Restoring old books is a sentimental journey into your memories


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If anyone understands the emotional attachment of books to home, it’s James Twomey, who has perhaps Wisconsin’s most unusual combination of occupations.

Twomey is a professional restorer of old books and maps. He is the owner of Book Restoration Co., with branches in LaFarge and Kenosha. He also breeds a herd of Tunisian heritage sheep on his Sandstone Ridge farm in LaFarge, which is part of the Driftless Hilly Zone.

Wisconsin professional book restorer and sheep rancher James Twomey of Books Restoration Co. works both on his farm in LaFarge and in his large studio in Kenosha.

“It brings us out,” he said of sheep farming.

Most of his book restoration work takes place at LaFarge. In his studio in Kenosha, he works on larger projects and on card restoration. If all this isn’t new enough, Twomey has also served as an Assistant Academic Staff, Author, Real Estate Renovator, Chairman of the Mason Temple Board, and Chairman of the Kenosha Unified School Board.

Over the years, Twomey has restored and personalized all kinds of books, but customer requests generally fall into four categories: children’s books, cookbooks, Bibles and custom hardcover books.

“Books are nostalgic; they lock in for a moment in time, ”he said.

Before: The volumes of Cook's 18th-century Travels show centuries of deterioration.

For example, people place emotional value on books that they remember being read as they were when they were kids, Twomey explained.

“We all had our favorite books, such as ‘Where The Wild Things Are’,” he said.

Restoring children’s books typically costs around $ 125 at Book Restoration Co. But why restore a book you can buy new? It’s the book itself, not just the title, that holds some of the value, Twomey said. It is the same book that was touched by family members long ago that holds the key.

Plus, they don’t do books like they used to.

“A vintage book from the 1950s will likely outlive something made in 2021,” Twomey said.

He also recommended that people invest in hardcover books, which outlast paperbacks.

Cookbooks also hold sentimental value, especially those with a loved one’s handwriting or food stains from favorite dishes. These charming historical imperfections can be preserved during the restoration.

Making the same foods that a mom or grandmother made held strong food memories and allows someone to make the same dish with the same recipe decades later, he said. It is an appealing concept for many who are looking to retrieve memories of loved ones or past stages in life.

Cookbooks can often be in poor condition if they have been used a lot. Cookbook restoration is typically around $ 250.

Beautiful old leather-bound Bibles can also contain family history, including births, deaths, and marriages recorded in an ancestor’s handwriting. Old Bibles may also reflect current events of the time, such as the Civil War. A family Bible on display at home makes an impressive statement, according to Twomey.

“The great old Bible is a piece of furniture,” he said. “The covers are sculptures.

Restoration of the Bible costs approximately $ 500 at Book Restoration Co.

Finally, Twomey creates personalized bindings of favorite books, often as freebies, which cost between $ 350 and $ 700. It creates a one-of-a-kind book binding that can include a leather cover with personalized letters, colors, parchment cover pages, silk ribbons and gold letters on the spine. Buckskin or goat skins can even be used.

Twomey said his typical call came from someone who inherited a book in terrible shape. Many are over 100 years old.

“It’s damn old,” he said of the 18th century books he restored. “It’s amazing the book has been in the family in the upper Midwest.”

Restoring a heritage book brings its own reward for loved ones.

“It won’t go in the basement or the garage or the shed, and they’ve done their good deed,” he said.

Before: This 1870s Family Bible has suffered considerable damage over the past 100 years.
After: The 1870s Family Bible restored by Book Restoration Co. in Wisconsin.

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