Two members of staff from the IHR Library recently attended a workshop examining techniques in basic book repair hosted by Senate House Library’s Conservation department. SHL’s conservator, Alexandra Bruce, delivered a short presentation explaining the importance of investing in small book repairs and the practical benefits this can bring to institutions. It was noted that, ‘basic repairs carried out as soon as a book shows signs of damage can extend the life of the book at very low cost and prevent the need for more complex repairs or costly re-binding.’ In addition, undertaking basic repairs in-house allows for volumes to be returned to the shelves more quickly.
The Conservation team then demonstrated a range of basic repair techniques, including hinge tightening, spine re-attachment, re-sewing pages, tipping in loose sections and consolidating corners. It was exceptionally useful to see the level of detail and range of different implements used according to which repair was being undertaken (including using a knitting needle to apply glue to the spine of a book!) After watching the demonstrations, we were afforded the opportunity to put these techniques into practice ourselves in a hands-on practical session.
Following the workshop, the IHR library is initiating the setting up of a ‘bindery’ where such basic repairs can be carried out. The Institute previously had a dedicated bindery located in the basement of the building before constraints on space necessitated that the bindery be closed. It is envisaged that repair work will commence in September in order to begin clearing a proportion of the backlog of books that are in need of repair and return them to the shelves as quickly as possible.
However, it should be noted that many of the volumes currently in repair require much more extensive work, with many in need of complete re-binding or specialist conservation. The expertise and time taken for such work means that this can be extremely expensive.
Consequently, the Institute would greatly welcome support for it’s Library Conservation Fund to help preserve the library’s invaluable collections. Donations of any size would be greatly appreciated, with roughly £50-£70 funding a basic rebinding and £160-£200 facilitating restoration of a historic binding. For more information see:
In Autumn 2016, The Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship will offer six apprenticeships, learning the skills and expertise of the hand bookbinding trade. For more information see: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/news/the-queens-bindery-apprenticeship-is-announced