Monday, August 10, 2009

Repairing Game Books

As I mentioned, I recently acquired a very nice copy of the 1st edition Stormbringer boxed set. I'd like to run a one-shot adventure with my players at some point, but Dwimmermount is still going strong (we had another session yesterday, although one that proved shorter than I'd intended) and I don't want to ruin the flow of that campaign. In addition, nice though the copy I received was, it has a flaw: some pages at the center of the rulebook are falling out. That was inevitable, given that it's 28 years old and was not of the highest quality binding even when new.

I would like to repair the book in some way that prevents further deterioration, since it's the only copy we'd have at the table. In general, I take very good care of my games and rulebooks, but I still use them, so I don't care about some sort of museum-style "restoration" of the book. I simply don't want it to fall to pieces and I want to be able to hand it to players who can use it while generating their characters.

Does anyone out there have any good suggestions?


  1. Even though I own a copy of the same edition, I can't recall offhand how it was bound. It can be deucedly tricky to put pages back in a book.

    If the margins are wide enough, you might consider carefully removing all the pages (I recommend using an X-Acto knife, a ruler, and a lot of patience). Take the loose pages (and covers) to a Kinko's and have it coil bound with a protective plastic cover.

  2. As someone who heavily uses coil-bound books, they fall apart easier than just about anything out there, so I can't recommend them. Have you considered going to your friendly neighborhood library? They rebind books to be used all the time and might be a fountain of information.

  3. PL is a good suggestion.

    Though I have to say I have a couple dozen coil bound pdf books I printed that have had zero problems. The only one that fell apart was the RC printout I loaned to my brother, who is notoriously hard on stuff in general (which is why I didn't loan him my Mentzer signed original RC).

  4. Kitchener has a bindery service that does library bindings of periodicals and paper-bound books into the traditional, durable-as-all-get-out university type library bindings (in fact, I believe the chief source of their income is UW and WLU).

    I once inquired with them as to pricing because I was interested in having it done to my 1st ed C&S and AH-era RQ materials.

    The pricing that I was quoted was expensive, but not hideously expensive. It was on the order of buying a new, somewhat 'spensive hardbound gamebook.

    If the original materials have a decent sized gutter, then this might be the route that's worth taking. The C&S materials (old red book) if you remember have a teeny gutter so I figured in the end it was not worth the risk. Given that you have a saddle-stitched original, it's possible that it would work.

    If the paper weight is significant, then coil binding (proper wire spiro binding with round holes in the paper, not the plastic coil crap with rectangular holes in the paper) might be doable and last reasonably well. I agree with FrDave if he's talking about the plastic type spining: that's junk.

    Some printer shops have decent glue/tape-binding services, or strip-binding (two plastic strips with interlocking teeth that plunge through pages) that they can offer, too. The strip-binding is not tremendously long lived with thin page counts: the strips do not live up very well to flexing along their length as the interlocking teeth eventually wear and snap off.

  5. A high street printing shop will have various options for rebinding and someone who can give you advice on them all. Any university town will have one or more bookbinders (there are still a lot of dissertations and theses being written and that have to be bound by hand) and you can ask them as well.

    If it's saddle-stitched, you can just restaple in different places on the spine. If it's perfect binding, the best thing to do is to remove the cover, guillotine the edge of the book covered by the old glue, then run it through the binding machine again, and then guillotine the book again to deal with the fact that the cover is now a little oversized. Doesn't take long, but you need a print shop or a bindery to do it.

  6. The first edition of Stormbringer used really shoddy glue in it's binding. It doesn't matter how much care you take, it will disintegrate. Every copy I've ever seen has done so.

    My suggestion is to look for a printer/bindery that offers "library binding" (so-called because that's what libraries do with the softcovers that they want to keep). If you live in or near a university town, there is usually one around (due to the requirement that a higher-degree thesis usually has to be hardbound). Otherwise, see your local library to see who they use.

    Unfortunately, given the fact that the original work was perfect bound (using individual leaves of paper rather than signatures [folded leaves of paper]), your options are rather limited. Avoid oversewn binding like the plague (while there is sufficient margin to do so in this case, such books cannot lie flat when open, a severe detriment for a gaming book). [You could always cheat, and reprint a copy of the book from the individual pages as a set of signatures for sewn binding (my favourite type <grin>), of course, but that could cause tricky ethical problems with copyright.]

    Alternatively you can get thermal binding that will allow you to recreate the original perfect binding, albeit with better quality glue. You can do it yourself with specially made strips, but I'd really suggest getting an expert to do it.

    I'd avoid making any physical alteration to the book (such as punching it for binding), as once you've done that, you can't go back.

  7. "The first edition of Stormbringer used really shoddy glue in it's binding. It doesn't matter how much care you take, it will disintegrate. Every copy I've ever seen has done so"

    Quite right. I've rebound the Stormbringer hardcover myself in the past, now that you remind me of it (when I was at printing school and had access to all kinds of bindery kit).

  8. As it turns out, my wife is actually a book binder and conservator with Etherington Conservation Services. She's been really interested in having some projects to put on her portfolio. I'll speak with her tonight and direct her towards this.

  9. quite right about needing some advice. the absolute worst thing to happen to a book is for pages to be lost.

    my suggestion is not to do anything drastic - do not chop off the spine unless it is absolutely necessary, and if you chose do that, use a professional binder/conservator (not kinkos). in the end, any place that will will do a good job will have to take a look at the thing (pics on the web at least).

    but in the meantime, etherington conservation has a great reputation, so they could be a good option to explore. however, local binders may be in area too. personally i would suggest a mylar/melinex enclosure, stiff wrapper, or a box (depending on the thickness of the book) to keep everything together. these are simple, cheap, and effective. feel free to contact for more suggestions.

  10. Hi. Brandon's wife, here. There are some really great suggestions, here. A good, sturdy library-style binding would be a good option, though I generally dislike the c-cloth or thick buckram commonly used. Desirable only for their ability to get dirty or wet and simply be wiped off.

    A handsome 1/4 calf, cloth binding could be appealing and remain durable. And it sure would look nice as it ages.

    As for the textblock, to get that old adhesive off, first, is very important. Chopping it off in a guillotine is most efficient because PVA is hard to get off with a poultice (read as: nigh impossible). After that, it's feasible to create signatures with hinges and resew through folds, but your best bet would be to do another adhesive binding or sew through the sides.

    Boxes are good for bookowners who want to retain the integrity of their piece, but if you want to actually use your book and have it withstand daily use, it needs to be rebound. Mylar encapsulation is another good option for being able to continue using the piece while protecting the pages, but it will get pricey. And heavy.

    If you'd like to contact me, personally, rowena(dot)zane(at)gmail(dot)com or if you'd like to contact HF Group - Etherington Conservation Services, we have binderies all over the eastern US and in WA. Here's the website for the closest near you:

    I'd love for you to shoot me an email if you have any more questions. I'm always on the hunt for good portfolio fodder, and would be willing to whip something up cheap or free in exchange for the right to use photos of the work. Whatever you do, good luck as you choose what's best for your book!