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Adventures in Book Conservation with Emily Wallace

I spent an afternoon talking with the folks who work behind the scenes to take damaged or worn out books and breathe new life into them. Though she is always in the middle of a handful of book restoration jobs, I had a chance to chat with Emily Wallace about some little known book conservations facts. Thanks for sharing your experiences and expertise in book conservation, Emily!

What book comes into Denver Bookbinding Company for repairs most often?

Emily: Bibles – in a variety of forms, languages, and religions – are what we get in the most for restoration/rebinding.

And what book title is the second most often repaired?

Emily: The book we get in the most after bibles is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I think I’ve seen five or six in the just the past six months or so. This brown one (my personal copy of Little Women) is from 1900.

Was this a difficult repair?

Emily: The spine was in excellent condition, so I was able to reuse it once I’d made a new spine for the book. This kind of rebind is called New Spine/Original Boards – pretty self explanatory. This is a common form of rebinding that we get. Many people like to reuse as much of the original as they can.

So this is done when the spine has deteriorated but the boards (the front and back cover) is still in good condition?

Emily: Yes. The spine (of the cover) isn’t in any condition to hold the boards, so we make a new spine, and can then mount the original one onto that. When we can’t do that, we can stamp the title/author/designs/etc onto the new spine. Both types of this binding are done for a majority of the large family bibles we get in.

And Little Women is really the second most common book repair for Denver Bookbinding Company?

Emily: (nodding and laughing) Funnily enough, just as I finished this 1900 copy of Little Women, someone brought in another copy, from 1917. I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of the completed job, but it was so strange that someone brought in a copy that was almost identical to mine – except hers was blue, and the spine was gone.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and expertise in book conservation, Emily!

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