Leather Cookbook

I was recently asked to repair a family heirloom. This heirloom, a cookbook, doesn’t have a large monetary value, as copies online can be purchased for under $20, but is priceless to the client who received it from her mother and she from her’s. The spine was missing, pages were falling out, the text block spine was cracked and the plastic glue that once held it together had lost integrity. Worst of all the book had originally been perfect or glue bound. This means a stack of loose sheets had been glued on one edge as opposed to a more traditional binding where two pages are printed on a flat sheet which then is folded and a stack of those sewn together. A perfect bound book’s spine will fail at a exponentially higher rate than a sewn binding.

For the restoration I had tried to removed the glue in various ways but ultimately had to scrape it with a furniture scraper and sand it down to the page edges. Once most of the glue was removed I peeled off the sheets one by one creating a new stack of loose pages. I then knocked them up, put them in a standing press, and glued them again. This made a new perfect binding. Once the glue dried I sawed in kerfs going against the pages. Each kerf was only about 1/32 of an inch deep and was subsequently filled with glue. While the glue was wet I laid sewing thread in and zig zagged it back and forth over the spine gluing as I went. Once that dried I added mull reinforcement and pressed the book. The new spine was REALLY solid and I have no fear of it coming apart again.

The end papers were done by me a few months back. New end sheets of German made acid free papers were added as well. The client wanted the stains left in the paper which are noticeable on the fore edges and throughout. These are splotches of pie filling and other oils. They add character to the book to be sure.

The leather I used for the binding is sheep skin. I do not love this sheep as the layers tend to loosen if treated with any type of heat so one needs to be especially careful when working with it. The client didn’t specify too many details on the design other than that she liked red and wanted it in an old style. I died the skin red then worked to shade the outer sections purple and the spine a darker purple or even royal blue. I cut a stencil for he cover and did the central panel block gold. I then tooled it and added gilt to the spine.

The client was quite happy with the finished result and said it was and remains her favorite book.  This client works at a school where I volunteer weekly. I was fortunate to be able to show it to the children there and perhaps inspire a future binder or book lover to appreciate old books.