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

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The National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) recently completed a unique preservation project in partnership with Sweet Briar College. Through the generous support of NSLM board member Helen K. Groves, both NSLM and Sweet Briar collaborated to digitally preserve film reels created and spliced by Captain Vladimir S. Littauer.

The films, donated to NSLM for digitization by Littauer’s son, Andrew, depict horse shows and dressage, as well as clips of the U. S. Equestrian Team training ahead of the 1948 Olympics.

United States Olympic Riders 1948 from NSLM on Vimeo. The preserved video includes visual reels only, so there is no sound to accompany the film.

Littauer (1892-1989) was a riding instructor known for the development and promotion of the forward seat system of equitation. Born in Russia, Littauer immigrated to the United States in 1921 and in the 1930s, began a successful career writing instructional books on riding. He was in great demand as a riding instructor throughout his life, and spent several years offering instruction at Sweet Briar College. Many of the preserved clips were recorded and meticulously spliced together by Littauer to accompany his instructional books. Littauer’s personal library (including several manuscripts) is housed in NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.