How to repair books

The Darmouth libraries have an excellent tutorial on how to repair books. Among the topics covered are cleaning, tipping in pages, repairing tears, and repairing spines and hinges. Here’s a sample:

Torn pages–Two Approaches to Repair

Suggested Equipment & Supplies

  • Archival document repair tape
  • Adhesive (methyl cellulose paste)
  • Scalpel
  • Micro-spatula
  • Japanese paper
  • Tweezers
  • Press board
  • Wax paper
  • Weights
  • Small brush
  • Q-tip
  • Covered bricks
  • Mylar


Using Archival Repair Tape:

  1. All paper has a grain. Usually the grain runs opposite to how the type sits on a page. When mending a tear, first determine the correct position for the two sides of the tear to overlap. If the tear is long and changes direction, mend only one direction at a time.
  2. Small tears and those that must be mended quickly may be repaired with archival document repair tape. Use only as much as is necessary to cover the tear. While using the archival document repair tape is quick, a major disadvantage is that it often does not adhere well. You may need to use a warm tacking iron covered by a light blotter paper to set the repair tape. Paper tears mended with archival repair tape will never be as strong or last as long as those repaired with Japanese paper and methyl cellulose paste.

Using Japanese paper and a starch paste:

  1. On a small place in the book test the ink solubility by lightly brushing text with a wet Q-tip. Let it soak in very briefly, then blot. If the ink runs or fades, do not use this method to mend a tear. See Using Archival Repair Tape. If the ink appears stable proceed with the mend.
  2. Support the book by opening it to the page needing repair and resting the remaining part of the book against two covered bricks. The book will form an L with the repair page parallel to the work surface. Put a piece of wax paper between the page to be repaired and the next page in the book.
  3. Tear a strip of Japanese paper, along its grain, approximately 1/2 inch wide and slightly longer than the tear. Lay the strip on a sheet of mylar and paste, running your brush in one direction–from bottom to top. Using tweezers gently lift the strip and center it over the tear. Use the micro-spatula to gently work the strip into the correct position. Place a piece of wax paper over the mend.
  4. Leaving the wax paper in place, put a piece of press board and a small weight on top of the repair and let dry for at least one hour. If the tear extends to the edge of the page, the mending strip should be trimmed to 1/8 inch over the page edge. Add paste to the extended mend strip edge and fold it over the other side of the page. Repeat drying procedure.

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1 Comment

  1. What a bunch of great links! Thanks. This almost (almost!) makes up for the snake image on those gorgeous lily pads.