Islamic Binding

Last week I started work on a few items from the Christ’s Hospital Museum; the stack of bills mentioned in the previous post and this small Islamic Binding. I don’t really like the term ‘Islamic’  as a descriptor for bindings, equally ‘Arabic’ isn’t fitting either. Since this is a translation of Christian collects and epistles, the bindings can’t be considered ‘Islamic’; Middle Eastern could be a better term. Anyway – the binding is a bastardisation of eastern and western styles with the binding attached to the text-block by the spine and paste downs only, it’s sewn with an unsupported chain stitch , but has been given false bands, which are little more than bumps through the covering leather. The text does run from right board to left board, and is in Arabic (and not Urdu as a small pencil note says on the flyleaf!).

Both boards are very warped; a symptom of its storage condition or that the leather has been applied over the boards too tightly or that the paste-downs are not strong enough to counteract the pull from the leather, or it could be a mixture of all three. My initial thought was to remove the case and press the boards as a whole and off the book so as not to put stress on the already weakened joint (it had started to split), and then to re-enforce the joint and pre-empt any future damage. However, as it was pointed out to me, I would be removing the boards to prevent them falling off, and another course of action was decided on.

I would flatten the boards in-situ using a damp blotter and pressure. Since there were two boards that needed flattening, I would use two different methods to determine which was the most effective; for use on future projects. The first technique was to humidify and flatten with the board open on a support. From the board up – board, bondina, roofing felt, damp/wet blotter (not sopping), polythene sheet, pressing board and weight. This was left in position over night with the blotter re-wetted once. In the morning, when I checked the board was definitely humidified but the warping was still present. The second technique was to humidify and flatten closed, a treatment I was wary of as it would put more pressure on the already weakened joint. From the text-block out – text-block, polythene sheet, damp/wet blotter, roofing felt, bondina, board, pressing board and weight. This technique was also flattening the opposite board in the process. This was also left overnight. The results were more promising; some of the warping was removed, but not all. I inserted dry blotter between both boards and the text-block and left it pressing under weights for a week, so it could thoroughly dry.


During humidification and pressing:

Pressing with the board open.


After a week and a half of pressing.

A success! The next step is to repair the damaged headcap and the splitting joint.

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