The Book Doctor Is In: Reattaching Loose Contents

book doctorCongratulations! If you have worked through all of the past Book Doctor blog posts, you’re able to handle most of the common repairs needed inside the book. In this post we’ll detail some repairs to the text block and move to some basic techniques to spruce up a worn or damaged cover in the next installment.

Reattaching Loose Signatures

In Bookbinding 101, we briefly mentioned that most modern hard cover books are made up of groups of signatures that are sewn or glued together. (A quick glance at the illustration may help to refresh your memory.)

From time to time you may find that an entire signature has come out of a book. If the signature was originally stitched together you will often find that the individual leaves within it are also separating from one another.

Whether the loose signature was sewn or glued together, you can securely reattach it by first applying a bead of Demco® Norbond™ Liquid Plastic Adhesive Glue along the outside of the fold of each leaf and then nesting the leaves back together. Be sure to check the page numbering to ensure they are in the right order!

Run a bone folder down the fold in the center of the signature, close the signature and let it dry overnight under light weights. When the Norbond is dried, simply run a bead of adhesive along the outside of the fold and insert the signature back into the text block against the super. Use a folder to ensure the signature is pressed in securely, close the book and let it dry overnight with some rubber bands around it.

At this point it’s important to remind you that a signature is a group of leaves that are always folded in the center so each leaf makes up 4 pages. Several leaves are nested, glued or sewn together along the fold, and then glued or sewn to the super, along with all of the other signatures which make up the text block. If each page is an individual flat sheet — not folded in the center — the book is perfect bound construction. If a page, or a group of pages, pulls loose from this type of binding simply glue it back to the super as described in Bookbinding 101.

book-repair-p23-Image0If the signature is especially large or heavy, you may wish to add more strength to this repair by using a strip of single stitched binding tape to reattach it to the book (see picture).

Dealing With Glued Books

You may often find perfect bound books failing completely. These are books in which each page is a separate sheet glued to the super or the inside of the cover. If the entire text block has separated from the cover, use double-stitched binder tape to secure it into the cover as described in Rebuilding Broken Books

If a section of the text block has separated from the super, it us often possible to reattach it by brushing Norbond adhesive along the back edge of the loose section and reinserting it firmly against the super. Be sure to place a piece of waxed paper into the book on both sides of the reattached section so any excess adhesive doesn’t stick the pages together. Close the book, place some rubber bands around it and let it dry overnight.

When a glued text block has separated into multiple sections, I’ve had good results gluing all of the loose sections to a strip of double-stitched binder tape, allowing that to dry and then reattaching it inside the cover.

With that we’ve covered most of the repairs inside of a book that you would want to tackle in a typical library that doesn’t have someone trained in book restoration on staff. So it’s time to close the books and move on to repairs to the covers in our next post. As always, feel free to use the link below to post any comments or questions and I’ll respond. I may use your input in future posts.

Throughout this series, we reference two resources from Demco. The pamphlet Demco Collection Care Guide and the Demco Collection Care DVD are both available to help you through your book repair challenges.


John Ison

John Ison

John Ison retired in 2011 after working with Demco for more than 25 years, most recently as the Director of Library Relations. During that time he conducted over 300 book repair workshops, wrote the Demco Collection Care Guide, and wrote and produced the Demco Collection Care DVD.