As you can see, it was pretty tattered. This cookbook was published in the 1930's and by all indication was used for decades. (The pages you see here are the blank ones at the back, used for writing in her own recipes.) In addition to writing in many of her own recipes, she collected many from newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, etc, and either pasted them inside or folded them up and stuck them between the pages. I found a newspaper article from 1972 talking about how useful computers were proving to be in police work! It also advertised Cuticura, which is a salve I use in South Africa but can't find here in the States. Instead of removing all these tidbits, I decided to bind them into the book.
This is by no means any kind of professional restoration. I used regular contact paper and packing tape, which probably would turn the pages yellow or something if they weren't already yellow and stained with decades of food splatters. I started by taking the covers off. The binding had fallen off long ago and been replaced with packing tape, which wasn't doing much good at all. Then I cut the signatures apart. A lot of them were still ok - if rather brittle - but the ones at the front and back of the book were falling out and falling apart. I encased them in contact paper and folded them over to create new signatures. I also created new page sections from clipped recipes, index cards, etc by creating "pages" with contact paper - sticking the scraps between two pieces of contact paper and folding them over to create new signatures.
For the sections where the stitching holes hadn't been ripped out and weren't too badly damaged, I reinforced the folds and edges with contact paper (and sometimes packing tape).
I punched holes in the cover and began sewing everything together. This page has an excellent article on the mechanics of bookbinding.
I used waxed linen thread from Hobby Lobby, and regular needles with holes large enough to accommodate it. I broke several needles!
I cut a strip of leather and bound it to the edge of the book. I unfortunately didn't take photos of this step or any of the stitches but it wasn't too hard. I marked the design on the wrong side of the leather and used an ice pick to poke holes in the leather and the book. Dad has an awl somewhere but I have no idea where!
I was quite happy with the result! The spine is flexible yet sturdy. All of the most fragile pages are pretty securely protected, and most of the pages have contact paper/tape on the edges to keep them from ripping when I flip through the book.
I will still have to be careful with it, but I don't have to keep the whole thing in a Ziploc anymore to keep the pieces all together! Hopefully I will be able to use it for years to come!
I had a bit of leather left, so I made this little thing too: