Book repair at the monastery

Diane Ray Library, Living in Community 6 Comments

Monasteries of every tradition have a long history of preserving knowledge and books. For the last few months, while living at Holy Wisdom Monastery as part of the Sojourner program, I have been a small part of that tradition. Nancy Sandleback, collections manager at the monastery, came up with the idea after learning that I had some experience with book repair. I worked at Grimm Book Bindery in Madison over the summer, and continue to work there on Mondays.

Most of the books from the monastery library only needed a small fix—a bit of glue to secure a spine or a loose page perhaps. Others had the majority of the pages loose. This normally happens because of the original binding—paperbacks that are simply glued into the covers fall apart easily when the glue becomes brittle, normally after 30 years or so. At that point it is best to remove the old glue, re-glue the pages and replace the old covers. I was able to use the table

Spine of prayer book, sewing tapes (for attaching book to covers) to cords, page stitches covered by paper back strip.

grinder and clamps in the work shop for the middle two steps which was very helpful. I used this method for the majority of rebinds.

The most interesting book I repaired was a prayer book of Nancy’s that belonged to her family. Since it is an older book, it is stitched, but some of the pages had ripped, and the thread broken. I was able to fix the pages, re-stich the parts that were detached and then reattach them to the leather covers (see below). Not quite good as new, but it stays together now! I am grateful for this chance to practice my skills and to put the Benedictine values of care for the earth and stewardship of the monastery’s goods into practice.

Comments 6

  1. Diane, How fascinating and so appropriate to the 1538 years of monastic history with its continuous emphasis on the copying and preservation of books and more importantly the knowledge they contain. When I was a monk at St. Vincent Archabbey in the 1980’s the monastery was in the final stages of dismantling its printing press which had been in operation since its beginnings in the 1850’s. My recollection is that the only “printing” activities that were still pursued were a very limited line of Christmas Cards, and I have no idea if that is still the case. Thank you and bless you for your work in the library and “bona fortuna” in your adventure of being a sojourner at Holy Wisdom.

    1. Thank you for your response and good wishes! It is interesting to hear about how different monasteries have kept up with the tradition. I hope they are still involved in some aspect of printing.

  2. Here I had lunch with you today and call you Denise!!! Not knowing what an artist you are. So glad your “labora” is at the Monastery. Wonderful to know you, pray with you and dine with you.

  3. Fun to see photos! And fun to read about what you are doing. Thanks for sharing. OR… thanks to your Mom for sharing 🙂 Love you bunches!

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