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How to repair a damaged book

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How to repair a damaged book
Books can be fragile, and places such as corners tend to show wear quickly. Over time the bindings fail, and the pages will come loose or tear. Dust jackets exist solely to take damage.

While the words of the book hold the same potential for learning, the book itself becomes nearly unreadable and unusable. The best way to deal with a damaged book is to catch it early.

If your book is showing signs of wear and tear, consider repairing it before the damage becomes worse.

Parts of a book

A typical book consists of two components: the case and a textblock.

Book repair supplies

Get your supplies together before you begin. If you plan to make a habit of this, store everything together as a book triage kit.

Warning: Do not ever use duct tape, packing tape, or any tape that isn't acid-free for book repairs. That damages a book faster than you can believe.

How to remove dirt and dust from a book

How to remove price sticker residue from a book

  1. Dab a cotton swab into de-goo agent. Wave it a bit until just damp.
  2. Run the swab over the residue until coated. Wait thirty minutes, then wipe again with the swab. It should come right off.

Warning: Don't try this on non-laminated covers.

How to smooth a dog-eared page corner

Warning #1: Don't try this on aged or yellowed pages as it may tear the corner.

Warning #2: If multiple pages are dog-eared, work on one page at a time to minimize the damage.

How to remove musty smells from a book

  1. Fill the container partway with baking soda.
  2. Place the book into a zipper bag and zip it.
  3. Place the offending book into a zipper bag.
  4. Place the bag into the container.
  5. Cover it completely with baking soda.
  6. Leave it alone for at least a couple of weeks.
  7. Check for any residual scents. If it's de-scented, you're good. Otherwise repeat until scent-free.

Note: This may take a while for smokers' books.

How to repair a book spine

  1. Trim any loose paper.
  2. Dust the spine area with a soft brush.
  3. Apply a thin coat of glue to the interior of the spine area with a wide brush to stabilize it. Let dry completely.
  4. Use a brush to apply glue to the joint between the spine and the pages.
  5. Use a brush to apply glue to the corner of the textblock.
  6. Carefully press the location(s) where the glue was applied with your fingers to secure it.
  7. Place a bamboo skewer along the joint channel and secure it with rubber bands. Let dry at least overnight.

How to repair a torn book page

  1. Examine the damage to be certain you can realign the damaged areas, especially for any text or images. If you can't, stop now. Otherwise, proceed.
  2. Place waxed paper behind the damaged area to protect the other pages.
  3. Use a small brush to apply glue to the torn edges.
  4. Apply a light pressure with your fingers to press the torn areas together. If any glue oozes, wipe carefully with a cotton swab.
  5. Place another sheet of waxed paper over the repair.
  6. Close the book, rubber band everything into place, and apply some weights to the top. Allow to dry at least overnight.

How to reattach a loose book page

  1. Open the book as flat as possible without causing further damage.
  2. Place waxed paper on either side of the area where the page is loose.
  3. Use a small brush to apply to the inside of the textblock where the page is loose.
  4. Gently hold the edge of the page against the glue until it is touching.
  5. Gently close the book, ensuring that all pages are aligned properly.
  6. Secure with rubber bands. Allow to dry at least overnight.

How to repair a torn dust jacket

  1. Remove the dust jacket from the book.
  2. Examine the damage to be certain you can realign the damaged areas, especially for any text or images. If you can't, stop now. Otherwise, proceed.
  3. Cut a piece of book repair tape to a size that matches the damage. You may have to carefully patch several pieces together.
  4. Align the damaged areas, then carefully apply the tape to the back side of the damaged area.
  5. Gently press the tape into place with your fingers until it is firmly attached. Use a bone folder to smooth the tape out flush as best as you can.
  6. Replace the dust jacket on the book.

How to repair a damaged corner of a hardbound book cover

  1. Cut a piece of book repair tape large enough to diagonally cover the corner.
  2. Place the piece of book tape diagonally across with the corner being in the center of the tape.
  3. If you are using scissors keep working from the front side. Otherwise switch to the back for a knife or other blade.
  4. Cut a triangle out of the book tape that is hanging off the edge. This should be a 90 degree angle or slightly wider from the corner point.
  5. Fold the remaining tape flaps over the side and to the back of the book.
  6. Press the tape flat with your finger to secure it until it is firmly attached. Use a bone folder to smooth the tape out flush as best as you can.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional book conservator. If you decide to make a repair to your book, proceed with caution.

When you just can't save a book

Sometimes the damage is just too great for a simple repair.

In this case, what happens next is your decision. If the book has value (even just sentimental value), consider hiring a professional to repair your book for you.

If it has no real value, it can have a second life as a repurposed, altered, or otherwise up-cycled book.

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