Leather bindings – Repair & Restoration

Earlier this year I took my last core course for the CBBAG completion certificate! As always, I thought I’d share with you how it went and what I learned. I know it’s been a long time since I posted, things have been very busy but going well! I hope to get more posts in now that it’s summer but as always you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to see more of what I’m up to!

If you’d like to read more about the other core courses offered through CBBAG they are here:

Bookbinding Level 1
Bookbinding Level 2
Bookbinding Level 3
Cloth and Paper – Repair & Restoration
Finishing Course
Paper Treatment & Repair

This last course is the second half of Repair & Restoration, focusing on leather bindings.

So let’s begin!

We started the course off by sharing the books we brought in so we could determine what the best plan of action was to fix them. Of course it’s only a preliminary plan, as you start to work it’s very possible it might change. Here are some of the books I brought in, I focused my efforts on the top two. The top one being a lot of work as it needed to be resewn entirely!


As we discussed repair techniques we also covered different types of bindings! It’s important to understand how the book was bound (for example is it a hollow back or tight back) before doing repairs on it as you can’t mix and match when you repair it! I covered these structures in a previous blog post: Basic Binding Structures


We also covered color theory for dying leather and kozo!


After a day of discussion and learning it was time to do some hands on work!

The first book we started on was all the same for each of us, our teacher bought a 6 volume set that all had the same problem. This was used to demonstrate how to tackett a cover back on.

While we worked on that we also all worked on our own projects, here are mine! This first book is from the 1600s and was repaired again in the 1800s. We can tell this from the type of paper that was added to the book as fly leafs, and several signatures and dates give us an extra clue! As I mentioned above this one was in a bad shape. All the sections needed to be repaired and the textblock sewn again.

The other addition to this book was a title page. It lost its original title page, a long time ago! So I took paper that matched closely in color to the original paper, and was the same type of paper (laid). Finding the title page online, I printed it off and printed it onto the older paper.

Then it was time to case it in, as well as fix the cover a bit a it’s corners were in bad shape! I didn’t quite finish this book during the course, but it’s nearly done and just waiting for a few last touches. This is the last picture I got of it so far, it still needs its spine on covered, and once it’s waxed it will all blend together nicely!


The second book I worked on during the course was too bad in terms of the textblock, but the cover was missing its spine and the leather is degrading.  I didn’t grab a before picture (oops) but it was the second book in the stack first shown. While I was going through it to check it over I found a red ribbon inside. I decided it should still have a ribbon but we didn’t have any red so it got a new blue on this time!

Once I cleaned up the spine I added an extended spine liner and hollow tube. Then it was time to work on the cover. It was treated like a case binding! 

Because the leather was so thin and fragile it couldn’t be lifted to slide new material underneath, so instead the kozo when directly over the leather. However, it still looks great and now the book can be enjoyed!

Here is the book finished:

It was a really great course! I am also very glad to be finished the core courses for CBBAG! Of course this is not the end of my learning, I’ll be taking more courses through CBBAG, the next one starts in May!

Until next time,


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