How to reback a book: ask James.

I’m on holidays and I feel great. It feels like years since we’ve been here….

Watkins and I drove to the Blue Mountains before the heat wave.  James and Jill have a great unit in the industrial area of the Blue mountains. He was once a teacher at Ultimo TAFE(tech college for overseas readers) and now they do conservation and restoration work.

with James ElwingI reconnected with Eleni and Helen and met Joanne and Penelope. We were learning conservation rebacking. Erzatz. That’s a great word. Lemony Snicket’s Erzatz Elevator. I didn’t know what it meant. Helen asked: what  does erzatz mean? false was the answer.

An erzatz library binding; a false library binding. Ok.  We are doing a split board binding; spliting the board and introducing the japanese tissue in between the boards.

The days are long; this is what usually happens at workshops everywhere. There is some instruction, some demo and then we do. Each of us has arrived here with a certain level of knowledge and hand skills, so it takes a while for us to operate. But that doesn’t matter – what’s the hurry after all?

When I go to workshops or classes I feel a little under scrutiny after I tell people I work as a book conservator, book repairer, whatever. It feels as though i am expected to know a lot more stuff and execute techniques better than anyone else. Which is patently false since I have come here to gain skills. Going to workshops does reinforce in me the knowledge that I do have and I am very happy to share tips that I have learnt at the bench with others.

I digress.

Gurney and Elwing work space

Gurney and Elwing work space

Over the two days I learnt how to split boards a little. I had been shown this before but not in a teaching setting and in a bit of a hurry. Here we took the slow road approach. Using the backing press and adding boards on one side, I was able to position the ruler safely in order to draw a line and cut along with several blades. Sounds logical, but what an eye opener. Jill and James were very generous with their information and time, and it was comforting to be able to get advice from experienced people.

So we pulled down a book and resewed sections. We added a  linen spine lining which we also secured by sewing it through a few sections. I had my first use of a hot mix of gelatine and starch paste; very interesting stuff to use for someone who only uses EVA and starch paste.  As we create a flange with the linen lining and extra paper, the hot glue mixture makes this flange set hard, hard enough to be slotted into the slit board.

Linen Spine lining

Linen Spine lining

Applying KlucelG to cover prior to any glueing

Applying KlucelG to cover prior to any glueing

splitting board

splitting board

flange ready for insertion

flange ready for insertion

We spent hours making a spine hollow and reattaching a spine to the cover, all the while sharing our bookbinding experiences, tea, cakes and laughing.

This all happened in October last year. It is now a new year, and I am hoping for equally exciting things to happen in my binding life.



Filed under bookbinding, conservation

2 responses to “How to reback a book: ask James.

  1. Nice and usefull informations. May I ask you were and how this word „Erzatz” turned up? It means replacement or substitution. Actually german speaking people will spell it like this: Ersatz (with a „s”). This word traveld a long distance. 😀


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