By the mid nineteenth century the Family Bible was regarded as being more than just teachings inspired by the light of God. They became sacred objects in their own right, given a central position in the household and often holding letters and keepsakes in the form of dried flowers.
The Family Bible became the spiritual hub of the home.
The Protestant faith of the day, worshipped the living Word, and placed value on sermons over ritual, so it comes as no surprise that the Family Bible became seen as such a venerated object.
Religious publishers of the time attended to this market by making very large Family Bibles, complete with colour illustrations, pages for recording marriages deaths and births, and that in style owed everything to bindings of the middle ages.
The ancient book, with thick bevelled wooden boards became the model for the 19th century Family Bible, it too boasted thick boards with bevelled edges, and could be just as massive as their ancient counterpart.
So the Family Bible became the altar of domestic piety, somewhere where domestic sacred life met the sacred life of the church fathers and prophets.
As bookbinders we were housed in the grounds of a Benedictine monastery, I think for that reason we had more than out fair share of Family Bibles to repair. Looking at our receipts I see we carried out restoration on approximately 20 large format Family Bibles a year
Unfortunately the design of most of these Family Bibles lacked the integrity of the content. When new they may have looked impressive, but the structure and materials used were governed by the harsh economic realities of the Victorian era.
In further imitation of the early codex, they often came with clasps and decorative corners. Some had protective brass edging running right around the board edges. These fittings were mostly of pressed tin given a brass plating, the edges, if present, fare worst of all the fittings; they are often distorted and coming away from the board edges.
They added substantially to the weight of the boards, not all Bibles have these brass fittings, but they are very common.
Trying to keep costs down, most of these Family Bibles were covered in thin sheepskin leather.
This insubstantial leather was not up to the job of supporting the heavy boards, that is why so many unrepaired Family Bibles will be found with one or more boards detached from the binding.
It was not only the leather which lacked strength, the spine of such books were also insufficiently lined, such linings supported the spine of the book as it opened, consequently the sewing of the Bible may need attention.
It is certainly possible to repair and preserve these books, however even a craftsman has to be fed and such work may involve many hours and several hundred pounds.
But the cost of your Family Bible repair is offset by the knowledge that you have taken steps to insure that your Family Bible, with all the records and memories it contains, has been expertly repaired, and will be there to be consulted or added to by future generations.
By Richard Norman
Expert Repair of Family Bibles By Secure Delivery
For more than 30 years I ran a book bindery in the grounds of a Benedictine monastery. During this time I became expert in the repair of Family Bibles. I now specialise in the repair of these family heirlooms. I am also an experienced paper conservator.