Have you ever wondered what is involved in a book restoration?

I grew up with this cookery book. It holds the recipes of my childhood. I’m not so keen on liver, but you can see from the stains that we ate it a lot.

liver casserole

The book was in a very sorry state.

Badly damaged Good Housekeeping cookery book Badly damaged Good Housekeeping cookery book inside

There was hardly a single page that wasn’t damaged

Damaged page of Good Housekeeping cookery bookTorn page of Good Housekeeping cookery bookTorn page of Good Housekeeping cookery book


This is not a valuable book…unless you grew up with it, and knew that your mother won it as a school prize many years ago

Book prize plate and missing page

So I asked a book restorer to look at it.

I was very keen that it should retain its history. I didn’t want it to be pristine.

Apparently it was not a lost cause, but it did need a lot of work.

How the book looks after restoration

I picked the book up today and it is a wonderful thing to behold…

spine and front of book

Not only is it all back in one piece, it is readable and usable, while still retaining the characterful stains!

Book with characterful stains

So how did this all happen?

Techniques used

Japanese paper

Japanese paper used to mend a tearJapanese paper

This is Japanese paper and it was used here to repair a tear.

It’s such delicate stuff that in order to put paste on it, the book restorer told me that she applies the paste to a piece of glass and then dabs the paper carefully onto it

Tissue paper

tissue paper on spine edges of pagestissue paper

Many of the pages were damaged at the spine, so they have been reinforced with tissue paper

Linen spine

spine and front of book

The book has a spine! Not only that, but it’s a gorgeous linen spine.

Where did the lettering come from? We’ll come back to that…

Cloth headbands and a light trim

The book didn’t have these cloth headbands originally, but they add a lovely touch.

The pages were all very damaged at the edges, so in order to consolidate the paper and protect them in the future, the sides and the bottom have had a very small trim. The top is untrimmed, so it retains the same look as before.

New cloth applied


Can you tell that there is some new cloth applied here?

It’s been blended so skillfully.

Apparently there are two techniques used for this.

One is “bookbinder’s powder”: the dust from the top of a door! 

The other, which is used here, is acrylic paint.

paint samples

Missing pages restored

Book plate and a facing page that I don't ever remember seeing

The page on the right was completely missing.

I can’t remember ever seeing it (the book has been falling apart for a long time)

So where did it come from?

Donor book

Some of the materials like the spine and the missing pages came from another copy of the book.

It also donated some of the cloth.

This has to be removed with the greatest of care, as it’s heavily starched, and if it gets wet then it is ruined.

To remove it, the technique is to cut around the edges and gently loosen with a scalpel.

Then, using a sturdy cardboard tube as support, it’s rolled / prised away from the board.


Do I feel bad that another book had to die for this project?

No. It’s not a sought-after or valuable book, and it gave its life so that this much-treasured copy can live on.

It’s back home now, just in time to make Easter biscuits if we want to!

recipe for Easter biscuits