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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Repairing Books And Prints

( Originally Published 1913 )

HERE comes to me as a gift a thin book of no apparent importance whatever, yet there are forty-three pages of secrets in it which ought to be known to every collector of books or old prints. Its title bespeaks it: "The Book of Trade Secrets, Recipes, and Instructions for Renovating, Repairing, Improving, and Preserving Old Books and Prints." London: J. Haslam & Co., Ltd., 15 Broad Street Place, Liverpool Street, E.C. Price one shilling net.

That admirable type of collector who loves to potter and pore over his treasures, mending and restoring them with his own affectionate hands, will find this little book a treasure. It is unmistakably well written, everything stated in concise and lucid style. And I have obtained permission to quote.

Cleaning Prints.- "Unless a print is very dirty or laid down on paper or card, it is better let alone. Prints are discoloured by damp or iron-mould or grease or ordinary surface dirt or stains.

"A cleaning process that suits one kind of dirt will not do for all. It is therefore necessary to examine the print carefully by holding it up in a strong light before commencing operations.

"First, rub lightly with a silk handkerchief to remove dust. Don't use breadcrumbs or indiarubber on the surface of the print, as it will roughen the surface."GREASE-SPOTS. - These must be removed first. Lay the print face downwards on a hard, smooth surface, such as a sheet of plate-glass. Make a smooth pad of cotton-wool or clean white blotting-paper. Dip this in benzine, and gently pat the grease-spots on the back of the print, commencing on the outside edges of the spots. Don't rub. The benzine will evaporate, carrying off the grease with it. Don't use a hot iron over prints to take out grease-spots.

"Sulphuric ether, turpentine, ammonia, or naphtha may be used instead of benzine by applying to the back of the print only.

"FOX-MARKS or BROWN SPOTS are caused by damp, which is one of the greatest enemies of prints. It rots the paper and practically destroys it. If the foxing is but slight, touch the spots with spirits-of-wine. When dry, touch them again with a weak solution of oxalic acid." SPOTS ON ENGRAVINGS may also be removed by the application of a few drops of ammonia in a cupful of warm rain-water. Dab carefully with a sponge, and don't rub.

"surface DIRT.-After removing grease, stains, etc., the general cleaning must be done, otherwise your print will have a patchy appearance, and some portions will rot away, owing to the action of the various acids used.

"The best and safest method for ordinary dirt is to lay the print, face upwards, in a leaden trough or other dish absolutely free of grease, and just cover it with clean cold water. If stood in the sun for a couple of days, all dirt, except dyes and fast stains, will dis appear. The front may now be turned over, and the back exposed to the sun rays; always remembering to keep the print just under water the whole time. Dry carefully in the shade, but not before a fire, and don't forget that clumsy handling will ruin your print."

Bindings Preserved. - "Leather bindings soon perish and crack at the hinges if kept in a hot, dry room, especially when gas is used for lighting. A little vaseline applied with a soft cloth is an excellent remedy. Olive-oil is also used sparingly along the hinges in some libraries. Little and often should be the rule, as these lubricants or feeders would discolour fine bindings if used in larger quantities than a few drops. An oiled feather is a good tool."

Restoring Leather Bindings. - Antique bindings should never be destroyed unless restoration is impossible. Old leather bindings are frequently dilapidated. A few minutes spent on the necessary repairs will convert an apparently valueless volume into a respectable addition to your shelves. Grease or wax spots are removed by holding a hot iron close to the injury, or wash with benzune or ether." If the corners or edges of the bands are broken or frayed, a little glue well brushed in and allowed to almost set before shaping will work wonders. Hammer the corners or edges into shape, and fasten the ragged leather securely into its place. Fill up all cracks and holes with glue, and wipe clean. When quite hard and dry, brush the book thoroughly all over to remove dust.

" Brown boot-polish is excellent for cleansing and restoring the gloss on old or rubbed leather bindings. Apply with a soft woollen pad and rub well in; then brush thoroughly, and finish with a dry, soft duster or a velvet pad. In a few hours no smell can be detected. Book-worms and other insects do not like boot polish."

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