We love our books, but sometimes things can go wrong. A sad reality about books is that they have limited strength. Spines crack, hinges weaken, leather and paper deteriorate. Here in the Library, we collect for use by our researchers. And each time a book is opened, it breaks down a little more. When we opened a box last year and found a bevy of distressed tomes, we knew we had to act.

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Can you believe how spineless some books are?

With the help of our members, we raised the funds to take the first set of broken books to the book doctor. I had a chance to visit Nancy Delaney of Delaney Book Restorations and look in on the progress of the restoration work.

The workshop. Nancy has restored antiquarian books by hand for years.
The workshop. Nancy has restored antiquarian books by hand for years.

 

The Lady's Equestrian Guide. This book is getting a complete re-binding, as the old cloth binding fell off entirely.
The Lady’s Equestrian Guide. This book is getting a complete re-binding, as the old cloth binding fell off entirely.

 

Our adopted books are currently being re-stitched, providing strength and stability before new covers are added.
Our adopted books are currently being re-stitched, providing strength and stability before new covers are added.

 

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Even the spineless can find redemption with a little help! A cloth liner is being added to restore the hinges before a new leather spine is added.

 

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It’s not enough to add new leather. The strengthening extends into the boards to extend the life of the book.

 

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“The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell,” a fore-edge book, is getting new leather today.

 

First, the replacement leather is cut.
First, the replacement leather is cut.

 

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And then it’s fitted to the book. Before the leather is attached, it will go through skiving to thin and trim the thickness of the leather.

 

The skiving process is necessary with leather to hide everything beneath the outer layer: leather show everything, and we don’t want the new spine to have bumps, creases or ripples.

We’re thrilled with the restoration work, and look forward to getting images of the fully restored volumes. And keep an eye out for our next round of book adoption opportunities this November!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Most people are unaware of just how unusual the NSLM Library collections are. Most libraries set an acquisition plan and purchase their materials to fill the collection. However, almost everything at NSLM was donated by members of the sporting community, making it a unique communal reflection. We receive thousands of donated books every year, many are rare or antiquarian books.

Sadly, some donated books come to us in a very “well loved” condition. It’s impossible to make these damaged books available to the researchers that visit us. Further, it’s often prohibitively expensive to outright replace the book.

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Sporting Almanac, 1839 (B018). Adopt for $150.

This week, we launched our first-ever Book Adoption Program. We’re asking the public for assistance in restoring these books to a safe and usable condition, preserving their contents for future research.

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All adoptions will be commemorated with a special plate in the restored book. It’s an excellent way to honor friends and family for the holidays.

I’m excited by the response we’ve had to the program so far. With thousands of research visits every year, it’s critical for us to keep our books in a usable condition. So many of our titles are out of print, and for some of them, their contents are at risk of being lost for good. It’s intimidating (but true) that our donors and members often are all that stand between preservation or loss.

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Racing Calendars: 1866-1867 (B017). Adopt for $275.

What goes into book restoration? It all depends on what’s ailing the book. In many cases, our adoptable books are suffering from disintegrating spines, deteriorating paper or leather covers, detached boards, or weak hinges.

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Victorian Photo Album, .c 1890 (B003). Adopt for $300.

Each adoption covers the work of a qualified restoration professional to repair the damage.

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The Thoroughbred Horse, 1867 (B010). Adopt for $150.

We started with 18 books for adoption, and 13 were adopted in the first two days! The five books pictured in this blog post are still available for adoption.

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Ouvres de F. Baucher, 1867 (B013). Adopt for $275.

In the future we’ll have another blog post to cover the restoration work on some of our adopted books. If you are interested in learning more, you can get in touch or view our program catalog.


 

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail