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Re: Gluing old leather & tooling on book-cloth

>(snip)...so what can be used here to glue this
>titled old leather piece to the face of the new cover?

This is a very tricky operation, but there are a couple of
ways to approach it with a reasonable chance of success.

The leather is both temperature and moisture sensitive;
sensitivity to pressure goes along with both.  There is
also the matter of the joints.  The old leather will not
long survive flexing, so don't try to preserve the
joints.  That is not to say that a large gap must be left.

Too much heat/moisture/pressure, and the leather will
turn black.

One possibility is to bond a sheet of BEVA-371 to the back
of the old leather and then, through a sheet of silicone
release paper or film, iron the old leather onto the new

I used this to re-attach the titled spine pieces to a set
of books which had been 'preserved' some years before with
a coat of collodion.  All that was left was the collodion
and the grain of the original leather.  That was about
10 years ago and the spines are holding up alright.

A fairly dry cooked wheat starch paste can also be used.

As a demonstration for a class about 20 years ago I re-backed
two turn-of-the century law books.  Bad, almost powdery leather.

I used too much pressure on one spine and it turned black and
hard.  On the other, I used very little pressure and there was
no staining/blacking.

Both spines are still attached, and one remains unstained/unblackened.

The paste was spread on the new leather and allowed to soften the
leather, then the excess was wiped off and a new layer was applied.

Then, the old spine was gently pressed into place and left alone
for a few minutes to absorb *some* moisture.  Using the palms of my
hands I again gently pressed the old leather down.  It stayed in
place and I left it alone.

In more than 25 years at the bench I have only had one spine turn
to s**t on me and it was already somewhat hard when I began, being
a late 18th century English binding which had been overglued by
the original binder.

A dry paste at my bench is one which was cooked from a 1:5 mixture
of wheat starch:water after it has stood for 2-3 days before cooking
(starch granules are not all the same size so it takes some longer
to absorb moisture). After cooking I pour it into a container of
water (if the water turns cloudy it was not cooked long enough) to
cool; then I strain some into a container and cover it lightly
while it begins to dry out over the course of a few days.

A crust will form, but dryer and dryer paste will be found under
the crust.

It is up to the person at the bench to decide when the paste is dry
enough for a particular purpose, while still remaining wet enough
to form an adequate bond.

Hope this helps,


Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab.
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, Oregon
USA  97217

(503)735-3942 (voice/fax)


"The lyf so short; the craft so long to lerne"
Chaucer, <The Parlement of Foules> 1386 A.D.

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