An Unusual Dust Jacket Restoration, Part 1

This week, I have a dust jacket restoration that has some interesting problems. The Outsiders and Others by H.P. Lovecraft is a rare book and an even rarer dust jacket. Perhaps only 1,000 copies were produced and, of course, there are far fewer remaining today. Interestingly, we had another copy of this same book and dust jacket in the shop a month ago.

dust jacket repair, dust jacket restoration

The dust jacket as it was received. In addition to the usual fraying, tears. paper loss and scotch tape, a plastic heat set film was applied to most of the surface.

For this current copy, the amazing challenge is a heat set plastic covering over the entire front and back panels and three quarters of the front and back flaps. This was most likely done by a former owner in an attempt to preserve the dust jacket. As you can see from the ‘before’ photo, it didn’t work. The edges are frayed and there are some serious tears to the front panel. The plastic coating was not fully adhered in places so it, too, has chipped loose. So we’ll tag this as ‘things not to do to your books’!

As any restorer knows, removing tape and plastic is a dicey job. I have taken off my share of tape, but to remove huge sheets of sticky stuff?! Usually, fresh tape has residue that is a problem to remove as well. The adhesive of aged tape sinks in and becomes one with the paper. Yikes!


dust jacket repair, dust jacket restoration

Here I am at work, carefully heating the film with a tacking iron and gently releasing it using a pair of tweezers. Its slow work!

There is no single ‘silver bullet’ treatment for tape removal, so every case starts with judicious experimentation. The first thing to determine is whether, in fact, this was heat set, or was it applied with some sort of sticky adhesive? I started by doing a tiny test on the back flap using heat. Amazingly, the heat took off the plastic and did not leave a residue. Yipppeee! I have to move very slowly doing this or I will skin the page and take off the image. I did not want to spend hours of time in-painting an involved piece of cover art. (My client didn’t want it either.) If I heat the plastic with a tacking iron raised over the page with the heat on 4 (a fairly high heat on my iron), then I can pull the plastic up away from the surface of the paper. To get it off, I pull the plastic against the iron and not drag it over the surface of the dust jacket. The process has to go very slowly and evenly. I have to stop at the parts of the dust jacket where there are breaks and tears so I can do preliminary repairs, otherwise the rips will come apart more. I have to do this in small areas and in short periods so that I can maintain my concentration. If I rush or loose focus, the dust jacket would have the pattern skinned off. You can see in the photo that it is coming along OK. I will show the progress in a later post as I finish this dust jacket restoration. I love doing this. It is so fun to see the plastic just coming off, preserving this dust jacket with a wild drawing on it. See the exciting conclusion in Part 2.


dust jacket repair, dust jacket restoration

The dust jacket in progress. The plastic film has been successfully removed from the front panel, though much work remains to be done.

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