Tomes change but Sue persists

Bookbinder uses all her skills to preserve precious volumes

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BOUND FOR GLORY: Sue Spraggs in her workshop at home.

BOUND FOR GLORY: Sue Spraggs in her workshop at home.

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From Little Golden Books to family bibles, Sue Spraggs keeps our cherished books intact.

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AS technology marches on and we increasingly flick through our Kindles, sometimes it seems books won't outlive us.

Sue Scraggs, however, is fighting the good fight. The bookbinder from Rutherford in NSW has been restoring books to their former glory for 50 years and has no intention of stopping any time soon.

"It's the elderly who get books done, not so much the younger ones," she said.

"Bibles, dictionaries - things that have some kind of sentimental value. So many say, 'I have to get it fixed before I fall off the perch.'"

WORK IN PROGRESS: A family bible in the process of being restored by Sue.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A family bible in the process of being restored by Sue.

In the days before genealogical websites, family bibles were especially important, recording hatchings, matchings and dispatchings going back generations.

"Some of the bibles are 250 years old, with family trees going right back to then," Sue said

"What I do is I add extra sheets of special aged paper so that families can keep it going for another 250 years if they wish.

"One lady who came to me had 13 children, so she needed lots more room!"

Other items Sue has repaired over the years include Walt Disney illustrated stories, Little Golden Books, Sunday school prizes, decades-old Chums magazines, even hard-to-get Holden and Ford car manuals.

She also employs her skills on journals, newspapers, remembrance books, attendance books and more.

GOOD AS OLD: Some of Sue's finished projects.

GOOD AS OLD: Some of Sue's finished projects.

"Any sentimental book I can fix and stop it from falling apart further," she said.

Starting as a tablehand with Newey & Beath in Broadmeadow, aged 15, Sue went on to work with printers wherever her husband was stationed with the army.

Settling in Rutherford seven years ago, she now works from home, where she repairs all manner of books.

Whether their covers are made from board, cloth or leather, she treats them with the same loving care.

Embossing, too, is part of her centuries-old craft.

Sue said people sometimes brought her their deteriorating books for repair for fear that after they died family members would take one look and "simply chuck them out".

She told of one elderly man who was almost in tears telling her that nobody wanted his cherished books.

He tried to give them to his grandchildren, only to be told by his son "they can get all that off the internet".

Sue said it's not uncommon for customers to bring her books that are worse for wear after being packed away for years.

Cockroaches (and silverfish, to a lesser extent) can be a problem here, since they eat the animal-based glue once used to bind books.

Many people especially love the exquisite old-style dust covers on their books.

"Ninety per cent of the time I can save the original covers or make them up as nice as possible," said .

"If any of it is missing, I mount the cover on to my aged paper so they have most of it, with any gaps filled in.

"Touch wood, I've only turned one book back in 50 years."

Sue's Book Binding & Repairs, (02) 4932-6390, 0409-326-392, sue.bookbinding@bigpond.com

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