Another family bible. This one is special; it belongs to my little brother. I was keen to get it ready for delivering in person when I visited recently.
It’s text block was in good shape – just the brass furniture on the outside coming loose, and the brackets bent out of shape (happens a lot), the front board coming off, and it was in need of a good clean, retouch and polish. There were also documents that had been stored inside for years, which would have busted open the spine if left there. So, here how it happened.
STAGE 1: Removal, cleaning, repair and housing of inserted documents, enclosure in cotton, and construction of folio housing. This is also the time to mechanically clean every single page and assess for other repair requirements [insert time-lapse music and ticking clock… ]. Folks who attended the Book Care workshop recently will hopefully recall me harping on about taking the time to clean and inspect every. single. page – this is the time we really get to know our patient, so can’t be rushed.
There was a few other docs in need of repair, and a Marriage Certificate in rough shape, with sticky tape damage to remove. I took the opportunity to reinforce the whole flaking page with 4gsm thin spider tissue. After lining and drying, it was invisible. Love that. Dad wrote little notes about some articles and photos, which were inside the bible – they are enclosed in an accompanying folio now. Even though his message to my brother is on unadorned paper, in an uncelebrating ink, this little note has now become precious beyond measure, after his passing. This is a lesson in not scoffing at the ordinaryness of documents and tidbits written in one’s own hand. They are true artefacts before their time.
STAGE 2:The main structural job to do here was reinforce the front board attachment along the outside hinge – so common for these 1870-90 bibles, as the fashion of the time was ridiculously thin leather, which along with brass brackets squeezing the fore-edge closed and things stored inside, was destined to fail. I have eased it by a millimetre, to account for weather fluctuations to come, and used toned Japanese kozo paper, which is thin but very strong, to bridge the gap under the leather on each side. After consolidating and polishing, it’ll just disappear 😉
The other problem to tackle was that the brass corners were pulling loose, and the brackets were buckled. Brackets were sorted with felt buffers and a Japanese jewellers hammer, and then on to retightening the tacks on the brass corners – removed corners, enlarged tack holes, hammered in toothpick ends with paste, allowed to dry, then reattached corners with original tacks into new grippy timber. Thanks to my old chippy dad for that little gem, taught to me when I was a kidlet for retightening nail holes and coming in handy again now to fix his family bible, years after his passing. Love ya dad. 🔨 🤓
STAGE 3: A custom double clamshell box, fit to the combined thickness of the bible and the folio, from archival E-flute. Given the weight of the bible, it’s unkind to make you reach into the tray, so the inner tray is drop-sided.
STAGE 4: Leather consolidated, brass and gold spruced, and a pleasing polish. All done. Very happy. Little bru was happy too. Winding up the repair season now folks. Maybe a few posts to come, but I’m taking a break to work on my own project.
~ Love your books, folks 🙂