The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 3
Aug 1995

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 permission.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 feathered edge.
  3. 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 deteriorated leather.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 the repair.




Approximately 1 hour


Solid dyed japanese paper - Aiko's Art Materials Import, 312/404-5600


Reversible PVA - Bookbinder's Warehouse, 908/264-0306


Rice starch paste - Talas, 212/219-0770


Klucel G - Hercules Inc., available from BookMakers International, 301/459-3384


Acrylic Polymer SC6000 - Bookbinder's Warehouse, 908/264-0306

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