Tell me your story

I have known Sarah and admired her work for a long time, so I am delighted she has agreed to trust me with running Bay Area Book Repair. Over the next few months I am going to be redesigning this website. In the meantime, you can reach me at vanessabookrepair@gmail.com.

I have spent the last fourteen years at the San Francisco Public Library, doing book and paper repair on the special collections there. If you haven’t been to the History Room or the Book Arts collections in the Main Library, I highly recommend a visit! Be sure to check out the exhibitions in the Skylight Gallery on the sixth floor. They are always beautiful and informative.

The library’s collections include materials from the fifteenth century to the present, so I gained experience across a range of historical structures and formats: books, maps, manuscripts, blueprints, and so on. I loved my work and learned a lot.

There was only one thing missing: talking to people about the books they love. Most people have a treasure. Maybe it is your mother-in-law’s old cookbook with your husband’s favorite recipes. Or a book you loved as a child that you want to pass on to your grandchild. Or a family bible. 

Maybe you are a collector: books on bees, or airships, or maps of California. Collectors are so knowledgeable, and I love to hear about their passions.

Understanding why someone values a particular book changes the feel of my work. I recently repaired a volume from a set of children’s books that had been in this family for a couple of generations. The mom was unhappy that this much-loved childhood treasure was falling apart. Her daughter asked me to repair the book. She wanted to give it back to her mom on Mother’s Day. I thought about that story with every page I repaired. 

So tell me your story, and let’s figure out how to bring your book back to life.

Passing the Torch

It’s been several years since I’ve been able to dedicate any time to book repair. I did not want to officially shut down Bay Area Book Repair so this site has lingered, tempting and frustrating many repair-seekers.
Happily, Vanessa Hardy will be taking over the business in the summer of 2021. She has years of experience in conservation and is well prepared to take on an even wider range of repair work than I was able to. I’m just thrilled to carry on the tradition of handing this business to yet another wonderful bookbinder.
It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your beloved books. Thank you for supporting your local bookbinder!

Birthday Book

This sweet little book offers a short, very Romantic poem for every day of the year, so that one can record friends’ birthdays and read them flattering verses on their special day, or judge oneself for having a depressing one. Mine was rather dismal. I did not photograph it.

It had been through quite a lot, with water damage, warped boards, and a completely detached and disintegrating binding. Happily, the titling remained nice and bright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After resewing, the textblock was so nice and flat it seemed a shame to put the old warped boards back on, besides which they were certainly harboring all sorts of nasty spores. The original cloth peeled up easily, so I built a new case and relaid the original cloth on top. The client liked the look of the mottled back panel, so I cleaned it but did not try to fix the obvious damage.

 

 

 

 

 

Staples

I have the feeling that this book was already a little rough, but after it fell out of its owner’s bike basket, he brought it to me for repair. The missing spine revealed that rather than sewn with thread, this book is held together with staples.

Over time, staples will rust and become brittle, can discolor the paper, and are prone to breaking. Depending on the book, it can be a good idea to remove them and resew the book with linen thread. Due to the time and cost involved, though, the owner decided to leave the staples in, which is fine.

At some point, the front flyleaf became rather firmly adhered to the pastedown, partially obscuring the bookseller’s stamp.

I love to see these old guys looking – not new – but solid and strong.

Five Easy Pieces

Well, not exactly easy.

This book had been torn apart as garbage, but the owner rescued it and wanted it to look just as it had. Some paper repair was required…

I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to get it back into the original cover, which was intact. Paper repairs and resewing add bulk that can make the repaired textblock thicker than it was originally. But it worked, and the book looks almost exactly as it did before the damage. You can see a tiny bit of linen reinforcement peeking through the original cloth. I could have tinted it to match the rest of the cloth, but as is, it blends and almost disappears into the scuffed areas, so I left it.

As for that torn page…