In today’s post I thought I would address the most frequently asked questions I get in relation to book restoration. People are sometimes unsure of the restoration process, whether they can retain any or all of the existing binding, or even if their book is too ‘far gone’ to restore. I’ll endeavour to answer all of these questions plus a few more by the end of the post.
Is My Book Too Deteriorated to Restore?
Don’t assume that a book without a spine and that is mostly loose sheets is ‘too far gone’. Obviously if there is no spine on the book at all, a new one will need to be created, but if there are even just fragments of the spine remaining, we can attempt to restore these by carefully removing the remains and putting them onto a new piece of leather. Anything that can be retained in the restoration will be retained. Sometimes a book needs to be completely resewn by hand or new corners need to be created and positioned under the original leather cover. This can all be achieved.
So, the short answer to this question is ‘NO’. Any book can be restored as long as some of the original cover remains. If there is no cover or the customer does not wish to keep the original cover a completely new cover can be created. This is referred to as a ‘Book Rebind’ rather than a ‘Restoration’. When this is the preferred option all efforts are made to match the original leather, end papers and also fonts used for embossing detail on the cover.
For information on Book Care you can find further information on a previous post here.
Is My Book Worth Restoring?
Even though I am often asked this question, it is not really one that I can answer. What the book is ‘worth’ is determined by so many factors and usually the least of them in money. Many of the books I restore may not be worth much if they were sold on ebay, or to a book dealer, however, they are a precious treasured heirloom to those who own them, know their history and the story of how they came to be.
This question needs to be answered by the books owner. It might be necessary to get a restoration quote and advice on the different options for restoration to get an idea of cost before making your decision.
Some websites you might like to visit for an approximate guide as to the value of the book are:
How Much of the Original Book can be Retained?
This question was partially answered in the first section. Basically I like to retain as much of the original book as is possible. Sometimes it is impossible to determine whether things like the end papers can be saved until work has commenced. End papers and even spine pieces can often be carefully removed through a painstaking process of soaking and gently lifting them from their original position. Again, I will give my advice and an approximate quotation regarding the time and cost of the restoration. It's then up to the book owner to decide how far they would like to go with the restoration. If total restoration isn’t required, I can usually give an alternative course of action to repair the book and enable it to be usable again.
Both leather and cloth books can be restored. New sections of cloth or leather can be dyed to match the existing condition of the book (faded and weathered as it might be), or new and old sections can both be dyed to the original colour of the binding when it was new. In some instances customers prefer not to go to this extent and instead opt for a rebind or for the new piece to remain distinguishable from the original book.
How much will Book Restoration cost?
I will answer here as I do in store. It's almost impossible to provide a quote without seeing the book! Just as a mechanic can not give you an exact figure without lifting the bonnet of your car, it is very difficult to give even a ‘ball park’ estimate without seeing the book for myself. Having said that, if you are able to take some clear photos and email them to me for a price guide – that I can do! Book restoration is a very labour intensive process, so the majority of the cost comes from labour time rather than the materials used.
Will Restoration Affect the Value of My Book?
My recommendation to people who have rare and collectable books is to seek out a book dealer, before commissioning any type of book restoration. Someone who deals in and values books will be able to talk to you about what your book is worth in its current condition and whether a restoration will add value to your book. There is no set rule with rare books and value is usually determined by how sought after the books are, their age and the number to be still in existence. The closer your book is to its original state the better and in some cases the less is more approach is best to maintain the books financial value.
As mentioned in “Is My Book Worth Restoring?” there are a number of great websites that can provide a very rough approximation to the value of books. Keep in mind that the asking price of a book is just that, sometimes a book can sell for a lot less than the asking price.
Hope this helps to answer some of your questions. If you have another question about book restoration you can post a comment below or contact us using our online enquiry form here.