The Gilded Leaf restores precious books

Book restoration takes talent and patience and an eye for beauty. 3-1-17 Live at Five at Four

Even in the age of e-readers like Kindle, Nook and iPads, traditional books are still here.

The ones that have survived for a long time may need a little tender love and care. A book restoration expert in Maryville provides that service. He has clients around the world.

"I grew up in the rare book business. My dad's a dealer. So I have been around it my whole life," Bob Roberts said.

Roberts gives new life to old books.

"There's a lot of ways to mess the process up. So it can get pretty dicey sometimes," he said.

The process is hands on and hard work with knives, presses and specialized tools.

His business, The Gilded Leaf, is based in a workshop at his home in Maryville. His clients are book lovers, investors and collectors.

"The great thing about this old paper is, for the most part, it is really crisp. It is really strong," Roberts explained.

One of his restored books was published in 1494, in the time of Christopher Columbus.

Roberts said books printed before 1800 feature strong paper and usually the parts are in pretty good shape.

"Once the paper gets to say middle 1800s on sometimes it gets really pulpy, it reacts to moisture, I can't wash it and rinse it and do some of the things you can do with really old paper," he said.

People bring in a lot of Bibles but also cookbooks and any items with sentimental value. They also bring in books worth a lot of money.

"There's a line between budget on one end and aesthetics over here, so budget is the duct tape special and we could do that, but that's not our specialty. And then aesthetics way over here in terms of really fine materials. But most jobs are somewhere in between where we are just trying to match what was there and hide it," he said.

He remembers a phone call from a woman who said she had a Bible in a couple of pieces and sent it to him.

"There's probably, I don't know, a thousand pieces and different fragments of paper everywhere. Her dog got to it and did a number. And so we told her if money is no expense then we would be happy to work on this for the next three months, but how about a box? And that is a common approach too, just a box," he said.

Then there was a first edition of the classic "Moby Dick."

"The Y on the spine in Moby was a little piece of gold that fell off and landed somewhere on the floor in all the scraps and I had a tense moment looking for the Y on the floor," he recalled.

Roberts spends his days at The Gilded Leaf restoring other people's books but he still makes time to enjoy his own.

"I say I don't collect and my wife says what are these 3,000 books doing in the living room?" he said.

His work will be featured in the next Hugh Jackman film called "The Greatest Showman" about P.T. Barnum. He created period-appropriate notebooks reporters use in some scenes. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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