Paperback repairs

After a long two days of Indexing class I opened my mailbox and was greeted with a marvelous gift: my next book club book! For those of you who don’t know, I belong to a book club called “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book”. Basically, we all pick a book that sounds silly, add commentary, and pass it on.  It is so much fun, and it always leads to laughter.

The book I got this month is “Mistress of the Morning Star.” From the looks of it, it will be hilarious. Although it looked hilarious, it didn’t look very pretty, or like it would hold up to the next four of us reading it! Book repair and preservation is one of my interests, so I decided to experiment and make a new cover.

As you can see the book doesn’t have a cover and the front pages are getting really torn up.

The pages are very yellow. Paperbacks turn yellow because the paper used is bad quality. Almost all paper is made from wood pulp. To break down and bleach the wood pulp paper mills use acid. When there is something in the paper itself that causes problem it is referred to as “inherent vice”.  In this case, the acid is the inherent vice. They can wash all the acid out before making the paper, but that takes time and money. Clearly this publisher didn’t care about the quality of the paper used, only his bottom line, and as a result the paper is now being eaten away by acid. There’s nothing that can be done to reverse this. There are some methods of stopping the acid, but they require equipment and chemicals that I don’t have!

This paper is pretty yellow, but it is still very usable. It isn’t too brittle, and it passes the double fold test. The pages are still tightly glued to the spine, and as far as I can tell none are falling out! You’ll see a lot of old paperbacks in this condition… Eventually it will probably fall apart, but for now having a cover should protect it enough for my bookclub’s purposes.

On to the cover-making! There are certainly better tools to use, but being poor/cheap I went the route of supplies from Walmart. I got a pad of 90lb watercolor paper that is acid free. Most papers these days are acid free–when the acid-free craze hit a while back many mills converted their equipment. Of course, when working on anything you want to be sure to keep it is always important to make sure it is actually acid free. To make sure, it will either be marked “acid free” or there will be an infinity symbol inside a circle. The watercolor paper I got is clearly marked acid free and is nice and sturdy.

Glue is another important tool in a project like this. There are bookbinding glues that you can buy online or at a supplier, but like I said me=poor so I did a little research and found that Elmer’s Rubber Cement is acid free (and also quick cheap and easy to find!) So far it seems to be holding up well.

To make the cover I used some the skills I learned while volunteering last semester at the Preservation and Conversation lab on campus. I never dealt with paperbacks, but I did repair a lot of spines on hardcover books and make a lot of tuxedo boxes (used to store books that are too far gone to be properly repaired)

I cut the paper down to the height of the book. After that I used the spare strip as something of a ruler. I marked width and thickness of the book, and then transferred those marks on to my cover paper.

Once those marks were transferred over I folded the paper where the marks were. I left the back flap on to be used as bookmark or just as a protective flap over some of those ratty pages! I put rubber cement on the spine of the book and the spine or the paper and glued them together. I pressed them tightly together with rubber bands until it was dry.

Like I said, it seems to be holding up pretty well at the moment. There are a lot of things I could have done differently/better if I had bothered to get the right tools, but I think for the time/money I spent on this project it turned out pretty well! Hopefully it will hold up to the abuses of the Sisterhood!

Yes, it is misspelled. Our book club is filled pretty much about being silly, so I tried to make the new cover of the book reflect that. I’m hoping the other members will add their own hilarious touches to the cover as the book gets passed around!

I think this is a sign that I’ve been spending too much time learning about indexing.

The first quote is actually on the title page of the book. The second one by “me” is actually from a Whitest Kids U Know sketch.

I’m hoping to repair more books in the future, perhaps with better tools and more skill! I’m taking a class on bookbinding in the fall and I imagine that will help me out with projects like this!

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4 thoughts on “Paperback repairs

  1. Um, oh my god. I cannot wait for that item. Nice repairs by the by. I won’t guarantee it’s survival, but I think that you prepared it as well as you could.

  2. Oh my goodness Emily I absolutely adore your interpretation of my name… ’tis glorious! And I can’t wait to add my own commentary on the cover, especially since I’m pretty sure this book is going to make me cry since this chica is actually one of my favorite people in history!

  3. AHAHHAAAAAA i love this. i can’t wait to see what sheli does to this book cover. and your spelling of serencsits is hilarious. 🙂

    glad you fixed the covers! not sure that awful book is worth it, but it’s good to know that library school is good for something. 🙂

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