill Phinn20/04/2022 09:52:28
755 forum posts
113 photos

It's difficult to know what adhesive, if any, to recommend without knowing the exact purpose you'd be putting it to. Are the books section-sewn or just perfect-bound? What sort of repairs do you envisage, and on what kinds of books?

On a book of any lasting value, if a PVA-type glue is appropriate I would never recommend Evostick W, but rather a reversible, conservation-grade PVA such as this, or better still Evacon-R.

For certain purposes, traditional animal glues or starch pastes are sometimes preferable.

Peter G. Shaw20/04/2022 10:04:14
1421 forum posts
44 photos

It's a long time since I saw it done, but my local library used to use Copydex to repair books with a flexible spine. I think it was applied to the spine and then the book held closed somehow.

FWIW, I think they were the so-called perfect-bound books.

Good luck,

Peter G. Shaw

Edited By Peter G. Shaw on 20/04/2022 10:05:28

Greensands20/04/2022 10:11:24
344 forum posts
66 photos

The book in question is a section sewn and is over 100 years old although of no particular value.

Greensands20/04/2022 10:49:53
344 forum posts
66 photos

Bill Phinn20/04/2022 12:39:59
755 forum posts
113 photos

That's a nice example of period decorative case work, and the outer joints and textblock sewing appear sound.

I would carefully slit the mull and tapes at the inner joints, remove the textblock from the case, use starch paste to soak off the original spine linings, reinforce the sewing if necessary, re-line the spine adding a calico hinge on both sides, lift the paste-downs for a couple of inches and insert the textblock back into the case, pasting or gluing down the new calico hinges underneath the lifted paste-downs to strengthen the inner joints. The original paste-downs can then be re-pasted down over the new hinges and the splitting of the endleaves at the inner joints disguised with carefully toned Japanese tissue.

The binding will then be sound, and as much of the original as possible will have been preserved.

Tim Stevens20/04/2022 17:15:59
1598 forum posts

It is my understanding that any book which is likely to be kept, as valuable or interesting to later generations, should be repaired using the same techniques and materials as it was when new. If you don't do this, you create real difficulties for a later conservator, as they won't know how to remove or restore your changes.

So, following Bill Phinn's advice above, use paste which is 'genuine' - original recipe - even if that means animal glue etc.

I try to apply the same principles when working on old vehicles. Sometimes a part has to be changed completely as the original is too far gone (etc). The changes are done using wherever possible the original holes, threads etc, and the old bits are kept in a (quite big) box so they can be handed on to the next owner.

Cheers, Tim

Edited By Tim Stevens on 20/04/2022 17:17:39

Peter Low 420/04/2022 19:29:28
24 forum posts
7 photos

I did a 5 year apprenticeship in bookbinding in Bristol and then worked 5 years at George Bayntun's in Bath. I saw the introduction of PVA adhesive from the late '60s onwards and it certainly overcomes some of the limitations of paste and hot glue.

Hot glue (brown and prepared in an iron pot of boiling water surounding the glue pot itself) came in two forms, hard and flexible.

Paste was used for sticking paper to paper as in making up endpapers. It was used for any leather covering. PVA works well for paper to paper and for applying bookcloth as a covering and for many other general purposes but I think would still be thought of as inferior for use on leather compared to paste. We actually experimented with mixing proportions of hard and flexible hot glues for some purposes and mixing paste with PVA for others

Hot glues were mainly used on the spines of books. For the "Lining Up" using first a layer of Mull (or scrim) with a layer of Kraft brown paper over that. I would say that lining up with PVA works, but does not produce such a firm result Hot glue was the traditional adhesive for applying covering fabric but PVA was a hands dow winner for that.

I agree with Bill's description and with Tim's. But it depends on whether you are aiming for a durable result or one in which anything done can be undone.

I don't know if Copydex produced anything at all suitable for bookbinding, but their products I have known, I would not recommend.

In case anybody wonders, I gave up Bookbinding in 1977 , did a Skill Centre Training course as a Fabricator/Welder and until now, never looked back.

Bill Phinn20/04/2022 21:08:17
755 forum posts
113 photos

That's interesting, Peter. I visited Bayntun's a couple of times about twenty years ago. Do I take it you worked as a forwarder rather than a finisher?

Tim's spirit of staying faithful to the original methods and materials as well as maintaining as much of the original binding as possible is [with a few notable exceptions] more or less the orthodox position today, in bookbinding and many other restoration crafts. This runs alongside the minimal intervention approach that is now prevalent in many institutions that are custodians of old books. This approach often means nothing more than putting a disbound book in an archival box - a safe option, for sure, except that the craft skills that created the bindings in the first place grow increasingly hard to come by because they're no longer in demand.

Sometimes I set out to save as much of the old as possible, but sometimes the old binding is so crumbly that the only sensible intervention is to re-bind in period style.

Below are before and after shots of an early nineteenth century edition of Samuel Johnson's works I did a few years back. The books are in hand-stained calf and tooled in 24 carat gold leaf.

books 010.jpg

johnson x 12.jpg



Edited By Bill Phinn on 20/04/2022 21:19:04

Peter Low 421/04/2022 08:25:06
24 forum posts
7 photos

Very nice and much more in the appearance they would have had when first bound.

We seldom had the luxury of deciding what lengths to go to. The customers wishes and depth oftheir pockets was always the deciding factor. In Bristol I worked on a lot of books for the university library. These had to be done to a strick specification where durability and matching with the style of the other books was the priority. Do students still use a university library any more?

The trend towards non interferance with the binding and not doing anything to compromise its "integrity" is one which will have contributed to the dwindling pool of binders with th skill to sensitively repair an old book with both a proper regard to its original binding and to preserve it in a readable state.

Quite a few of the problems of older bindings stem directly from a lack of understanding at the time of the materials used. Machine made paper coming into use in the first couple od decades of the 19th cent. had nothing like the lasting qualities of handmade paper. Methods of tanning leather and the developement of chemical dyes later in the same centuary led to many books of that era not lasting as they should. I have had to work on books that had each section held together with rusted staples. And in our own time there is still nothing that can be done for a "Perfect Bound" paperback (or even hardback) which is falling into separate sheets because the glue on the spine has disintergrated, except of course, to keep it in a box!

Douglas Cockerell in the 1920s was responsible for reversing the trend towards unsatisfactory methods but in doing so raised tha actual cost of having good binding done which led to it being a luxury trade.

I'm all for some books being uniterfered with so that future generations can do what they think best with them. But to take my other interest of old motorcycles as an example, There is the choice to be made between full restoration, a usable example or total preservation with no attempt a restoration. As with books its for the owner to choose. What is the book or the motorcycle for? To show off? To ride or read and enjoy? or to preserve in an unridable/unreadable stat? Even in a museum, a fully restored bike gives no actual view of what it would have been like when new (and as a static exhibit, there's no need for it to be all there internally) An exhibit of an unrestored "preserved" example is no more informative. An example of each treatment ehibited side by side could be informative but with limitations. I don't have that problem. My books are done up, as sensitively as I could with materials of the time, to be read and enjoyed and my '52 500 Red Hunter is unrestored, but tidied up, rebuilt wheels, rebuilt mag & Dyno etc to be ridden, not hidden and appreciated as it is by many who see it.

duncan webster21/04/2022 18:00:08
3988 forum posts
65 photos

So as we've got into book binding, how do I repair this

img_20220421_174732 (1).jpg

It's not of any great value, just sentimental as it was given to me by a friend (now deceased), I don't mind if it looks repaired, but it might as well be reversible in case whoever I pass it on to wants to do it properly. I don't want to have to buy vast quantities of materials, this is very much a one off. Book binding is far too skilful for me.

Edited By duncan webster on 21/04/2022 18:16:32

Bill Phinn21/04/2022 19:02:46
755 forum posts
113 photos
Posted by Peter Low 4 on 21/04/2022 08:25:06:I have had to work on books that had each section held together with rusted staples.

Me too. See the one pictured, which consisted of two large folio volumes both in an equally horrendous state, even though the rusting wasn't too advanced. The machine that did the stapling was called a Brehmer wire stapler, I believe. I was tempted to buy one when it came up for sale recently on eBay just so that I could destroy it and have my revenge.

stapled spine of mega lexicon.jpg

Duncan, the task you're faced with there is a cloth re-back. Have a look at Angela Sutton's video of the process. The image quality on the video isn't good but Angela is a Society of Bookbinders member and won't teach bad habits.

Jonathon Bywater21/04/2022 21:54:41
34 forum posts

Bookbinding pastes only. Archival pva very good for most uses but sets rather quickly so for large areas ie end papers,wheat starch is easier. Pva and starch pastes can be mixed.

If you use any of the other things mentooned on here you will have acid burnt paper in no time . Wheat starch can be bought ready to use or pva/ starch mixed together.Many proper bookbinding suppliers stock them. They are also water soluble and reversible

These are not expensive glues.

Edited By Jonathon Bywater on 21/04/2022 21:55:47

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