Volume 19, Number 3
Japanese Paper Hinge Repair For Loose Boards on Leather Books
This method of repair, devised several years ago by Don
Etherington of Information Conservation, Inc., was described at the
ALA Physical Quality and Treatment Discussion Group in June 1995.
The text below is from a handout, and is reprinted by
This technique is used for reattaching or supporting weakened
joints of leather bindings, particularly those of the 19th and 20th
century. In general the spine itself is intact and the sides of the
boards are still in good condition. Books should be no larger than
10" in height and 1-1/2" in thickness.
Joints are reattached with strips of solid dyed japanese paper
and a mix of reversible PVA and rice starch paste. The solid dyed
japanese papers offer a wide range of colors and are very strong
with good tear strength. If a more sympathetic match in color is
desired, the colored paper can be dyed.
This technique is particularly effective on books that have a
tight spine, which generally would have required skilled expertise
and extensive time to reback.
The rationale for repairing bound books broken just at the joints
with a strong japanese paper instead of a pared strip of leather
comes down to one word, strength.
The application of two strips of japanese paper, one outside and
one inside, gives a very strong board attachment to the spine and is
a method of minimal intervention to the original binding.
- It is very important to attach a strip of japanese paper to the
inside joints before attempting the outside repair. This is to make
sure allowance has been made for ease of opening at the joint.
Attach the strip of paper to the text block (under the original fly
leaf if possible). The other portion of the inside hinge will be
attached to the board at a later stage.
- Choose a color of the solid dyed japanese papers to match the
leather. Tear a strip 1/4" to 5/16" wide, extending 1/2" longer
than the boards. A sharpened bone folder dipped in a water jar
where the brushes used for PVA adhesives are standing seems to give
the correct amount of water and PVA solution to create a
well-defined line for tearing the paper strips and leaves a
- If the leather binding exhibits red rot, treat it with Klucel G,
a consolidant produced by Hercules Inc. This treatment is necessary
if the japanese paper strip is not to be rejected by the
- Position the boards on the book with a weight on top. Use a
mixture of rice starch paste and reversible PVA to attach the strip
across the joint. Press paper down lightly with the palm of your
hand so that the paper sinks into all the undulations and across the
edges of raised bands. The feathered edge of the strip blends into
the leather very nicely.
- Let the outside hinge dry for about an hour before turning in
the strip at head and tail. In most instances the strip is turned
in only to the height of the square of the board and cut off at the
edge of the endpaper. In some books the strips can be left longer
at the turn-in because they will be covered by the inside hinges.
- After the outside hinge is complete, finish attaching the inside
japanese paper strip to the inside of the board. This attachment
under the original endpapers (both the free fly end and the board
paper) is the more sophisticated method. In general, if the need to
lift the inside board paper is purely cosmetic, then the added cost
should be evaluated carefully.
- After the repair is complete, coat the strip with a light
application of SC6000, an acrylic wax polymer available from the
Bookbinder's Warehouse. This seems to enhance the look and feel of
Approximately 1 hour
Solid dyed japanese paper - Aiko's Art Materials Import,
Reversible PVA - Bookbinder's Warehouse, 908/264-0306
Rice starch paste - Talas, 212/219-0770
Klucel G - Hercules Inc., available from BookMakers
Acrylic Polymer SC6000 - Bookbinder's Warehouse, 908/264-0306