Great Works of Western World Stiff/Flaking Spine

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My name is Brendan Smith, and I’m a huge fan of intellectual history as well as books (old and new).
I’ve recently come into possession of my grandfather’s “Great Works of the Western World” collection, printed in installments throughout the mid-50’s. Many of the volumes, especially the ones I’m interested in for my senior thesis on the history of science, have not been opened for decades. Due to age and lack of use, the leather on the spines is extremely stiff, and has flaked off (like old paint) on the few volumes I have tried to open.
It seems that the leather (or faux-leather) is just dry– it isn’t cracked or otherwise deformed until I try to open it. I’ve gathered that beeswax would be the solution for real leather, but I’m not sure they are real leather.

Most of the spines are just chipped, though one (second image attached below) seems to have more significant structural damage.

Thanks for any advice you might have to offer,

Sincerely,

Brendan Smith

 

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    Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 1)
    Asked on May 18, 2020 3:54 pm
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    Hi Brendan,

    From what I can see in the photos the material is a faux leather as you suspected. This could be corrected either with black tissue and PVA glue OR you can use acrylic paint to touch up color. The tissue will help re-connect broken hinges. You could use both tissue and acrylic paint. I have a course up showing how to touch up gold as well. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions. ~S

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    Answered on May 18, 2020 4:41 pm
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      Hi Sophia,

      Thank you for responding so quickly!

      That sounds like great advice for repairing the volumes that are already broken. However, it's a 40-odd volume set, and most of those are in almost perfect condition at the moment. Is there a way to loosen the other spines without breaking them, perhaps using SC6000?

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      Answered on May 18, 2020 6:09 pm
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        It will just be a matter of testing. It could be that nothing will keep it from happening and then you will just have to repair as it happens. If the cover material is that brittle between the top layer and the next layer there is nothing you can do to get any sort of adhesive between those layers without lots of damage. The SC6000 is not a glue and I am not sure that glue will work over the top layer anyway. Sorry this is not easier.

         

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        Answered on May 19, 2020 11:50 am