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David Donahue
Book Restorations
Restorations & Repairs

Design Bindings

Hand Made Clam Shell Boxes

Preserving Memories and Knowledge
1241 Carpenter St. Studio 319
Philadelphia, Pa 19147
How long does it take to restore a book?

We restore books in the order they come into the shop.  Occasionally we may jump a
job up in the queue, but typically you can expect the restoration time to be between 8 to
12 weeks, occasionally longer if there are special issues.  

Does it really take that long to restore a book?

Not really.  Most of the time your book is sitting on the job shelf, holding its spot in the
job queue.   Actual restoration time where the book is on the work bench is between
two to 15 work days. Usually there are materials to be ordered and sometimes, not
often, something doesn't go as planned and the restoration project takes a longer detour
while we figure out the best new solution and convey that to you for your approval
before proceeding.  The materials we use are only available from a small group of
vendors, and if they run out, we are out.  It happens sometimes.  

My book is completely falling apart.  Is it possible to restore something this bad?  

Yes.  You would be absolutely amazed at the condition some books are in when they
finally reach our restoration studio.  98% of all the books that come in are restored
using most of the original materials, but there are some books where restoration is not
feasible or practical, mostly books that have been heavily damaged by water or have

What types of books do you do?  Is my old dictionary too plebeian for your skills?

We do restorations on every type of book imaginable and no book is unimportant.  

It sounds like the restoration I want done is going to cost more than buying a new
copy of the book?  

This is sometimes true,  but for many book owners there is a sentimental value or real
tangible value in a particular book.  That cannot be replaced at any cost

Are there any other things that you can do that might be less expensive than a full

Sure.   I always inquire about the intended future use of the book.  In some cases of
future limited use there are less assertive repair methods that can stabilize a book for
the occasional  use.   These methods are less expensive than a full restorations, but also
less sturdy.

In other cases, I can often find a superior copy for sale through my bookseller
network  and I can transfer the owner's page or other personal information into better
condition book or binding.   

I've looked around the Internet and the prices I get quoted are surprisingly quite
different.  Why is this so?

Repair and restoration of any book is a combination of  technical skills, art skills,
special materials, methodology  and of course business intaginables.  

There are three main reasons why cost can vary.

First:   the skill level of the restorer.  You have to have a combination of book binding
training and skill,  and for restoration -  superior artist skills.    Trying to save old
covers is a lot more difficult than doing a straight up new binding.   You have to know
bindings, leather treatments, leather repair methods, cloth treatments, and possess the
artist eye for color, pigments and dyes to match the original cover.  That's a tough
combination of skills to find or develop, so highly dedicated, skill restorers are pretty

Second: the cost of the materials.   Genuine bookbinding leather is expensive. I use
only genuine vegetable tanned bookbinding leathers from a single source supplier.  I do
not use bonded (fake) leather.   Even the materials you do not see, used inside the
book, or under the cover, can have a major price difference that effects the restoration
cost.  I used the best Irish linen threads for sewing,  the highest grade linen for
replacement hinges, acid free papers for repairs, and acid free boards for covers and
liners.  I have in stock over 20 different types of hand made Japanese papers for
repairs, and I have an entire filing cabinet of paper samples form old books going back
more than 200 years that I use for matching patina and paper style when restoring very
old books.  

Third:  Doing the job the right way.   I follow all the industry conservation standards.
Rebinding is done with a conservation layer installed next to the text block, insuring
that any future needed work (100 years or more down the line) will be able to be done
without damaging the actual book.  I glue and sew all my replacement bindings.  That
sewing adds about half an hour of labor alone to each repair, but I think it makes a
difference.   Every book gets the same level of attention, whether it is a children's book
from 1970 or a rare scientific journal from 1670.   In short, I am not the cheapest
restorer, there are many others on the internet who can claim that honor, but I think I
am one of the best and I think my restorers are some of the best.  
“So many books, so little time.”
― Frank Zappa