Restoration of Leather Bindings

August 14th, 2023 9:30 AM

  • Instructor: Dominic Riley
  • Workshop Type: Binding
  • Workshop Status: Open
  • Sessions: 5
  • In-person or Online?: In-person

Workshop Fee (includes materials fee): $720
Scholarships available; click here to apply.

This is an in-person workshop. As of January 2023, masks are strongly encouraged but not required unless otherwise indicated. 

Successful book restoration requires patience, skill, and a thorough understanding of binding structures and materials. Nowhere is this more true than when restoring leather bindings. Firstly, leather bindings have a more complex structure than cloth case bindings – laced on boards, sewn headbands, hollow backs and so on. Secondly, old leather can be fragile and difficult to handle, and requires careful working with specialized tools to lift and re-glue it during the rebacking process. And thirdly, in order to achieve a successful reback, one must be adept at paring, dyeing and applying repair leather to the original binding.

We’ll begin by detaching the boards, lifting off the spine leather and cleaning the backs of the sections. Then we’ll repair the board edges and corners, and lift the leather along the spine edge of the boards to allow for rebacking. We’ll then split the boards and insert strong cotton, which will be adhered to the spine to form a new attachment of book to cover. New headbands will be sewn, the spine relined and a hollow attached.

Then comes the most critical operation – rebacking with a compatible leather dyed to match the original and carefully pared to fit under the lifted areas. After rebacking, we’ll reattach the original spine, put down the lifted leather and repair the endpapers. The result will be a strong, functional and aesthetic repair.

>> Prerequisite: Orientation to Leather or equivalent, and some additional experience working with leather in bookbinding <<

Materials to Bring: 

  • Your bookbinding toolkit
  • Natural sponge
  • Ace bandage
  • Sharp paring knife and strop
  • Several leather bindings in need of restoration, preferably nineteenth century bindings with hollow backs. Victorian Family Bibles welcome! The instructor will help select the most appropriate book for class. The sewing must be intact.

Date & Time: Monday-Friday, August 14-18, 2023 :: 9:30am-5:30pm

Location: 375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103

NOTE: Please read over the SFCB Registration Policies before signing up for a class. Registration will close three days prior to the start date of the workshop to allow the instructor time to prep materials for class. 

About the Instructor | Dominic Riley (he/him)

Dominic Riley Is an internationally renowned bookbinder, artist, lecturer and teacher. He has his bindery in England, from where he travels across the UK teaching and lecturing. He spends part of the year teaching in San Francisco and across the USA. His work is mostly restoration and Design Binding, for which he has won many prizes in the Designer Bookbinders competition. He was elected a Fellow of DB in 2008 and is Patron of the New Zealand Association of Book Crafts. His bindings are in collections worldwide, including the British Library, the Grolier Club in New York and the San Francisco Public Library. In 2013 he won first prize, the Sir Paul Getty Award, in the International Bookbinding Competition. Dominic is a past President of the Society of Bookbinders. Dominic and Michael Burke are co-founders of Book Camp, an immersive residential bookbinding experience which aims to teach new generations of binders.

He has taught masterclasses in the USA, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, at the Centro del Bel Libro in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Canada.

Past Student Reviews:

“Dominic is a master binder. His skill level is unsurpassed. It is a privilege to learn from him.”

“I have taken many classes from Dominic and he is always a pleasure to learn from, and demanding. He sets a high personal standard of work.” 

“Dominic removed the mystery from book repair and introduced this technique in great detail.”

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103-5133
United States