What Are the Best Glues for Book Repairs?
Find the Correct Glue to Repair a Book
I have repaired a great many torn pages and loose covers in my lifetime. I prefer to use glue and not tape when mending books—as long as that glue is acid-free and dries flexible. This article is where I share what I have learned about glues for book repair from my own experiences.
Most of the books I have repaired belong to me or my grandchildren. I have also repaired cookbooks and study Bibles that belong to my closest friends. How did I end up with the job of book repair? In the recent past I worked as a librarian and volunteered in another local library where I learned the art of mending books. I learned from experience and workshops in those places.
Yet, I continue to learn something new every day about repairing my precious books.
My personal motto has become "Saving the world one book at a time."
Please note: For antiquarian or old, collectible books, you'll need a specialists advice, which is not covered by this article.
What to Look for in Book Repair Adhesives
Methyl-Cellulose glue, which comes in powder form
PVA (polyvinyl acetate)
Repairing Books and Damaged Pages
Please examine the photos below to see how I repair my own books. Yes, the photos are mine and that is my own hand that you see.
Repairing Books and Torn PagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Personal Choices for Book Repair Glue
I prefer to use a PVA (polyvinyl acetate) white glue. Elmer's makes a glue called , an acid free, flexible-drying product. I absolutely recommend this glue for repairing every-day, well-loved books. Elmer's Craft Bond
I suggest you try to find an acid-free glue. Glues that are not acid-free will eventually eat away the paper. If a glue is acid-free, it will be clearly stated on the label. If there is no information about the glue's acid ingredients, then assume the glue is not acid-free.
PVA glue is a liquid but they are not all the same. Eileen's Tacky glue is thick and, just as it says, tacky. It is not easy to reposition paper with this glue but I have found that these types of thick glues work well on book cover repairs.
When repairing pages, I like to use one of Brodart's book repair glues. It can be thinned with water if it is too thick. I have used Brodart's Bind-Art Adhesive and like it, too. I have a small container into which I squeeze the glue. Sometimes I add a bit of water for thinning the glue. Then I apply the glue with a small brush or a bamboo toothpick or skewer.
Note: PVA glues are permanent and cannot be reversed once they dry.
A Non-Toxic, Non-Allergen Glue Option
If you have sensitivities or want to be environmentally safe, you can use a mild methyl-cellulose glue. It will come in a powder form that is mixed with water. This kind of glue is usually used with Japanese paper when repairing a torn page.
The repairs you make with methylcellulose glue can be reversed in the future if need be. Conservators usually prefer this kind of glue as it does the least harm to valuable texts. Look for the terms "soluble" if you desire this kind of glue for a repair to a valuable book.
- Be forewarned, this glue might not be the easiest to make. If you can find a pre-mixed glue at an art supply store, get it. I have heard that this glue can be mixed with PVA glue, which will make the glue easier to handle and extend the drying time. This will give you more time to work on the repair.
A recipe for glue was developed by Anna Embree at the University of Alabama that is nontoxic. Enjoy!
I am not a professional book restorer. I leave restoration to those more qualified than myself. I merely share my research and book-repairing experiences with my friends and family.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Mickie Goad