Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bible binding

NINETEENTH-CENTURY BIBLES are neither rare nor worth a fortune, but some of them are certainly beautiful. This is a close-up of the restored cover of our 1884 Douai Bible that was wrecked in the rain leak and brought back to life by Kater-Crafts, the bindery in Pico Rivera. My colleague Samantha Silver took care of entering it in the college online catalogue.

The tooled-leather covers look almost new. This detail shows the Eye of God and the Christogram "IHS" (traditionally standing for Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus Savior of Men). Both of the book's metal clasps are intact, and have proved really helpful in compressing the cockled text block back to its original size.

Deciding whether books warrant the cost of repair is as much art as it is science. This one looked so horrible that I considered writing it off as a total loss. But then I happened to visit the St. Bernardine of Siena Library at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Ojai (ironically, to look at their mold outbreak), and noticed that a similar Bible was treated to museum display in the vestibule.

This repair job was worth the expense. It's a beautiful exemplar of Bible publishing of the era, it's good to last another couple hundred years at least, and it's part of the legacy of the college. It may be time for a display here in our own library.

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