An Interview with Sophia Bogle of Save Your Books

In 2000, Sophia Siobhan Wolohan Bogle began Red Branch Book Restoration in Ashland—now renamed Save Your Books. After completing an English Degree (with a Cultural Anthropology minor), she became an apprentice at a used book store, where she learned the value of books in the marketplace. She has studied at The Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the book arts program at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, and at the American Academy of Bookbinding where she studied with legendary conservator Don Etherington.

EB: How did you get involved in book restoration and conservation?

SB: While getting my BA in English, I worked at the University of Minnesota’s Library re-bindery and fell in love with book construction.

EB: What’s the difference between repair restoration and conservation?

SB: Conservation differs from Restoration in that it aims to preserve and clarify what survives, rather than replace what is missing to make it whole again. It is History vs. The Present, yet both have an eye to the Future.

Here are some definitions from Bookbinding and the Conservation of books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology by Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington:

    Restoration: The process of returning a book, document, or other archival material as nearly as possible to its original condition. The entire scope of “restoration” ranges from the repair of a torn leaf, or removal of a simple stain, to the complete rehabilitation of the material, including, at times, de-acidification, alkaline buffering, resizing, filling in missing parts, re-sewing, replacement of endpapers and/or boards, recovering or restoration of the original covering material, and refinishing in a manner sympathetic to the time of the original binding of the publication. Restoration, therefore, encompasses virtually the entire range of book work—mending, repairing, rebinding, and reconstruction. Book repair is not restoration and it is not conservation. Repair is an “improvement” made to a book that is focused on the functionality of the book. It is a visible change that is unsubtle and un-matching . Yet it may be the only viable alternative for a relatively unimportant book. And if done well , it can look very nice, clean and neat, but it could never be mistaken for an original binding. Sometimes this is all that is needed. It is always cheaper.

    Conservation: The conscious, deliberate and planned supervision, care and preservation of the total resources of a library, archives, or similar institution, from the injurious effect of age, use (or misuse), as well as external or internal influences of all types, but especially light, heat, humidity and atmospheric influences. 2. A field of knowledge concerned with the coordination and planning for the practical application of the techniques of binding, restoration, paper chemistry, and other material technology, as well as other knowledge pertinent to the preservation of archival resources.

EB: What are some of the types of damage that you’ve been able to repair and restore? I’ve seen some of your work with Japanese tissue and leather.

SB: The most typical sort of repair is a book with the hinges broken. Books are mechanical creatures and the hinges are the mechanics. Other than that, sometimes it is just about touching up the aesthetics.

EB: You have a do-it-yourself book repair kit and a YouTube video series. What can the average person do themselves and when should they seek a professional?

SB: Even the simplest repairs should be practiced on books that are not valuable to you personally. With some practice there are many things such as hinge repair, corner strengthening, leather care and tear repairs.

EB: What’s in the book repair kit?

SB: Everything that I use on a daily basis and enough to do several repairs. You need some basic supplements that you probably already have at home like a ruler and scissors. The list: Bone folder, book repair knife, sand papers, paste, several Japanese tissues, brushes, a leather wax that is also good for sealing the Japanese tissue, pressing rods and boards, a spray bottle for water, bulldog clip, a guide to what can be done, micro-spatula, wax paper and silicone release paper, and an eraser.

EB: What should the average person be doing to preserve their books?

SB: Keeping them in a stable environment is the most important thing. Stable humidity and temperature between 50 and 70 degrees is best but just stable with good air flow is ok. Also keep them out of direct sunlight. The list goes on. I will have to write a blog about it!

EB: Do you have any specialties? I know you’ve restored several copies of Origin of the Species.

SB: The Origin of Species does crop up for me frequently. I have also developed a good following of Frank Baum and Oz collectors. I love working on illustrated children’s books, and I have an article coming out this fall in the Baum Bugle which is the International Wizard of Oz Club newletter. The article covers four common repairs to cloth-bound books.

EB: You studied at the American Academy of Bookbinding. What was that like?

SB: My time at the AAB was wonderful and intense. I was determined to finish quickly because I had so much experience already and I achieved that by doing it in 3 years whereas many take 5 or more to finish. The educators there are at the top of the field so you know you are getting the latest information.


EB: How many books have you restored in your career?

SB: I have no idea. Thousands for sure.

EB: If someone is interested in having a book repaired or in learning more, what should they do?

SB: I am happy to talk with people about their book problems. E-mail me a photo of the problem area and I can give you an estimate:


More and more I am just asking how much someone wants to spend on the book because I have many levels of service and can do a quick fix for $150 or an amazing restoration and charge over $1000. It is all a matter of details and the hours I put in. This is my passion. I love helping people with their books whether I do it or they do it!

EB: Thanks. And I’m sure readers will want to check out your YouTube videos here.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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