Treatment Report: Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book

by bookwyrmbound

Title: Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book

Author: N/A

Place of Publication: London

Date of Publication: 1871

Before: front (detached) board and spine

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--Before

Before: Back Board

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--Before

Before: Broken front hinge with letter


Binding: Bound in vellum over boards, with yapp edges at the foredge. Both boards completely detached, spine missing and spine lining worn, leaving sewing visible. Boards are flat and in relatively good condition. Vellum is heavily soiled but not warped. At the corners, the vellum is torn, leaving the board exposed. Board at corners delaminating.

Sewing: Sewn all-along on sunken cords, first signature whip-stitched. The sewing is mostly intact, with some breakages at the attachment of the first signature, and one break of the kettle stitch and first cord toward the middle of the textblock.

Paper: Thin, discolored, and quite brittle. Described as between beige (1) and brown, thickness medium (1), texture smooth (Print Council of America Paper Sample Book, 1966).  Some losses on early pages. There is a folded letter glued to the front board. The paper is described as beige (1), thickness medium (1), and very smooth (Print Council of America Paper Sample Book, 1966).  It is quite creased and has some tears, and is soiled in places. The writing is in iron-gall ink.

Endpapers: Single bifolio, tipped on. Same paper as the text.

Forwarding: The spine is heavily rounded and sharply backed, and the boards fit tightly into the shoulders. No endbands. No decoration.


Remove letter from front board, flatten, mend tears with wheat paste and JT.

Spit-clean vellum.

Undo whip-stitch on first signature and repair with JT.

Resew first signature to text block; repair other breaks in sewing as needed.

Line spine and construct hollow tube.

Laminate airplane linen and JT to create vellum lookalike spine.

Reattach boards.


Spot Tests: Spot-tested the vellum to see if spit-cleaning would work, using a cotton swab. It removed much of the dirt and did not damage the surface texture of the vellum, so both boards were cleaned using the same technique.

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--During

Cleaning begun

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--During

Cleaning nearly completed--about 150 cotton swabs later

Paper and Media: Removed letter from front board using lifting knife. Removed some of the excess glue from the leather using a poultice of 4% methylcellulose. Used a water pen filled with distilled water to moisten the creases and unfolded them until the paper lay flat. Let dry under weight. Mended tears as needed using Kizukishi tissue and wheat starch paste. Constructed Mylar folder for letter, which will remain with book.

Removed first signature and undid whip-stitch. Some of the leaves had been glued together, so they were guarded as one unit. Guarded the remaining leaves together, and then guarded the two sets together to create a hinge to sew through. In order to avoid creating a breaking edge, the two groups were guarded together with two layers of Kizukishi cut to different widths. When the guards were dry, the signature was folded so it fit into the shoulder of the book.

Forwarding: It became clear that the cords and sewing were quite fragile, since open the book to access the break in the sewing caused another cord to break. To stabilize the book, the spine was lined with Sekishu tissue using wheat starch paste. Sewed the first signature onto the book using 35/3 linen thread in a pamphlet stitch.

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--During

Book in the press, in the process of re-backing

After applying three layers of Gutenburg paper to the spine with wheat paste, opened the book at the break in the sewing and inserted a hinge of Kizukishi tissue between the two signatures. Two more layers of Gutenburg were added to the spine. The spine was lined so as to be quite rigid, in order to prevent undue strain on the sewing.

Once the spine was dry, an extended spine lining of airplane linen was made, reaching about 1 inch onto each board. It was attached with PVA (since it was being glued only to new material). Then a one-on, two-off hollow tube was constructed out of 10pt board and adhered with PVA.

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--During

Penultimate layer of Japanese tissue attached.

Binding:  The delaminating board was consolidated at the corners using wheat paste. To reattach the vellum at the corners, very dry wheat paste was tried, but that proved too weak, so PVA was used instead.

The vellum at the spine was lifted to prepare for the reback. The book was placed in a press with the boards in position and the extended spine lining pasted down, using strips of mylar to prevent the moisture from reaching the vellum. The new spine was covered with another piece of airplane linen (cut so it would be staggered with the first), and then layers of Japanese tissue, first Sekishu and then Kizukishi, which had been toned using acrylics to match the vellum on the boards. The linen and the tissue were put down with wheat paste.

Pasted new hinges of Sekishu into the inner hinges of both boards.

Finally, the vellum that had been lifted was re-attached using Lascaux.

Photodocumentation: Before, two views of binding, open to front hinge with stuck-in letter. After, two views of binding, open to front hinge, detail of letter.

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--After

After: the back board and yapp edges.

Facsimile of the Black-Letter Prayer Book--After

After: the fully repaired book, with its new spineAfter: Repaired hinge, showing opening, and mylar folder for letter