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Care of Old Documents, Bibles & More


Purchase ACID FREE ziploc bags large enough to accommodate each Bible individually. Photography stores should be able to find you a source for acid free archival plastic sleeves. You should also consider placing one of those little bags of desiccant (dehumidifier) that comes with every piece of electronic equipment you buy these days, into the bag. Remove any papers, photos or clippings that may be stored in the Bible to store separately - newspapers have a high acidity. You can also buy acid-free tissue paper in which Bibles may be wrapped.


The following tip was published in the November/December 1997, issue of Louisiana Roots:
There is a home-style "bleaching" process that will help counteract the acid in the newspaper. It's the acid that causes the paper to yellow over time. When done correctly, the simple "bath" should keep your newspaper articles from turning that old, yellow color. It is supposed to work for up to 50 years.
Make the magic solution by mixing two tablespoons of milk of magnesia with one quart of club soda. Then refrigerate it for eight hours. Next, put the mixture in a shallow pan wide enough to hold the largest clipping. Lay one clipping at a time in the liquid and let it soak for an hour. When the time is up, remove the clipping and place it between several layers of paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Then dry on a clean flat surface, such as a piece of fiberglass screen (door/window screen) under the clipping so it will not stick.

Book Repairs and Supplies

Having repaired books and taught classes on book repair, I assure you that you can mend your own book(s), IF you are willing to take your time and be patient; repairing is a multi-step job, but it is not hard!! Nor is it expensive. (Keep reading.)

As for binding books, I have sent books to be bound and they do a super good job!! The book comes back looking like new. I, personally, like my old books to look OLD. IF the book has sentimental value, I never consider having it rebound. I like my books to look as close to "original" condition as possible; even when the binding is in bad condition.

Use only professional library mending supplies. I never use the cloth tapes with adhesive backing that are found in library supply catalogs. My experience with it was that over time the adhesive oozed and the books stuck together. It has improved, but I still have a "bad attitude" toward it. I like the clear book tape because it is unobtrusive and you see the book binding and title on the spine.

DO NOT USE any household, school or multi-purpose glues. DO NOT USE scotch tape or duct tape. That's right!! You wouldn't believe the books I have seen that were bound with duct tape. Or the hundreds of pages that have yellowed under scotch tape plus the tape gets old and peels off. Many glues are washable (water based) and others attract silverfish which ruin a book--any book.

There are book repair kits, but I do not recommend you buy one. Buy only the items you need.

Basic book repair supplies are:

You will also need supplies which you probably already have on hand:

I have several cheap artist brushes which I bought in a package for a couple of bucks. I use the one that best serves the purpose; I especially like a long slender handle on a brush, because I use it to spread adhesive between book cover and the end paper (the paper which covers the inside of the book binding) instead of a coat hanger or knitting needle.

You don't need a book press to repair books! It is sure handy, but using heavy dictionaries, etc on top of the repaired book to compress it works well. I have even been known to wrap my repaired book and place it in the vice grip my husband has in the garage to hold it in place until it has dried completely.

You may use Scotch #810 Magic Transparent Tape to mend torn pages {THIS IS NOT SCOTCH TAPE THERE IS A DIFFERENCE}. Keep in mind each strip of tape adds to the thickness of the page and it doesn't take many of these to "thicken" your book. I still recommend using the book adhesive to repair pages.

I always demonstrate how durable the book adhesive is by tearing a page in a fairly heavy book (my favorite is an old church hymnal), repairing the torn page with the book adhesive. When the class is over I take the wax paper from the page and pick the book up by the single page which I repaired at the beginning of class!!! The gasps and surprised looks "make my day." Of course I explain that it is for demonstration only!! I don't recommend a book ever be picked up by its page(s)!

Never use anything between the pages except wax paper. The wax paper turns loose when the adhesive dries; other things don't.

Contributed by Phyllis Rhodes

Attaching the Cover to Contents

Check your book to determine if the cover was originally

"Attached" covers have space between the spine of the book and the cover. If only the spine part of the cover is unattached, use the method appropriate for your book.

General Instructions

Assemble all supplies needed for repair, including scissors, wax paper, newsprint or newspapers (to protect work surface and to keep work surface clean by removing sheets as needed) and heavy books as weights (clean bricks or covered bricks work well, too.) Never use anything except wax paper for book repair. Once the book adhesive dries wax paper will "turn loose" and come out of a book crevice or off the page or cover with no problem.

Repairing Covers Using Book Adhesives
  1. Place a piece of wax paper a little larger than your book (when lying on its side) on the work surface.
  2. Cut 2 pieces of wax paper 4" long and crease them in half, lengthwise, for later use.
  3. Always use the fold of the paper when inserting in book.
  4. Lay the cover flat on top of the wax paper.
  5. Work contents edges (on spine area) with your hand until they are even.
  6. Spread the content edges and the spine of the book contents with a thin coat of adhesive.
  7. Lower contents onto cover and position into place.
  8. Insert a piece of folded wax paper between the front cover and contents snug right down to where they meet, so nothing else is glued except spine to contents and cover edges.
  9. Close cover, being sure wax paper does not slip.
  10. Repeat same procedure for back cover/contents.
  11. Be sure cover is snug against spine; rub fingers against spine of book and along edges.
  12. Lay book flat on clean wax paper.
  13. Cover top of book with wax paper.
  14. Lay a heavy book ( or books) on top of repaired book and snug one up against spine of book.
  15. Do not disturb book until dry.
  16. Overnight is a good time frame.
  17. If it is humid, let dry longer.
  18. When dry remove the wax paper.
Repairing Covers Using Binder/Book Tape

There are two methods used to repair covers using binder/book tape:

Before you begin, do the following:

  1. Read General Instructions and do preliminary preparation.
  2. Prepare work surface with newsprint or newspaper.
Method #1 - Double-Stitched Binder Tape

The double-stitched binder tape is made of two pieces of gummed cloth stitched together so that the gummed sides are exposed. This type tape is used when the case (cover) of a book has become separated from the contents on one or both sides or when the cover is "hanging by threads".

This width of the tape (from ?-inch to 3") is determined by the space between the two rows of stitching. For example, tape one inch wide would be used with a book one inch thick, etc.

Unfortunately all our books are not one inch thick or three inches thick. No problem!!! I simply buy one roll of tape (I prefer the 2"), If the book I am repairing is not 2" thick, I cut the length of tape I am using in half between the two rows of stitching and continue with the repair job at hand.

  1. Pour a small amount of book adhesive onto small glass lid or piece of wax paper.
  2. Check the (end) paper on the inside of the front and back cover.
  3. If it is loose, it should be glued with book adhesive.
  4. Place a piece of wax paper over glued surface, place a heavy book on top and let dry.
  5. Even contents edges (on spine) and coat with a thin layer of book adhesive; this reinforces the original glue and strengthens the stitching.
  6. Place book on its side on a clean piece of wax paper.
  7. Cover with wax paper, place a heavy book on top and let dry.
  8. When contents and cover are dry, you are ready to put together with binder tape.
  9. Cut a piece of binder tape ?-inch shorter than the contents of the book.
  10. IF the book you are repairing is not the exact measurement of your binder tape, cut the binder tape down the middle between the two rows of stitching.
  11. Lay binder tape flat on work surface, sticky side up.
  12. Apply a thin coat of adhesive to one gummed side of the binder tape.
  13. Pick up the binder tape and center it over contents (remember you cut it ?-inch shorter than contents), then place in position so that the row of stitching fits onto the edge (ledge) of the contents.
  14. Smooth the tape into place on the contents page using a bone folder.
  15. Wipe any excess adhesive off the page.
  16. Cover with wax paper.
  17. Fold the other half of the binder tape onto wax paper and apply a thin coat of adhesive.
  18. Snug cover against stitching on binder tape.
  19. Smooth the tape into place on the inside cover.
  20. Wipe off any excess adhesive and place a clean sheet of wax paper between the two sections of binder tape.
  21. Close cover.
  22. Repeat steps 4 - 8 for other cover/contents.
  23. Lay heavy book on top of repaired book, set aside and let dry thoroughly.

You can leave the book "as is" or you can cover the binder tape with a new end paper (inside book cover page) and a new contents page, using purchased papers or a high quality rag-content paper. Cut exactly as end paper/contents page in book. Use book adhesive to put in place. Cover with wax paper and let dry thoroughly.

Method #2 - Book Adhesive/Book Tape "Do-It-Yourself" -- Phyllis' Choice

Remember, the adhesive dries clear, so no tell-tale signs are left. Pour a small amount of book adhesive onto small glass lid or piece of wax paper.


  1. Check the (end) paper on the inside of the front and back cover.
  2. If the outer edges are loose, they should be glued with book adhesive.
  3. Place a piece of wax paper over glued surface, lay a heavy book on top and let dry.
  4. Tear off a piece of wax paper about four inches long and crease in half (lengthwise).
  5. Lay aside for later use.
  6. Apply a thin coat of book adhesive to the edge (ledge) of the contents and to the cover ledge.
  7. Holding cover (on each end) in upright position, center it onto ledge of contents.
  8. Holding cover in place with one hand, work the inside cover/contents area, using a toothpick: Work the contents paper up to meet the end paper, applying more adhesive (with a toothpick) if necessary.
  9. Make sure it meets perfectly and is smooth.
  10. Take your time and exercise patience when doing this and the repair will hardly be noticeable when dry!! Place one of the creased pieces of wax paper between contents and cover.
  11. Close cover.
  12. On outside of cover, using a toothpick and additional adhesive, if necessary, bring ledges together so they meet perfectly and work them together until they are smooth Cover with wax paper, lay a couple of heavy books on top and let dry for a minimum of 12 hours, longer if humid.
  13. Repeat steps 2 - 4 to attach other side of cover/contents.

Once entire book is repaired, it is time to reinforce the adhesive repair

  1. Cut a piece of clear book tape 1/4th-inch shorter than contents.
  2. On inside cover of book, center tape over repaired area.
  3. Let the edge of tape over contents page come into contact at the outer edge.
  4. Using the bone folder, slowly smooth tape toward inside fold.
  5. Smooth tape into and over fold onto cover of book.
  6. IF you don't work tape into fold, the book will not open or close correctly!!!

Repeat the tape procedure for other cover/contents area.

When the Spine Area is Worn and Needs "HELP".
  1. Cut a piece of clear book tape 1 " longer than the cover and 1" wider than the spine.
  2. Make two ?-inch long cuts in the tape at top and bottom. These cuts should align with the fold of the cover.
  3. Lower book spine onto tape, being sure it is centered.
  4. Gently roll spine from side to side for a good tape-to-spine bond. Do Not roll the spine over so far that it adheres to the rest of the book tape!! Using the edge of the bone folder, lift the tape up over the edge (ledge) of the book and into the crease (run bone folder up and down the crease--where the cover folds back when book is opened--a couple or three times) before smoothing onto book cover. Otherwise, the book will not close properly!!
  5. Open cover and contents away from the cover which is lying flat on the work surface so that the inside of the cover is exposed.
  6. Fold the corresponding strip of tape over and onto the inside back cover.
  7. Using a bone folder, smooth onto cover surface.
  8. Fold the other end of tape to the inside in the same manner.
  9. Close book.
  10. Repeat procedure for other cover/contents.
  11. The last step is to hold the book in one hand and, using a bone folder, fold down the top and bottom center flaps into the inside against the back of the book cover (in open area between book cover and spine).

I have had a few books that had such a small space between back cover and contents it was to insert the center flaps inside. In that case, I simply folded the flaps even with the cuts in the tape over onto itself and proceeded with folding the tape over onto cover/contents of the book.

Contributed by Phyllis Rhodes

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Updated by AB June 7 2021

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