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
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.