The Book Doctor Is In at the Ohio Book Store

In the windowless basement of the Ohio Book Store, brothers Mike and Jim Fallon keep the family business of book restoration alive and well.

Photograph by Chris Von Holle

By any generous estimation, it would take several—maybe a dozen—trips to fully sort through the shelves of the Ohio Book Store, the four-story fixture on Main Street that’s filled to the brim with rare and collectible books. But down a narrow stairwell tucked away amid the shelves of military history, classics, and music, that’s where the magic really happens. In a pale, windowless room, brothers Mike and Jim Fallon safeguard the family business, painstakingly restoring family Bibles and yellowed pages that predate America itself. And even as independent bookstores fold left and right, Cincinnati’s dedicated book doctors have found themselves busier than ever, stitching back together pieces of history and giving tattered tomes a second chance at life.

Check Up Time

The process begins with a delicate examination. Each book arrives in a different condition—some require only a re-binding, while others need to be rebuilt entirely. Mike and Jim remove the covers carefully, scraping away decades of glue, and sew the pages into new binding. “When you first start it, you’re shaking,” Mike says. “Because you don’t want to damage anything.”

Photograph by Chris Von Holle
Photograph by Chris Von Holle
As Real as It Gets

“Don’t get too close,” Mike warns. The molten metal he injects into custom, handset blocks of type has been heated up to a toasty 550 degrees. The typesetting machine is one of nearly a dozen rare, highly specialized devices squeezed into a single room in the basement.

Photograph by Chris Von Holle

Guardians of History

The Fallon brothers rarely come across a lost cause. “We work on a lot of really rare, valuable historical pieces,” says Mike (above), holding a first edition copy of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The projects closest to their hearts are family Bibles, passed down through generations. “Things that have family meaning,” Mike says. “That’s the most special thing.”

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