Rebacks (Cloth and Leather)

This is one of the most common types of damage to books is on the spine. The cloth or leather can break along the joint (where the cover opens) and eventually the material can completely fall off the spine and become lost. The major cause for this is that most people pull a book from the shelf by the top of the spine. This causes damage to the caps, endbands and joints.

A reback replaces any missing covering material and reattaches the spine to the book. The sewing and board attachment should be sound and are not disturbed. Depending on the book, either bookcloth or leather maybe used to match the original. Bookcloth and leather are both strong binding materials, but it is often hard to match the original bookcloth and leather is expensive and time consuming to work with.  For this reason, some repairs are done with Japanese paper and/or cotton muslin instead. These materials can be dyed with acrylic paints and match the original almost perfectly. In either case, as much of the original which can be saved is reused for the conservation treatment.

Boltwood, Henry L. (Henry Leonidas), 1831-1906
English grammar, and how to teach it
Chicago, G. & C.W. Sherwood [1869]
PE1111 .B65 1869
Description:   211 p. 19 cm.
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book showing signs of spine damage book front view with spine damage
The book was in fairly sound condition except for damage along the spine and joints. Not repairing this now would cause further damage as the book continued to be used.
spine after repair front view of book after spine repair
The spine and joints have been repaired with new leather to match the original.
scroll decoration  scroll decoration  scroll decoration
front view of book missing leather along joints back view of book missing leather along joints
The original leather was missing along the joints of this book.
Van Waters, George
The poetical geography : designed to accompany outline maps or school atlases ; to which are added the rules of arithmetic in rhyme
Louisville ; Philadelphia : [s.l.], 1850.
G125 .V27 1850
Description:   80 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
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front view of book after repair rear view of book after repair
The book after treatment.
an example of autographs and information found handwritten in books
An example of the autographs and information found in many of these well-used school books.
scroll decoration  scroll decoration  scroll decoration
book showing signs of deterioration to the spine front of book showing damage to spine and corners side view of book showing damage to spine and corners
This book exhibits typical damage to a mid-19th century book. The leather is deteriorating along the joints, spine and corners.
Davies, Charles, 1798-1876
Elements of geometry and trigonometry from the works of A.M. Legendre : adapted to the course of mathematical instruction in the United States
New York : A.S. Barnes & Burr, 1862
QA529 .L44 1862
Description:  259, 134, 62 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
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book after repair of spine front of book after repair of spine and corners side view of book after repair of spine and corners
This volume was repaired using dyed Japanese paper to replace the missing leather. The leather spine was saved to maintain the look of the original binding.
scroll decoration  scroll decoration  scroll decoration
California. State Board of Education.
History of the United States: compiled under the direction of the State Board of Education
Sacremento : [s.n., 1888]
E178 .C24 1888
Description:   432 p. : ill., incl. front, maps, ports. ; 19 cm.
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spine of book where leather joints have deteriorated front of book where leather joints have deteriorated
The leather joints have deteriorated, but the cloth is still in fair condition.
view of spine after repair view of book front after repair of joints
The Japanese paper was dyed with acrylics to match the original color of the leather. While the conservator does not try to hide a repair, she does strive to make it blend with the original materials.
scroll decoration  scroll decoration  scroll decoration
the book after repair
The spine was replaced using dyed Japanese paper. The title was stamped in gold.
book with spine completely missing front view of book with missing spine
The spine on this book was completely missing, but otherwise was in sound condition.
Gage, Alfred P. (Alfred Payson), 1836-1903
A text-book on the elements of physics : for high schools and academies
Boston : Ginn & Co., 1888
QC23 .G35 1888
Description:   x, 439, [6] p. : ill. ; 20cm.