Restoring A Magazine Collection, Part I

Covers Are Falling Off
Covers Are Falling Off

I was recently asked if I could repair a set of nine bound volumes of The Engineer magazine. Each volume represents six months of weekly editions, together with a range of supplements, and finished off with a table of contents supplement. The publisher also offered a "binding" case for keeping each set together.

The magazines are all approximately A3 in size, and date from 1899 through to 1905. Unfortunately, the supplied cases and the time involved have conspired to cause a reasonable amount of damage, luckily most of it to the cases rather than the magazines.

This article is the first of two as I outline the work being done to bind them properly, and hopefully give them another 100 years or more of life. As of the writing of this article, three volumes have been stitched together and are awaiting casing in.

The image shows the state of most of the covers. The case supplied consisted of a cover, with no spine, a U shaped piece of heavy card glued to the spine part of the cover, and two brass split pins. The idea was to pierce the magazines with the split pins and use these to fix them to the U shaped card.

Over the years the card has pulled away from the cover, the brass has worked its way through the cover, the cover itself has torn at the spine section, and in many cases acid from the cover has badly burned the front and back pages.

Fortunately the paper in general has been of an amazingly good quality, and in most cases remains startlingly white with beautiful drawings, photographs and artwork.


Removing the pins and assessing the damage

Tearing Down

The first step for all of the books was to take the pins out, clean as much dust out as possible, remove any staples (yes there were a few left), and then wrap them in brown paper for protection and to keep them together. This step also showed that there were as many as 12 or 13 loose leaf foldout plates that would also need to be tipped on before stitching.

Each volume consists of about 30 sections, with the plates occuring roughly every second section.

This step also allowed the examination of each page, and there were surprisingly few tears that needed repairing. A few very small patches of Japanese repair tissue fixed those.

Each magazine (section) is cut to a slightly different size, so no attempt will be made to trim them. The sections are knocked up to the head when stitching, but the other edges will be quite ragged, as much as 5mm out in some cases. One volume, the 1899 one, sadly has been hacked with a blunt knife at some point, and has lost about 25mm of material at one corner.  Again nothing will be done to change this. It was probably done 114 years ago, and has survived unchanged since.

Given that there was no glue used, and the majority of the staples had already been removed, the tearing down process was simple and quick.

Tipping In The Plates

Tipping In The Plates

The loose leaf plates are all tipped in prior to stiiching. The paper was pretty dry and the paste used for the repair tissue cockled very quickly. Therefore the tipping in was done using a PVA adhesive, and kept to a minimum. This worked a treat and the paper remained nice and flat.



Thirty Sections Stitched Together

Stitching On Tapes

End papers were prepared, and a cloth strip glued to the fold to provide a reinforced centre when stitching them on. The sections were then stitched onto four tapes. Once stitched (using about 12m of thread for each volume), the spines were rubbed with PVA adhesive and allowed to dry.

A layer of mull was then glued in place, followed by a layer of good brown paper, providing a good solid spine with good support.

The most complicated part of this exercise is in dealing with the physical size and weight of each book. I was lucky enough to have been given a book press that would accommodate them just prior, so that needed cleaning up before I could start work. Then I needed to make a press wide enough to hold them, a sewing frame of suitable size, and then figure out a good way to pierce them for sewing. Now that the tools are in place, physically handling the volumes without damaging them is a challenge, but practice certainly helps. More articles will follow the progress of these repairs.