Lecture: “A possible solution for paperback bindings” (ICPWH, Sarajevo)

  • Event: First International Conference on Preservation of the Written Heritage.
  • Lecture: A possible solution for paperback bindings.
  • Organization: Gazi Husrev-bey’s Library, Sarajevo (Bosnia i Hercegovina).
  • Venue: National Library of Bosnia (Gazi Husrev-begova Biblioteka).
  • Audience: Book and paper conservators, librarians, historians, general public.
  • Language: English (several languages, with simultanious translation bosnian ↔ english).
  • Dates: September, 16-17th, 2019.
  • Other links: Facebook album, program, website.


Paperback books are very popular bookbindings. From the aldine books, this simple structure has survived unchanged for centuries, and we can find either cheap issues to the most exquisite collector’s editions.
They have inherent structural weaknesses whose consequences are well known: breakage of the spine, loose covers, and eventual failure of the sewing. Not surprising, since they are usually meant to be very much handled and their attachment to the boards is the mere adhesion. Not to mention the lack of sewing supports (thongs or tapes). Two of the main structures are stitched within a drawn-on printed cover, and sewn unsupported with drawn-on cover.

A conservation treatment keeping the very same structure will extend those hazards in time, and therefore the need to consider some modifications. Conservators are pushed to decision making, finding a compromise between functionality and aesthetics. A common solution is to replace the tight spine by the addition of a hollow.

The goal of the suggested treatment is to be the less visible possible, intending to keep their freshness, and yet provide them with enough mechanical strength to guarantee a long term conservation, specifically on the spine. A very intersting resource as a structure provider for this light structure is grain direction of the paper, which has been used on pastedowns long before.
The current solution is similar to adding a hollow, and focuses on the reinforcement of the sewing, extending it in a way that there is actually no need for the hollow. The extension is attached onto the boards, but not the spine, forming an actual link of the textblock and the covers, and providing a hollow back (since it was a tight back in origin).
There are several variations of the suggested treatment, because of course each book has its particularities. These solutions offer full flexibility, enable an outcome that does not differ from the original and yet safety and endurance during handling will be granted.

Conservation of a stitched with drawn-on cover book

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