Well it’s been about a week since I started working on my first full treatment here at Derry and Raphoe so I guess it’s time for a progress report. I started by repairing the first and last leaves of the textblock using Japanese paper. With the pages ready for reattachment I moved on to repairing the sewing structure. The sewing was weak around one of the supports so I reinforced the areas of breakage by sewing new stitches around the original sewing supports. While making these repairs the tanned leather sewing supports started cracking after opening and closing the book four times (not a good sign).
I discussed the weakness with my co-worker Alessandro who recommended that the original sewing supports be removed and replaced with new support material. He described a process taught to the team by Nicholas Pickwood where the original sewing supports are removed and replaced with new support material. Luckily the original sewing was strong enough to undergo this treatment so I commenced with the process.
Using a small saw and a pair of tweezers I started carefully breaking apart the sewing supports and removing the pieces.
Once the original leather supports were completely removed new material was needed to support the sewing. Irish linen cord was chosen for its strength and flexibility. Three strands were taken from the sewing cord as well as one strand of a thinner sewing cord to fill the space left by the original supports. A dental floss threader was used to pull the new cord gently through the sewn loops.
This process was repeated for each cord until all four were removed and replaced.
Now the sewing supports are extended to allow the loose leaves to be resewn to the textblock and the cords will also be used as a method of board attachment by splaying them out under the leather cover.
Now, some tips should you ever decide to try this treatment out. First, make sure the sewing is strong before starting this process. However, should one of your loops break along the way they can be reinforced once the new lacings are in place. Second, the new cord can be hard to pull through the sewing; a little wax on the support material will make the threading easier and reduce friction against the threads. Third, be patient! This is a long and tedious process, but the end result will be well worth it.