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Craig Preservation Lab

The History of Sumatra, and of the book-cloth tape attached to its cover

Another day, another book with book-cloth tape.

History of Sumatra before treatment

A nice book, though —

The history of Sumatra, containing an account of the government, laws, customs and manners of the native inhabitants, with a description of the natural productions, and a relation of the ancient political state of that island by William Marsden, 2 ed., London, 1784.

The full-leather cover was worn, but the structure of the book was intact except for the spine covering. Besides a new spine, the book only needed a few paper mends, and of course, tape removal.

bookcloth tape
Book cloth tape and fragments of the leather spine cover

While book-cloth tape may seem like a good idea at first (library supply companies still sell it), over time the rubber-based adhesive dries out, the cloth tape falls off, and the repair fails. And the hardened crust of adhesive remains, and can be difficult to remove without further damaging the deteriorated and weak leather.

Adhesive residue, bottom part already cleaned
Adhesive residue, bottom part already cleaned

Unfortunately, old book-cloth tape repairs are all-too-common. What is not so common, though, is finding out when the tape was applied:

photo circ card
The book was checked out to the Bindery on January 2, 1943. I can’t be certain, but it seems likely that is when the book got its tape treatment – no other repairs are evident.
photo 1
Removing dried adhesive residue

I removed most of the adhesive crust by gently “scrubbing” with a soft brush and 1% Klucel G in isopropanol. The Klucel G extends the working time of the alcohol, which otherwise dries too quickly to soften the adhesive. As the Klucel becomes cloudy/whitish, I scoop it off with the brush, then flush the area with isopropanol and a paint brush to clean off the rest of the adhesive/Klucel glop.

cover at
After treatment. The leather is a bit darker than the rest of the cover where the book-cloth tape was, and there is a slight line of adhesive residue corresponding to the edge of the tape.
photo 5
New spine made of long-fibered paper toned with acrylics. The pebbly texture of the leather cover was mimicked by gently rubbing the toned paper laid on top of the leather cover.

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