7 May 2016

How to stop me twitching

Those of you who follow AmblesideOnline's Facebook group (and if you don't and you use AO then you really really should - I'd love to see you there), will know that there is little that makes me twitch as much as discussions about whether or not to toss the dust jackets from old books. Dust covers are beautiful, people. Beautiful. They also add value to your books, not that that actually had any bearing on anything, because who's going to be silly enough to actually ever sell a book, but they do. Anyhow, once I've convinced people on FB that they need to love and cherish their dust covers, the conversation invariably leads on to how to protect them, and I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to explain my method.

Those of you who follow A Peaceful Day's Facebook page (and if you don't then you really should - I'd love to see you even more there) will know that we're just back from six blissful weeks gallivanting around the Middle East and Europe, and will have been blessed (or bored to tears) by the copious photos I've been posting there.

Part of the trip included a week or so visiting my beloved's parents in beautiful South Wales, and whilst there, I was gifted with a couple of books that were precious to my hubby and his sisters in their youth. Entitled Simple Heraldry and Simple Custom, both written by Ian Moncreiffe of Easter Moncreiffe O. St. J., M.A., LL.B., F.S.A. Scot., Advocate, Falkland Pursuivant Extraordinary and cheerfully illustrated by Don Potting, M.A., D.A. Herald Painter Extraordinary to the Court of The Lord Lyon King of Arms (I kid you not - that's what it says on the title page. The pair were clearly characters - take a look at their wikipedia entries to see what I mean. And now they've made me lose my train of thought completely), the two books were in poor condition, and are not precious to anyone except my beloved and perhaps his siblings, and therefore to me, but they provide an ideal opportunity to explain how I repair and care for delicate dust covers, and how to make the old and fragile robust enough for use by the next generation. So today I photographed the whole process, and here it is.

You can see here the poor condition of the jackets. Step 1 in their repair is clearly to mend the paper, and for that I use a special archival tape called filmoplast P 90 by Neschen. Normal sticky tape will not do if you intend to keep the repaired books for any period of time, since it goes brown, brittle and loses its stick quite quickly.

I prefer to be quite conservative with my repairs, doing only the bear minimum. Repairing books reduces their value, but like I said, who actually ever sells books, and anyway, all I want to do with these is make them tough enough to endure reading by people old enough to take care of them. That said, the folding bits always need reinforcing, so first I run a strip of tape down those, even if they've not yet torn, gently edging together any tattered areas.

The spine of this cover had split entirely in two, and clearly needed special care. I mended it in the same way, with a strip of tape down each side. I don't like to fill in the missing areas on my covers, although some people do, so I carefully cut the tape away from the areas where the paper is missing.

Sometimes, if a jacket is particularly fragile, I also run tape right around the edges. I didn't bother with these books, mainly because the edges were in much better condition than the fold lines, but also because I don't intend using these books for school, where more wear and tear would be anticipated.

Now on to Step 2, protecting the cover with plastic film. I use a clear polypropylene film called Pro-lene, which you can read about here. I'm pretty sure you'll be able to buy an equivalent product in most countries, only I can't find it on Amazon. Anyhow, it is just plastic. I pay $130.00 for 100m, so this product is cheap. !00m lasts me an awful long time. Years, even.

Cut off a bit that is about 7 cm bigger all round than the front, spine and back of the book. You can best do this by removing the dust cover and using this as your template, but remember that you don't need to cover the whole of the flaps that fold inside the book. You just need 7cm wider than the actual book. Got that? Don't be too particular about the 7 cm, either. Just about that much will be fine.

Covering the actual jacket is easy. Fold the top and bottom of the plastic over the cover and hold tightly in the centre, over the spine. Tightly is the operative word.

Next, place the book spine where it belongs, ensuring that the plastic remains neatly folded around the cover and hasn't become loose.

Hold the plastic together, and gently lower the book onto one side of the plastic.

Holding the book tightly against the plastic, gently fold the flap into place inside the book. What you're trying to do here is keep the edges of the plastic tightly against the top and bottom of the dust cover. It is really easy for these to get loose, and this results in a sloppy finish.

Almost done. Now you just repeat the process with the other side.

Once again, position the spine and tighten the plastic over the cover.

Turn thee book over the cover, again ensuring they're tight. Yes, I know I'm harping on about that, but it's really the only hard part of the whole process. Fold the final flap into place

Run your finger firmly along the edges to crease the plastic and neaten them up.

And voila - you're done. Make yourself a cup of tea and have a chocolate to celebrate a job well done! I'm so proud of you!

I can't tell you what to do with your own books, and if you don't tell me, I'll never know, so I won't even lose sleep over it, but I'll hope you'll agree that the covers of these books are much more attractive than the mildewed red covers they protect. Plus, they don't make me twitch!


  1. Oh I need to buy some of that tape, that's an area that I've struggled with a solution for.
    As you know I'm just as obsessed as you with covering books :-)
    I buy mine from England Holding (Sydney) for the same price and size as yours.

  2. Oh thanks, I have wanted to know how to do this for sometime. Do you not need to tape the plastic onto the dust jacket at all?

  3. That's right, Leanne. I use no tape. The weight of the book hold the plastic in place.

  4. Did I miss pictures from these?? Please post some on FB. I love all that stuff! And the titles those guys got!! Wow!

  5. I'm about to start this process (first year of AO and all!) Thanks so much for your help.

  6. Do you cover paperback books with some kind of laminate?

  7. There is a chance you're qualified for a free $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...