“Spine surgery” for damaged books

See the treatment process step by step

Have you wondered what happens to the books that show up damaged at the circulation desks? Specially trained staff in Curation and Preservation Services evaluate each one and triage them for life-saving treatment in the Wunsch Conservation Lab. The images below will take you step by step through a repair called a “reback” that makes a book’s spine whole again.

We start with books like these:

Ten damaged books

Here’s what the book looks like after the first cut:

Book with spine cloth cut away

The original spine, if still available, is removed by trimming:

Book with original spine cloth detached

The original cloth on the covers is lifted:

Book with cloth lifted on edge of front cover

New matching cloth is inserted under the original cover cloth and glued down:

New cloth inserted along edge of front cover

Here is the underside of the new cloth, showing the new stiffening strip:

Stiff card stock inside new spine cloth

The lifted cover cloth is glued down over the new spine cloth:

New spine cloth glued into place

The new cloth tucked in at the head and tail (top and bottom) of the spine.

Book standing on edge with new spine cloth

The original spine cloth is reattached, and the book is ready to return to circulation!

Original spine cloth with title glued over new spine cloth