Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Palmyra’s Book Doctor

In this age of fast-changing technology there is still a place for real books. Although some old and rare books have high monetary value many are irreplaceable because of their intrinsic value. Such books, including local and area histories regarding Wayne County localities are often the “patients” taken to Marcia Marsille at the Village Bookmarket for repair or restoration.

Some within that category are Memorial of Horace Eaton by Anna R. Eaton, 1886; Gazetteer and Business Directory of Wayne County, NY for 1867-8; Military History of Wayne County by Lewis H. Clark, 1884 and others. The information they contain is priceless and the small budgets allowed most public historians in Wayne County don’t allow for costly time-consuming processes like microfilming or digitizing. This is where Marsille’s knowledge and skills are invaluable.

Her cozy shop on East Main St., Palmyra is not only home to thousands of pre-enjoyed books, but is also where she repairs and restores books. “I’ve loved books as long as I can remember. Some just can’t be replaced and that’s why I learned to repair, restore and bind them.”

Marsille grew up in East Palmyra and graduated from Newark High School. She purchased the inventory of Kavannagh Books and opened her shop in 2007. She realized book repair would be an important part of her business and initially sent books out for rehab but soon took things into her own hands. She bought some antique equipment from Sylvia Bornarth of Pultneyville, studied the subject and began small-scale repairs. As jobs became more numerous, they became more complicated until book rehab grew into a sizeable portion of her business.

Marsille averages 10 or more projects per month and says she learns from each one. “The first lesson I learned was that it’s very easy to overglue. That’s why this is one of my most often-used tools.” She took a very slender knitting needle from a cubby in her desk and demonstrated how she applies glue to a damaged book gutter.

Her tools are simple and include paper and plastic clad bricks, multiple pressing boards, two pre-1900 hand-operated book presses and lettering blocks. The drawers of her antique map chest storage unit contain archival materials for page and gutter repair, rebinding and sewing materials, cover-weight board and fabrics.

She said many books that she “treats” are easy to repair, but occasionally a job is very challenging such as the “cookbook twins” project. She described a very large, unwieldy book containing two volumes of Mary Margaret McBride’s Encyclopedia of Cooking, which she divided into two separate books, each with new covers, lettering and face pages.

Marsille restored one book that was later sent to auction where it brought a 4-figure bid, but to her, all books deserve a second chance and equal care. Most repairs or restorations run from $50 – $100, although some can go higher depending on the needs.
One FAQ she’s asked is, “Is this book worth repairing?” which she always answers with the question, “What’s it worth to you?”
Many of her “patients” are irreplaceable antique leather-bound family Bibles or old cloth-bound cookbooks, some hand-written, which are passed from one generation to the next. “…they’re loved to death. Repair is their salvation and a way to perpetuate their messages and information,” she said.

She has treated book “patients” from as close as down the street to as far away as California. “I love fixing books. It’s one way to preserve history even if it’s just Grandma’s cookbook.” Knowing the book would have the best affordable care possible and that after repairs it would be preserved and useful for decades, I turned over the Town of Palmyra’s copy of Landmarks of Wayne County, N.Y., (1895) from which the covers had separated. “I can’t make it look like new, but I can extend its life,” she said.
More information about Marcia Marsille, her book restoration ventures and related items is available online at www.villagebookmarket.com
By Beth Hoad