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Why This Woman Deconstructs Antique Books To Save Them

Author, educator and book restorer Sophia Bogle has nerves of steel: one slip of the hand and a century-old first edition book could be ruined. Come inside her workshop as she breaks down the amazing deconstruction, revitalization, and reassembly that goes into her history preserving speciality.

Director: Charlie Jordan
Director of Photography: Paul Ramsey
Editor: Richard Trammell
Expert: Sophia Bogle
Creative Producer: Wendi Jonassen
Line Producer: Joseph Buscemi
Associate Producer: Brandon White
Production Manager: D. Eric Martinez
Production Coordinator: Fernando Davila
Camera Operator: John Gurney
Assistant Camera: Drew Cannulett
Sound Mixer: Chad Saddler
Post Production Supervisor: Alexa Deutsch
Post Production Coordinator: Ian Bryant
Supervising Editor: Doug Larsen
Assistant Editor: Andy Morell

Released on 11/06/2023


[paper scratching]

[paper snipping]

[Narrator] One slip of the hand,

and this 100 year old first edition book

could be ruined forever. [Sophia exhales deeply]

That's why restoring a book like this

takes immense patience and precision.

I used to take the books apart a little bit

in front of my clients

until their faces would just be like [gasps].

They don't need to know.

Nobody needs to know what I'm doing,

but you guys get to know.

[Narrator] Meet Sophia Bogle,

book restorer, educator, and author,

who has dedicated her life

to preserving our stories.

I have probably restored thousands of books.

I don't actually know the number.

[playful music]

Some of the most important things

in book restoration,

some of the steps involved are deconstruction,

opening the spine, scraping the old spine,

doing color matching.

For the text block, there's page washing,

if needed, page repair,

and then reconstructing the book.

Not every book is the same.

It's one of the main reasons

that makes this such a difficult specialty

to become really good at.

Here I have the first edition

of The Lost Princess of Oz,

and it's in terrible shape,

very dirty on the front cover,

the spine is breaking, pages are torn up.

So normally a restoration like this

could take between eight and 12 hours.

One of the first things

is to separate the text block from the cover.

There are other book repair knives out there.

This one I designed to be like a fingertip.

[edges scratching]

It does sometimes feel like book surgery.

Sometimes more than others,

especially those tight joint,

tight back leather books,

those are nerve wracking.

Talk about surgery, you have to cut

into the leather around the little panels,

dye the leather, and make that match

so that everything is as invisible as possible.

Having done all that, this is the result.

[playful music]

Some pages need to be washed.

Other pages might just need a few repairs.

This kind of tear right here is a beveled

or a scarf tear.

It just means it has two overlapping areas.

And those are the best kind

'cause you can just put some paste in there.

So I've got my rice starch paste.

Literally just going to paint these two together.

[paper rustling]

So now we're going to use the shadow tracer,

a piece of black paper and then something clear

and plastic over it.

We're tracing the shape with some water

so that we can tear it out.

So now I'm gonna put it on this side.

[paper rustling]

Starting to look better.

There we go.

So that's a good start.

I might actually do that again

to make that thicker, but for now, that's good.

And that can just be trimmed to fit.

And then that's fitted in there.

[Narrator] While a lot of Sophia's work centers

around her desk, her workshop is full

of unique tools for restoration.

All right, so this is my bindery.

And over here I've got my old sewing frame,

which uses these old fashioned keys.

And then over here I've got kind

of the more modern version.

This is the Jeff Peachey, Nokey system.

It's kind of cool.

Have both kinds.

This is a job backer and it's pretty old

from the 1800s.

You put the book in here and then you squish it

and then you can work on it with a hammer

or a saw, which really freaks people out.

This is the gold finishing stove.

And my apprentice used to call this the bear trap

because it looks like it could just close

up on your hand at any moment.

This is something that you need

to do leather restoration work.

This was all done by hand.

You put the gold on and then you do the tooling.

And this is an example of the gold leaf.

I just keep little scraps of it in here.

It's really hard to work with

'cause it's so delicate.

So here I've got my quick print stamping machine,

and I've got a lot of weird little

do daddy things that you can stamp with,

as well as a lot of fonts.

And this is a whole nother thing

where anything you can put into a black

and white design, you can have made into a tie.

Here's Toto.

This is how it operates.

You put your little device in here,

bring it back down,

and you squish it.

The impression that it makes

is called the kiss, which I just love.

Let's see how that turned out.

So then over here is my nipping press.

These were originally made to make copies.

These days, everybody who's a book binder

would want one of these

because you can put your book in here

and press it.

And it works really well.

[Narrator] Sometimes in the restoration process,

pages themselves need to be removed

from the book and washed.

Some of them are very dirty.

This one has some blue ink on it.

I'm going to test before we begin.

And the way to do that is to take cotton swab,

get that wet.

You put a drop of water and you just stare at it.


I can see that's already starting to go.

One of the things that we do

to help keep the pages together

is we have this Hollytex,

which is a spun polyester paper.

And I'm just trying to submerge it.

It's like it's taking a little bath.

I should get a little floaty duck or something.

Then you can take just a clean brush.

So that's basically it.

[Narrator] This knack for invisible artistry

has been years in the learning

and part of a lifetime love of literature.

I was at the University of Minnesota

getting my English degree.

I got a student job at the library bindery.

It was quite the transformational experience.

I knew I wanted to do something with books.

And I walked in here and I discovered

that books were taken apart

and put back together.

And there was one person

over in the corner throwing books

into buckets of water and sewing

and all the beautiful things.

And I was like, Oh, that's the job I want.

[Narrator] And Sophia's been doing

that job for over 30 years.

Saving history, one book at a time.

What I wanna do is I wanna get

at this cover spine liner by cutting here,

getting that open, and same thing over here.

And then I can start to remove this old paper,

which is fairly acidic.

When it's more acidic, it falls apart quicker.

[paper scratching]

And just clean up the last little,

bit of that section.

[Narrator] Restoring the book spine

is an important step in the process,

but some spines pose

particularly unique challenges.

So this one was truly one

of the most difficult.

And for such a special, unique book,

literally one of these books was made

in the world.

The original spine was just gone,

and they had restored it with this suede.

So my challenge was removing this.

Oh, it took so long with a a knife

and just scraping really carefully

and just trying to get that off of there.

And it came out like this.

I mean, I get chills really,

because this is Frank Baum's copy for his mother.

And there's a wonderful inscription

on the first page.

So it's just really fun to be part

of that story, too.

[Narrator] Regardless of what steps

are required to return a book

to its former glory,

the final step is always putting the book

back together or recase it.

I've got the hinge

that will be tucked in there.

I'm actually noticing right now

that the Japanese tissue that I put

on there is extending too far.

And I have two options.

I can lift this up further

or I can tear some of this off.

And I'm going to go for the tear

some of this off version

and just get some of that.

The edge of the mull makes a nice edge

to tear it against.

So super easy.

But meanwhile, this is the most fun part.

I don't think I've even told you about this.

You can write things on the spine of the book.

This book restored by Sophia,

September, 2023.

And then my signature is,

I always put three dots on.

I do love the fact that there's the story

in the book.

There's the story of the restoration of the book.

There's the story of who has owned the book,

and now I'm just in there

just a little bit more.

I'm taking the the PVA.

And you just don't want any glue on the spine.

The spine needs to not be attached

to the other spine 'cause this is all going

to get tucked in now.

It's getting there.

And I'm just gonna go ahead

and put this in to protect it.

And now it needs to go up in the press.

It's really important

that the book goes in square

and that the pin of this is over the area

that you need it to be over.

There we go.

So I'm gonna leave this in here overnight.

By tomorrow, it'll be finished

and ready to go home.

[Narrator] No matter how many books she's restored,

Sophia takes the work of book restoration

as a vital responsibility.

I'm preserving cultural history.

It's really important.

So many books are being thrown away.

I want more people to collect books

to think about that.

Like what can you collect?

What can you put on your shelves and take care of

and take stewardship of so that they'll make it

to the next generations?

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