How to Repair a Book's Binding

Is your favorite book falling apart, shedding pages, or has a cover that has separated from the book? Rather than toss that old book out, we'll show you a few tricks to get that book back into usable condition for you to enjoy, and have some peace in mind. Read on!


  1. 1
    Gather your supplies. See the "Things You'll Need" section below for a list of tools and supplies that you'll need to repair a book.
    • Set up a well lit workspace with your supplies handy.
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    • Supplies laid out with one book in need of repair, and another book rubber banded while glue dries.
  2. 2
    Repair signatures and pages first. Re-sew signatures, or re-glue loose pages before attempting to reattach the cover.
    • Loose pages must be re-glued or re-sewn before attempting to repair the spine or cover.
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    • Signatures are pages that are folded together; the folded ends of signatures are sewn together. Use double thickness of the waxed thread or quilting thread and tie off the knot firmly to avoid future re-loosening when re-sewing signatures.
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    • If a signature has torn out of its threading, you can place a narrow strip of Tyvek tape along the crease of the center leaf of the signature to repair/strengthen it for your repair sewing.
    • Apply a layer of plastic glue along the spine edge of your signatures once they are all re-sewn or re-glued in place. This will dry to a flexible finish and will help prevent future loosening.
  3. 3
    Prepare and apply the binder tape.
    • Cut a length of your single stitched binder tape equal to the height of the book.
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    • Apply one side of the single stitched binder tape with the sewn center line aligned along the spine edge of your pages. Firmly press onto both the back of spine and onto the front pages with a Teflon or bone folder.
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    • Attach the remaining layer of single stitched binder tape to the inside of the back cover and to the inner side of the spine.
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    • Press single stitched binder tape firmly to eliminate bubbles and to ensure good adhesion.
  4. 4
    Repeat the process as necessary.
    • In this example, the tape is applied to the front edge.
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    • Picture showing "bottom layer" of single stitched binder tape stuck to the front page and half of the spine... with the "top" half bent up for better viewing. The "top" layer will be glued to the inside of the spine and inside of the cover, respectively.
  5. 5
    Tape the spine. Apply clear tape the spine, leaving a 1-1/2 inch overlap for the gutter and cover.
    • Press tape firmly onto spine.
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    • Press the tape over the edge of the spine and firmly into the gutters for good adhesion and future mobility.
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    • Smooth any remaining width of clear tape out across the front cover, eliminating bubbles and pressing firmly for good adhesion.
  6. 6
    Apply rubber bands. Hold everything in place with rubber bands or a book press while the glue is drying.
  7. 7
    Remove book from press or rubber bands. You now have a re-attached cover.
    • While not recommended, the reattached cover should be strong enough to hold upside down!
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  8. 8
    Finish up. Complete any additional mending such as corner and spine reinforcement, gluing or taping in missing pages, etc.


  • Both Brodart and Demco have free book repair booklets available.
  • A board (larger than the book) and two to four bricks for weight makes a very good book press and is much better at keeping everything straight than wrapping with rubber bands.
  • Try replacing duct tape with endpapers.
  • Double stitched binder tape is two layers of tape, placed back to back, and then sewn down the center. The sewn line then replaces the torn hinge of your book.
  • Clear book mending tape works best for the exterior portion of this application.
  • When mending a book, start with the worst damaged areas to the least damaged areas. If your spine repair does not stick or take, there is no sense in reinforcing any corners or gluing in loose pages.


  • Never use packing tape or duct tape on a book. The first will peel loose in about three years. The second will turn to goo in the same amount of time and will ruin your book. Do not use scotch tape either: the adhesive layer will fail after a few years.
  • Use the narrowest tape that will suffice for the job at hand. There's no purpose served in slapping a six-inch wide swath of tape over a hinge that could be mended with 1-1/2 inch wide tape.
  • Don't attempt to repair a valuable or rare book, as attempts to repair might inadvertently damage or reduce the value of the book significantly. There are many book conservators and hand bookbinders skilled in conservation, and for a valuable book, they are certainly worth it. If you have a valuable or rare book that needs to be mended, contact a university library or use the "Find a Conservator" feature on the American Institute for Conservation's website[1]. The Special Collections Librarian can help you find a reputable conservator.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic glue (available from library supply companies such as Vernon Library Supplies, Demco and Brodart) Plastic glue is a white glue similar Elmer's, but it dries flexibly and permanently. An ideal glue is PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) glue, sold commonly at art supply stores and book binders' supplies.
  • Single stitched binder tape - Use one length for each hinge you need to replace. (Single stitched tape was used in the examples, but you could also use double stitched binder tape in the width of your book.) Available in cloth or tyvek.
  • A bone-folder or similar hard, smooth object for smoothing creases and pressing tape to remove bubbles and for best adhesion. (A ruler with a smooth, rounded edge would work.) (Wooden ceramicists' tools also work well, but the bone folder is much smoother and far less likely to tear paper. Even better is a Teflon folder, which will not leave any marks on paper.)
  • Heavy waxed thread (Quilting thread or dental floss will do in a pinch) (Linen thread, waxed, is strong but flexible, whereas cotton thread-or dental floss-can snap when exposed to too much tensile pressure.)
  • Sharp needle
  • Carpenter's rubber bands or book press. (to hold book together while glue dries)

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