Repairing an 1816 copy of the Domesday Book at Carronvale bindery

Restoring Durham Cathedral’s collections at a Scottish book bindery – with your help!

Adopt a Book began at Durham Cathedral in the autumn of 2016, inspired by a similar scheme at the British Library. It allows members of the public to donate towards the restoration of a chosen book from the Cathedral’s Refectory Library, where 30,000 early printed books are housed. The Library was refurbished as part of the Open Treasure project, and now has carefully controlled conditions to protect the fragile books. However, many of the books have suffered over the years, and are in need of repair – some of the spines and covers are only kept together on the shelves with cotton tape.

This blog is full of images – click on an image to enlarge it!

In the first year of Adopt a Book, 45 books were adopted with £13,000 in total going towards the restoration of these rare books – and this year 29 books have been adopted so far. Three of these restored books have now been able to be included in our Collections Gallery exhibitions, including Making a Joyful Noise! and Saintly Sisters.


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So how are these books restored once they have been adopted? They get collected by our Conservator, Louis Valentine, who takes them to Carronvale Bindery in Falkirk, Scotland, his family-owned book bindery. There the books are carefully restored by his team of five conservators, with leaves cleaned, spines rebacked, pages mended and covers reattached. They receive all the care and attention they require to get them back to a condition which means they can be displayed, used by researchers or the public without sustaining further damage and deterioration. As you can see below, they do an impressive job.

Louis has recently been back at Durham Cathedral to drop off the first batch of repaired books from this year’s cohort – since October 2017 over £6,000 has been donated for the restoration of 29 books. But our Collections Team took a trip up to Falkirk on a snowy winter’s day to see Louis and his team at work, restoring some of the adopted books from the Cathedral. Accompanying them was Joe Cornish, a professional photographer who has worked with the Cathedral over the last year. Here we’d like to share with you some of the images Joe took, along with some ‘behind-the-scenes’ snaps of Joe at work alongside the team at Carronvale. Click on an image to enlarge it.


If you’d like to find out more about Adopt a Book please go to our website; the catalogue of books for 2017/18 Adopt a Book can be found here. All adopters get a Certificate of Thanks, the chance to see their book before or after restoration and a personalised bookplate inserted into their adopted book.


We hope you enjoyed this insight – keep checking our social media for more Adopt a Book updates! You can find the Cathedral on twitter @durhamcathedral@DCathPatrons and the Cathedral Library @BedesBooks.

Interested in the Cathedral Library? Discover more of Durham Cathedral Library’s stunning collections in our behind-the-scenes blog, and explore high quality scans of some of the Cathedral Library’s most precious collections through the Durham Priory project.

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