Sophia Bogle restores a copy of “The Age of Reason” in her Ashland shop. - Julia Moore

What's in your library?

Some people believe the Nook, Kindle and other electronic tablets will totally replace real books before long. Others will tell you there is nothing like the heft of a real book in your hand.

Thousands have invested in and collect special books, from antiques and childhood tomes to family Bibles and multigeneration cookbooks. How to care for them?

Sophia Bogle learned to repair books when she took a student job in her college bindery. Mostly, they fixed books for the libraries, with the goal to ensure they could withstand hard, everyday use. Bogle then started wondering about other ways to repair old books, and that led her to the American Academy of Book Binding in Telluride, Colo. Because of her college experience, Bogle was able to complete their program in only two years. And all of it led to her Ashland business, Red Branch Book Restoration.

Walking into the small cottage that houses Bogle's business is like walking into history. Her two workers toil beneath the daylight streaming through skylights, surrounded by old, Victorian, oak furniture. The only modern-looking furnishings are the sound system and giant safe in one corner. The safe is where the antique books they work on are stored at night, which is only appropriate for books worth thousands of dollars.

Thomas Paine's 1794 "Age of Reason" came in with the front and back leather covers in small pieces. Bogle's 20 years of experience allowed her to incorporate the old pieces of the cover into a new leather cover, matching and dyeing the leather. Then she created a matching clamshell box to hold and protect the volume.

"Our goal is to preserve the book but not damage it," Bogle says. "Everything we use is archival." By that she means acid-free paper and glues, special tissue papers from Japan, safe leather dyes.

"I can get really detailed where you can't really tell the difference from the original," Bogle says. "Well, an expert could tell. I don't do forgeries. But the restorer's goal is to have it look as close as possible to original condition."

Restoring a cover starts at about $200 and goes up depending on materials needed, condition and size. When you have a book like the Paine, worth $30,000, that is a wise investment.

But Bogle started thinking about all the people with maybe just a few heirloom books needing repairs but who couldn't afford her services. And that was when she and her chief assistant, Sebastian Graham, decided to branch into a new side business: DIY Book Repair.

They sell a basic kit for $35 that includes everything you would need to do basic repairs on a couple of books. Some of the components, like the art eraser, brushes in various sizes, clamps, emery boards and a spray bottle can be purchased at most art-supply stores. But the dental tool and special knife, super-fine emery paper, acid-free wax papers and Japanese glue and tissue papers are a lot harder to find. The three Japanese tissue papers are normally available only in very large, expensive sheets, but Bogle and Graham cut the large sheets into pieces that will work for a number of repairs. The tissue and glue used together can repair a torn page so the repair is almost impossible to detect.

But Bogle doesn't reject modern technology. Short video classes on how to use the kit and do your own repairs are available online. And she will answer email questions.

"There's nothing like it out there on the market," Bogle says. "The only other DIY kit costs $125, and it is really designed for libraries. If I can help somebody repair their book properly so it doesn't get ruined and can be passed down — that's my goal."

Bogle has a few other pieces of advice she'd like to pass on: Never use tape to repair torn pages. Never wrap a book in any kind of plastic. Always wear a paint mask when dealing with moldy books and keep those volumes away from other books.

For more information, see www.bookrestoration.org or www.youtube.com/DIYbookrepair.

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