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The Preservation: One Book’s Journey from Destruction to Reclamation

Bo-Peep a fable published by Cassell, Petter, and Galpin in 1886

I have been saving old books from being recycled, burned, torn apart, shredded, or simply tossed for over 12 years now. I enjoy giving them a new life as vintage book purses, as do my fellow book-loving customers. I have long thought about showing everyone the process I use to save these treasures and turn them into mini works of art to wear and now seems like the right time.

For my first blog in ages, I will be featuring a lovely old book from 1886 that had seen better days but features a fable we all know and love. So, please follow my step by step process in saving these treasures. You will see how I create a vintage book purse to be cherished for years to come. And of course, including the original book pages rebound as a paperback. Hence my tag line “Read your Purse”.

To start, I will begin with before and after Bo-Peep shots. I finished her with bamboo handles, a vintage molded matching button that can hold your tablet, and pockets inside. A new life for a cherished old fable.

The process from beginning to completion can take from 10 to 15 hours, depending on how much repair and restoration is needed.

Gathered my supplies

Now, to begin the journey. The corner edges of the front and back cover were separating due to age, wear and tear, and delamination of the paper book board. They needed to be repaired with PVA adhesives and squeezed together to become firm as they were originally. Then the upholstery lip cord could be adhered later without fear of bending or breaking at the corners.

You can see how they had separated at the corners. Not only were they ugly, but not sturdy either.

When I first found Bo-Peep she was in 2 pieces. The cover had separated from the book along the linen spine. The linen was disintegrating. I needed to join the two covers back together securely, provide a sturdy new linen spine, and reinforce the spine area so I could create a functioning book purse out of this awesome illustrated fable.

Linen repair tape from Lineco® is applied over the original linen spine, which makes the spine sturdy enough to be used as a purse, and attractive too! It has its own pressure-sensitive adhesive.

All endpapers that are loose are removed from the interior of the book

Linen repair tape is applied on both edges of the spine horizontally to provide additional strength.

Additional linen repair tape is then vertically adhered using the bone folder tool (shown) to rub the repair tape on securely until the entire spine is covered.

The edges of the front exterior linen repair tape are folded over to the interior of the spine to finish the look and solidify the structural integrity.

The linen repair of the spine is complete.

Once the interior spine is repaired, I start on restoring the covers to their original printed glory. Touch up with acrylic paints is necessary to enhance the beauty of these original cover lithographs.
Once restored, they are coated with three costs of waterproofing and 2 coats of sealer to preserve the artwork.

Next, I can begin the pattern making process. I choose the fabric lining, handles, and a vintage button to make this vintage book purse as glorious as I can. I start by tracing the outline of the actual book so that the lining will fit perfectly. Next,  I created patterns for straps, gussets, padded spine, pockets, and flaps to open and close the purse. And I measure cording for the button loop to the actual button.

Here is my first pass on fabric, buttons, and handles.

I decided I wanted a molded button closer to the color of the book cover paper boards as possible. Viola, after an extensive search in my zillions of buttons I found a perfect button. I give it a vigorous cleaning and now it’s a perfect match.

Before cleaning on the left, after cleaning on the right.

Time to cut the pattern, iron, fuse, sew, adhere the upholstery lip cord onto all the edges of the book board, attach handles, adhere lining, iron again, sew a button, and there we have it, the completed vintage book purse! Takes about 4 hours for just this step alone.

Finally, one of “the most” important aspects: repair of the gorgeous original book pages with those engravings. I reattached the pages using Japanese mending tape, and then rebound the pages as a paperback that you can read securely without it falling apart again.

Can you imagine never seeing these engravings ever again? It breaks my heart that they are destroyed daily. I will try to save every book on planet earth in my lifetime.

There are stunning engravings throughout the book. These are but a few pearls.

The journey is over for now.
I cannot wait to start my next vintage book purse! Come join me.

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