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How to Repair a Damaged Book: Spine Repair, Tape Removal, Fix Loose and Torn Hinges


Book repair is accessible to the ordinary person. However, care must be taken to always use proper techniques and methods of repair in order to preserve the condition and the value of the book.

One of the most common forms of book repair is called casing-in. This become necessary when the endpages of the book have become so worn that the book becomes detached from the cover. The book can be repaired by replacing the endpapers and re-gluing the spine of the book to its cover.

Hinges of a book whose spine has become loose can be tightened. Using glue and a knitting needle, and some waxed paper, you can re-glue the loosened portion to the book. Place the paper between the endpages after you have applied the glue, using the knitting needle, inside the loosened part of the cover. You can then place a heavy object on top of the book (make sure it’s flat, or that there’s a small flat surface between the book and the heavy object) while the glue is drying.

Many times when we buy a book we find that a previous owner has unfortunately repaired it with tape. The problem with tape is that it’s full of acid, and this will eat away at the book, causing discoloration as time passes. Tape removal is actually rather simple. Use a scalpel to remove the tape from the paper. Try as best you can not to damage the paper the tape is attached to. Use a gum eraser to remove as much of the adhesive as possible. It is very difficult to remove this adhesive completely, although there are some kits available which can get it all off. Typically the complete removal of the adhesive requires use of a solvent which may damage the book. Take this in stride, and be sure never to place cellophane tape on any book in the future.

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If some splitting has occurred between the endpages, some hinge tape will easily remedy the problem.

There are two types of book bindings; glued and sewn. If your book is sewn, and it’s split or come loose, you will need to have it resewn by a professional.

However, in some cases you may be able to repair a glued binding. For example, if the spine of your book’s cover has come clean off, you can reattach it. Removing the spine, and being careful to not cut through the book’s hinges, you can use cloth tape to reattach it. Old glue and paper must be scraped off the interior spine. Using acid-free adhesive and cloth tape, the spine can now be reattached. Brodart materials are generally preferred for this sort of book repair.

If a book has little value, for example if it’s a relatively recent paperback, you can just use hot glue. However if it is particularly valuable, or highly valuable, have it repaired by a professional.

Carole Dyal and Pete Merrill-Oldham, “Hinge Tightening II.” MSU. URL: (http://www.lib.msu.edu/apd/BookRepairTech2.htm)
Uncredited, “Procedure: Casing-in.” UIUC. URL: (http://www.library.uiuc.edu/preserve/casing1.html)
Uncredited, “Procedure: Spine Replacement.” UIUC. URL: (http://www.library.uiuc.edu/preserve/spine1.html)
Uncredited, “Procedure: Tape Removal.” UIUC. URL: (http://www.library.uiuc.edu/preserve/ex9_1.html)