Choosing a book to rebind

I am often asked to rebind favourite stories into volumes worthy of inheritance. Perhaps as a birth gift, a wedding gift, or any number of other wonderfully creative motivations. It is a part of my job that I particularly love, as it is about preparing for the future and showing your family how much stories and books mean to you. I have also heard people say, “oh, my lot would never look after it”, but you’d be surprised at how careful folks become when it is obvious you love the book, have made a fuss over it with a new binding and box, and put it in your will!

A new copy of Ulysses, disbound then resewn, edged, and rebound in full leather with inlay matching the endpaper colour.

How to choose a suitable candidate for classic rebinding:
How do you go about choosing a new book for this treatment, since the work I do lasts a lifetime? It must start with a book that is made well, or the work will be for naught.

An example of a good candidate for classic rebinding: Folded, sewn sections, nice paper and good drape. Don’t be fooled by the soft paper cover – it will be replaced and everything else is good to go.

You can choose a small private press and ask for full folded folios to be printed, or go with a publisher/printer who ‘gets it’, like the Folio Society. I use a LOT of books from the Folio Society stables. If you go for mainstream printers, consider these points:

1. Sewn, folded sections, not a glued slab of single pages.

No matter what you do to reinforce a glued so-called ‘cartouche’ slab of text (sometimes called ‘perfect bound’ paperback book,  though no-one knows why – it is the most far from perfect you can get), it will break and pages will fall out.  Sadly, most books sold new in shops are made like this. They are cheap and nasty; a total waste of trees.

2.  Good quality paper and printing; nice to the touch, and not too glossy or gritty.

Too glossy, and you just know it’s full of plasticizers and other gunk that doesn’t make for a great heirloom.  Too gritty and the paper will wear quickly and acidify – you know, like the paperbacks that look brown only a few years after manufacture. Be aware that texture is okay – that’s a different thing, and can enhance the tactile nature of a book. I’m talking gritty, dark and cheaparse to the touch :/

3. Nice ‘drape’ of pages when the book is opened.

This indicates two things – that the paper direction is head to tail – that is, parallel with the spine, which is required for the binding to last, and also that the tension across the spine is balanced, allowing the opening and closing of the book without damage.
Now, please do excuse the quality and low number of example pictures, as I was having a hard time locating examples of bad/cheapo bindings at our place (fancy that!).
BAD: This cheapo paper is already acidifying, after only 4 years.
BAD: Don’t necessarily trust hardbacks – many are cheapo glued paper blocks with a hard case slapped on.
BAD: Nice paper, but glued at the back, already broken after 3 years, and not worth the effort.
So, armed with that knowledge, I’d like to say one more thing..



~ thank you ~


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s