Reattaching the spine of a book
Describing the process of "rebacking"
25 March 2013
Ever had the spine of a book fall off into your hands? Would your first brilliant thought be: “I’d better glue this back on before it gets lost.”? The idea of keeping the spine intact and with the book is great; it’s the glueing part that is the problem. You see, in the majority of hardcover books (case bound) the spine casing is free of the book block. Once you glue the spine onto the book you inhibit movement. In this post I thought I'd get technical. Reattaching a spine is a simple affair providing the cover and board are sound and of good quality. If the spine linings are intact, there is very little work. The vast majority of spine repairs I undertake at the Library come from the outer spines falling off the book. I usually start by pulling the book apart to see what is lurking underneath the damaged covers. In more instances than not, I will need to replace the spine linings, that is the material and paper that line the rounded back of the book. If the book is in fairly good condition, I will simply replace those with fresh linings without resorting to re-sewing.
Book with old lining taken off, nearly ready for relining
A different book with new linings: mull overhangs to be inserted under board leaf
Once the book block is off I can clean up the cover itself. If the spine is completely off, this will involve removing the stiffening from it so that I may re-use it as a label later.
I also lift the material from the cover so that I can insert a new spine.
New spine ready to be attached
New spine attached to the covers
As for the inside of the book, what happens next depends on the state of the end leaves. If they are in good condition I will keep them and try to insert the spine linings under the old board leaf. If the board leaf is in bad condition I would usually put on new end papers, and the casing in of the book is much faster and simpler.
New Book with old spine, ready to be attached as a label