Rebinding Old Books

Remember me mentioning my Annual Registers? Annual Registers were compilations of important information of the previous year: world events, politics, news stories, births, deaths, marriages, promotions, even poetry sometimes. I wrote a bit more about them at History Hoydens last week.

When we both were very new Regency authors, my friend Kathryn Caskie called me to say that an antiquarian bookseller had several Annual Registers he was willing to sell, enough for each of us to have a complete set of 1810 to 1820. Was I interested? Was I!!! He sold them for $20 each, which was a bargain for us and a steal for him, because they were in such bad shape he probably would have thrown them away.

Here’s what they looked like, covers falling off, binding torn or missing, tape holding them together:
I priced rebinding, but it was much too expensive and I couldn’t justify spending more money on these books. They were usable and that was enough for me.

Then my husband’s friend came to visit. He’s a printer, which I always knew, but I didn’t know he was also a bookbinder! He had an old binding device and materials which he gave me with instructions on how to rebind my books!

Today I mustered the courage to give it a try. Here’s how I did it.

Step 1. I gathered the materials. (This is my dining room)

Step 2. I removed the old binding (I’m going to use that rolling pin)

Step 3. Next I lined up the cardboard.

Step 4. Then I glued it down and used the rolling pin to press it down and force out all the air bubbles. (This is my second try, using black cardboard)

Step 5. I glued on the inside lining and positioned the binding glue strip.

Step 6. I then placed the pages in the new binding and put it in the machine.


I’m a little sad to let the old binding go, especially on the books that have the least damage, but now I’ll be able to handle the books without them falling apart and crumbling in my hands and without the pages coming loose.

Have you ever rebound books? Or have you ever taken a chance on doing any kind of craft that you never did before?

(I can’t wait until tomorrow and Cara’s discussion of Northanger Abbey!)


About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Rebinding Old Books

  1. Todd says:

    I am mightily impressed! And the end result looks very nice, as well as being functional.

    I have never rebound a book myself. But your post has inspired me! I now plan to rebind all my old books, right after I re-paper the walls, re-upholster the sofa, and perform my own appendectomy.


  2. Susan/DC says:

    One of my sisters got a masters degree in art conservation in Italy with a specialty in paper. I seem to remember that among the courses she took was bookbinding. She has worked at Winterthur Museum in Delaware and at the National Portrait Gallery, National Archives, and the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. I know you live in the DC area, so if you ever have a question about preserving all those wonderful source books, please let me know and I’ll give you her name and number.

  3. Elena Greene says:

    Cool work, Diane.

    LOL, Todd, you are making me spew tea all over my keyboard! When are you going to write a book of your own already?

  4. Diane, those books look great! You are very brave–I would have been shaking too hard to get the new bindings straight. πŸ™‚

    I just finished reading Geraldine Brooks’ new book “People of the Book,” and actually found the bits about restoration and rebinding more interesting that the actual plot. I guess I’m geeky that way.

    Todd, when you’re done re-papering your house, you can paint my bathroom. And Diane can bind my old books. πŸ™‚

  5. Diane, I wanna borrow your machine to revive my crumbling annual registers. Please, please, please. After my Feb 1 deadline of course. Ahh!

  6. Diane Gaston says:

    Todd – I’ll bet you make a mean macaroni and cheese!

    Susan – wow! I’m so impressed. I would love your sister’s name and address. While I do not think my Annual Registers would benefit, I also have a two volume set of the 1815 La Belle Assemble. They are also falling apart. Before I rebind them, I’d love some expert advice whether to remove the fashion prints or not. Could you email me at And if you are ever planning to visit your sister in DC, you must let me know. Maybe we can have lunch!

    Amanda, my husband’s friend gave good instructions but it did take a little courage to take the old bindings off the first book.

    Kathy! I’m sure we can arrange something. I have plenty of materials!

  7. Georgie Lee says:

    After buying our first house, I learned to do a lot of things I didn’t know how to do before. I’ve become quite a plumber, painter, electrician and gardener. I’ve also learned that I don’t really care for gardening, plumbing, painting or wiring. However, I’m often too frugal to hire someone.

  8. Cara King says:

    Scary! I admire you, Diane, but if I tried to rebind some of my books, I’d be so afraid I’d mess things up and hurt them!

    BTW, you have some NICE books! Can I come live with you and fondle your Annual Registers & La Belle Assemblees? πŸ™‚


  9. Diane Gaston says:

    georgie, those are all things I would be delighted never to learn, but good for you for doing it yourself!

    Cara, as I always say, these are my treasures!

  10. Oh my, Diane!! That’s a very impressive undertaking. I’d be terrified doing it unsupervised.

    Todd: Heh! Heh! Looks like the semester’s already catching up to you.

    The Caskie is da house! Ooooh! Hi, Kathy!!

    Cara, that wouldn’t be just fondle. It would be: gaze ardently at, inhale the fragrance, listen closely to the sounds of the page turns. πŸ™‚

  11. Haven Rich says:

    OH wow! This is too neat!

    I don’t have really old, old books that would need this…not the kind you have. I do, however, have an old book of poetry (that features of on my poems) that has seen better days. Oh and my Complete Works of Shakepeare.

  12. Santa says:

    That was so cool and you made it seem so easy! I have a Victor Hugo collection that I’m afraid to touch for fear it will crumble in my hands.

  13. doglady says:

    Great job, O Divine One! I am terribly impressed! I would be terrified to do that with some of my old books. My prized Byron has no cover on the spine, but everything else is in pretty good shape. Todd, I cracked up at your comments! Hey, great mac and cheese IS a craft! Diane, I should have known you would have a classy friend like Ms. Caskie! Hey, Kathryn! It’s Pam from Wetumpka! You two need to videotape yourselves rebinding those registers and put it on YouTube. I have to agree with Cara. I would love to come by and drool over your books. (As in “about” your books, not actually “on” them. I have a bib for occasions of extreme book envy.) I am afraid my craftiness is limited to quilting, tatting, rug hooking and cross stitch.

  14. Diane Gaston says:

    Santa, it was really easy. My husband’s friend left me very good instructions and he did what I suspect is the hard part–he cut me all the pieces.

    O Doggy One, I would not dare to touch something as precious as your Byron. That for a real pro and worth whatever it would cost. I love your idea about videoing Kathy and me binding!

    And, really everyone, there was not much worse I could do to these books.

    I only had time to do one book today, so I still have six to do. I was getting better at it!

  15. Todd says:

    Elena wrote:

    LOL, Todd, you are making me spew tea all over my keyboard! When are you going to write a book of your own already?

    Oh, right, I left that off my list: just after re-upholstering the sofa and before performing my own appendectomy. (Or maybe after. Not sure.)

    Diane wrote:

    Todd – I’ll bet you make a mean macaroni and cheese!

    It starts mean–but by the time I’m done with it, it’s purring like a kitten.

    Keira wrote:

    Heh! Heh! Looks like the semester’s already catching up to you.

    I’m up to my neck in fellowship nominations, which must be sent off by 5 pm tomorrow. So I’m feeling a little fragile right now. πŸ™‚


  16. Elena Greene says:

    Oh, right, I left that off my list: just after re-upholstering the sofa and before performing my own appendectomy. (Or maybe after. Not sure.)

    Sympathies on that decision. Sometimes when the writing isn’t going well I wonder if a self appendectomy might be easier. πŸ™‚

  17. Q says:

    I’ve just stumbled on to your blog after searching for ‘book rebinding’ and what a treat!

    What is the type, or make and model of the machine you used here?

  18. Diane Gaston says:

    Q, there’s no identifying information on my machine at all. A friend, who is a printer, gave it to me.

Comments are closed.