Restoring old books

Restoring century-old books is one of the areas of expertise of the bookbinder Christine Merkel-K÷ppchen. Her accurate way of working preserves and augments the value of the books.

old bible before 
bindingTaking an old bible as an example, you can get an idea of her work:

In a first step, the book is the completely deconstructed. Leaf by leaf is cleaned in a mild bain marie. The damp leaves are dried and pressed on blotting paper. After that, the tears are repaired by bonding paper fibres. Sensitivity is required at the subsequent gluing: not too much and not too little glue.

Now the so-called book block is produced in the traditional stitching technique. It consists of stitched leaves which are not trimmed. In an old wooden sewing frame which has already been used at the times of Gutenberg, the leaves of the book are sewn together with a thread of linen and flax. The sewing frame serves to span the threads and hemp strings.

After that, the wooden covers are re-worked and joined with the newly-stitched block. A large piece of hogskin, recognizable by the bristle holes, is glued around the bible. Using an old brass embossing tool, ornaments in the style of the period are stamped into the leather, and a hot brass roller creates patterns typical of the century.

Brass fittings and clamps, finished by the bookbinder herself, conclude the restoration. The complete book, the restoration of which took around 100 hours, is a true gem!