Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 116
February 1998

Tips & Techniques

Tacketing: Jim Dorsey, editor of Binders Guild Newsletter, in its Vol. XX, #6, Sept. 1996 issue, has expanded on an article by Robert Espinosa and Pamela Barrios, both conservators at the Harold B. Lee Library of Brigham Young University, Utah at the time it was written.

In the Introduction, they said: "This is a report on a joint repair technique which is efficient to execute but produces a very strong re-attachment of the covers. It is applicable to both hollow-back and tight-back structures, but is not intended for case-bound books. This technique restores full movement to the joint without sacrificing the strength or aesthetics of the original binding. It is based on a method described and illustrated by Tony Cains in the publication on the Long Room Project at Trinity College, Dublin, and has been mentioned at several conferences by Mr. Cains, although it does not seem to be widely known or used. Having now employed it with some modifications for hundreds of books with broken joints, both in rare and circulating collections, we believe it is important to publicize this technique and illustrate the procedure.

The method has been dubbed 'board reattachment with joint tackets' because the covers are tacketed directly onto the book at the joints. In effect, the original binding method is reproduced by simulating new slips. These slips are tacketed to the shoulder of the textblock and laced through the boards. They are tied-off on the inner board in a simple square knot. This restores the original movement of the boards because the anchoring points are at the apex of the shoulder. The beauty of this repair lies in the strength of the board attachment compared to the modest investment of time and materials, and the ability to reinstate function with a minimum disruption to the original materials."

Jim Dorsey has given the basic steps of the tacketing procedure, tried them out, and added his comments and clarifications to the process. (Web ed. note: The illustrations accompanying this article are available only in the paper version.)

  1. Drill a series of holes from the base of shoulder, exiting on spine (fig. 1)
  2. Pull a loop of thread through each hole, thread ends through loops and form knot at apex of shoulder (fig. 2).
  3. Drill boards from outside spine edge to inside edge, splaying each pair so loop ends can be tied off (figs. 3 & 4).
  4. Tie off loop ends in a simple square knot.

There are, of course, a lot of refinements and details that can be mentioned - and here they are: