Leaf Attachment/Sewing Repair

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The sewing or "leaf attachment" of a volume consists of one or more of the techniques used to connect the individual leaves or gatherings (groups of leaves folded together) of the text block to each other. These techniques include: adhesive attachment; guarded leaf attachment; mechanical attachment; sewing; and stitched attachments.

The purpose of mending the sewing or leaf connections, or of resewing a text block is to return the book to a functional condition [and to maintain the volume's integrity as a bibliographic unit].

This chapter describes a range of sewing treatments currently in use. (Treatment options available for books with all types of sewing or leaf connections include: no treatment; mending of extant sewing or leaf attachments; and resewing.) It also describes treatments with a history of use, but not necessarily recommended now for a variety of reasons. Discussions concerning the use of outdated treatments have been included.

Wiki Contributors: Pam Barrios, Meg Brown, Katherine Kelly, please add your name here

Copyright 2018. The Book and Paper Group Wiki is a publication of the Book and Paper Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. It is published as a convenience for the members of the Book and Paper Group. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. There is an ongoing project to update the BPG Wiki. We welcome contributions and feedback. If you would like to get involved in this effort, please contact the wiki team at [email protected].

Factors to Consider

Bibliographic or codicological considerations

Historical and artifactual considerations

  • Uniqueness of text or binding
  • Appropriateness of treatment to age and style of the book
  • Loss of evidentiary value
  • Provenance

Anticipated use of the book

  • Patron use
  • Photocopying/scanning
  • Exhibition and loan

Physical characteristics and condition of the parts of the book to be repaired

  • Text block characteristics
Treatment decisions should be based in part upon the physical characteristics of the text block, and how it functions as a three-dimensional object with moving parts. These characteristics include: the type of paper or other support used (thickness, rigidity, grain direction, etc.); the thickness of the text block; the size of the leaves; the width of the gutter margin; the presence of across-the-fold illustrations or folding plates; any materials which might be affixed to the leaves of the text block (photos, clippings, ephemera, etc.); the suitability of the attachment method used as regards the book's function; the openability of the text block; the position at which the leaves flex on opening; and conditions induced by sewing, such as excessive swelling with consequent over-rounding.
  • Text block condition
The condition of the support and of the media will also influence sewing treatment decisions. One must consider whether the support is flexible or brittle, has physical damage such as tears or losses, has tears at sewing /leaf connection stations, shows signs of chemical deterioration at the spine fold/attachment edge, is cockled or otherwise distorted, or has suffered biological damage from insects or mold. The condition of the media (whether stable or friable, flaking, or corroded by acidic inks or pigments) is also important.
  • Condition of sewing/attachment structure.
Sewing threads and other forms of attachment are subject to physical and chemical deterioration, and may themselves adversely affect the materials of the text block with which they are in contact. When they fail, one or more sections of the book may be subject to damage or loss.
  • Characteristics and condition of the book's cover.
The type of binding and the materials used can influence the decision whether or not to repair or resew. If, for example, the spine covering would have to be removed from a tight-back leather binding in order to repair the book's sewing, the relative importance of the integrity of the binding structure must be weighed against that of the text block. If the text block is to be returned to its original cover after resewing, then thread, supports, and sewing pattern may be dictated by the necessity of controlling the swell so that cover and text will still fit each other. Another consideration in resewing is whether the proposed sewing structure would be mechanically compatible with the original cover of the book, or if it would cause undue stress.

Aesthetic considerations

Materials and Equipment


Sewing Structures

Adhesive

Guarded leaf

Mechanical

Sewn and stitched

  • Chain stitch, single needle
  • Sewn on tapes, linked
  • Single raised cords, unpacked
  • Single raised cords, packed
  • Single sunken (sawn-in) cords
  • Double raised cords, pretzel pattern, unpacked
  • Double raised cords, pretzel pattern, packed
  • Double raised cords, herringbone pattern
  • Long stitch through flat spine
  • Hedi Kyle castellated sewing

Bibliography


Barrios, Pamela. 2004. "A Stitch in Time: Repairing the Original Sewing Structure on Bound Materials 1. A Cautious Approach to the Repair of Sewing" (PDF). Book and Paper Group Annual 23.
Bell, Adrienne. 2016. "The Miscellany of Henry Oxinden - or how dental floss, beading wire, and alligator forceps can be used to resew a book in situ" (PDF). Poster exhibited at AIC Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.
This poster describes a technique for sewing a gathering into a book where very little space is available to maneuver the thread and needle. Ms. Bell also described this technique in the 2016 Tips Session.
Boal, Gillian. 2004. "A Stitch in Time: Repairing the Original Sewing Structure on Bound Materials 2. Sewing Repair: A Minimalist Approach" (PDF). Book and Paper Group Annual 23.
Doyle, Beth. "A Stitch in Time: Repairing the Original Sewing Structure on Bound Materials 3. A View from General Collections Conservation" (PDF). Book and Paper Group Annual 23.
Spitzmueller, Pamela. 2004. "A Stitch in Time: Repairing the Original Sewing Structure on Bound Materials 4. In-Situ Repair Sewing of Parchment Text Blocks" (PDF). Book and Paper Group Annual 23.


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