Book Conservation with David Donahue

David Donahue is a self taught book conservator. After leaving the corporate world, Donahue began collecting old books from garage sales and auctions and restoring them himself. While working on a first edition of Charles Dickens, Donahue sought to recreate the original stitched binding from 1839 but was unable to find nor afford a binder who could do so. So he decided to learn himself.

David Donahue Book Restoration specializes in design bindings and conservation boxes. One third of their business comes from restoring family bibles, another third from book collectors, and the rest from one-off book restoration requests.

Donahue’s recent endeavor has been creating clamshell boxes for Harry Potter books. The idea stemmed from his daughter’s love of the series. Donahue is a fan of the books himself and believes the series to be a great modern story that has brought younger generations back to reading. Part of the magic of the Harry Potter world is that it feels dark, old, and even a bit treacherous, but the covers of the book themselves? Not so much. Initially Donahue rebound the books with leather covers and design bindings to create a certain antiquated look.  But with the perfect bindings used on the Harry Potter books, it was difficult to convert them to a longer lasting coptic stitch. Within a decade of prolonged use, the pages would inevitably begin to fall out by the dozen. Donahue decided to go in a new direction. He, and his small team of binders, began to make clamshell boxes to encase the Harry Potter books, and create design bindings for the boxes. The boxes would effectively keep out dust and debris, and leave the book perfectly and preciously preserved for the years to come.

Donahue said, “you could open the box 25 years later, and the book would still look exactly the same as when you first took it off the shelf.”

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