Peter’s Every Man

Peter Braune, master printer at New Leaf Editions down on Granville Island, has formed a habit of sending bookbinding projects my way. This book, is one of Peter’s own: Every Man his own Mechanic. And knowing Peter, and his varied skills, this is just the kind of book I would expect him to have.

So the spine was split, but not before the fore-edge had adopted an elongated m-shape (like simple line drawings meant to illustrate seagulls flying in the distance). The cover boards and endpapers had detached from the book block, and most of the spine cloth was missing. Water had destroyed most of the cover.

Mandate: rebind the block, retain original endpapers and inscription. Original case can be discarded. Free reign on everything else.

The first task was to strip and unbind the book. With the case already off, I put the block between boards and into a finishing press. I placed a dampened rag along the spine to put moisture into the black heavy paper liner to soften it up and reactivate the glue. With a book this age, it was blessed by having been bound with hide glue, which is water-soluble, even after all the years since. Once the liner was moistened, I could used a palette knife to scrape away the liner and the glue. From there, I could snip the sewing and pull each signature off the block, one at a time.

This block had been machine-sewn, so there were no cords or tapes, but the spacing was just right for me to re-sew the block on linen tapes. Given the number of signatures, and the ample number of tapes I opted to use, I should have either used a thinner gauge thread, say 40/3, or sewn two signatures on at the same time (I will illustrate this method at the next opportunity) to reduce the swell in the spine.

I should have used either of those techniques, but I was a third of the way through the block before I seriously thought about it. So I gambled and continued to sew with 25/3 thread one sig at a time.

I had kept the original joint in the book, so once everything was sewn, I was able to reform the round of the spine and had a ninety degree joint that sat perfectly in the finishing press. Dodged bullet. You can now only see a hint of the split that was in the original binding.

Here is everything permanently set with a new mull layer, kraft liner and headbands. New endsheets were added for the moment.

We jump a bit ahead here. The new case, Windsor rayon, features a window displaying a portion of the original cover. To make this, a chipboard layer with a window is adhered to the cloth, then the cloth is wrapped around the inside of the window. The salvaged title cloth is adhered to a second board, which is then adhered to the back of the window board, and then everything continues as per usual. I should note that we had not planned to use the original cloth, but changed our minds after the wet process of removing the original endpapers from the cover boards. This explains the loss of colour in the title cloth.

In this case binding, the boards nestle tightly in the joint, which is one and a half times the depth of the boards, and there is no play in the movement of the cover relative to the book block, which is what I want for a really thick book. Solid.

The old endpapers are adhered over the new.

The new flyleaf is trimmed back to where it was tipped onto the book block. Where the original flyleaf is tipped on, a wider bead of glue hides the trimmed edge of the new sheet.