If you have children that love books, the chances are that one day they will love them to bits. Books can get torn, scribbled on or left outside in the rain (when I was a child, I once left a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in a treehouse overnight). And old perfect-bound paperbacks can also have the glue holding them together perish with age or have their spines crack in half.
To do most book repairs, you will need library tape (clear sticky tape, preferably the rather papery sort designed for mending books), PVA glue, a heavy-duty stapler, something heavy to use as a press (a carpenter’s vice will do) and/or a sewing machine. Rubbers (erasers) are good for removing pencil scribbles off pages (obviously).
Torn pages can quickly and easily be mended with sticky tape. All this needs is a steady hand. Pages have the annoying habit of tearing in such a way that the page does not tear evenly through the paper thickness, but has a sort of overhang. Be careful with these and line the torn pieces up carefully before taping. Do not try to tape up a whole page at once – work in sections of about an inch at a time. Remember to tape up both sides of the page.
Paperback covers that have been torn on can be reattached in a number of different ways. If the front cover has been torn off (and you still have the front cover), staple it back on through the thickness of the book (if the book is thin enough. A fat blockbuster can’t be fixed like this, but a cheap Mills & Boon romance or children’s book can) then use wide tape or (better still) clear wrap over the top of the staple and anchor the cover to the spine and back. Staple close to the spine – the pages have been printed with a “gutter” to allow for binding – about half a centimetre or less from the edge.
If the whole cover has come loose and is in one piece, then spread PVA glue evenly along the inside of the spine, then along the back of the pages. Press them together firmly, then put them in a vice or squeezed down by something heavy until the glue dries. This can also be done if a section has fallen out of a perfect bound book. Act quickly in this case, as pages can come loose and get lost and single pages from a perfect-bound book are next to impossible to replace.
If a centre page in a children’s picture book pull out from the staples used to bind it, open the book out flat at the centre then re-staple through the thickness of the book. Do not try to staple exactly where the old staples were, as the paper in the detached page has probably torn. Re-staple in several places. If the staples have come out of the book, then simply replace the missing staples.
Children’s books bound with thread can be mended either by stapling as described above or with a sewing machine (if the book is thin enough). Using a sewing machine gives a more durable finish – more durable than the original. Alternatively, use a darning needle and thick thread (use a thimble or go through the old holes to save punching holes in your fingers).
To dry out a book that has been dropped in the bath or left in the rain, it is important to act quickly. Put tissue paper, paper towels or even dry facecloths. Put these at intervals throughout the pages, then put the book somewhere warm with something heavy on top of it, especially if it has a laminated cover. Check after a day and replace the paper towels, etc. if the book is still not dry. After drying, let the book air. These methods will not leave your book looking as good as new. But you will still be able to enjoy reading your favourites.
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