Not all books need to be conserved or repaired. In some instances rebinding or boxing is the better alternative, but how does one decide? Is what you have a book or an artifact? Click on the titles of each section, or the pictures, for additional information on these points.
Conserving a book involves using as much of the original materials as possible, including covers, spines and pages. It may involve replacing some elements of the original binding, but only when reusing the original materials would reduce the ability to use the book in the future. The fundamental question might be whether the book is an object or an artifact. Click here to read on that subject.
Conserved books do not look new. They should show their age and use, but can be used and passed down to future generations.
Conservation and repair are often more expensive than rebinding, but they preserve the books and allow you to see them as they were.
If a book was yours as a child, or your ancestor’s, or has historical value for other reasons, it is probably important to preserve its character as well as its contents.
If your book is important only because of its contents or your notes and marginalia written in it - and there is no intrinsic value in the binding - it might be a candidate for rebinding. If, however, it has artifactual value it should be repaired. Click on the photograph for a further discussion on whether what you have should be treated as a book or an artifact.
Rebinding is more than just replacing the covers. It often involves delicate repairs to the outer pages of the book, and sometimes involves altering the book’s structure. Each rebinding projects needs to be carefully thought through in order to achieve the best result. All books are not the same, so all books cannot be treated the same way.
Placing a book, or other objects, in a box or enclosure is often the best solution to preserve it -- even if the item is also being conserved. Boxing protects the book from dirt, pollution, light and water damage, and also allows you to transport your book without causing stress to the binding. There is nothing more important for the preservation of a book than to put it in a drop spine box. Nothing.
This photograph shows the most common type of box called a drop spine box, or a clamshell box. Clicking on the picture will take you to further descriptions and images of a few different boxes and enclosures.
All enclosures are made one at a time to fit the exact dimensions of the item being boxed. Boxes and enclosures can be made to blend in with the books in your collection. They can also be decorative, and are commonly done with fine bindings as a means of extending the design beyond the binding.