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Preserving Indentures from the Dalton Family Papers

Friday, April 10, 2015 11:28 am

Dalton indenture 1806

The Dalton Family Papers include materials from several generations of this family from Stokes County, NC. The Dalton Family papers are frequently used by our patrons in Special Collections. I recently encapsulated about 200 indentures in polyester (mylar) from this collection. Encapsulating a document involves creating two identically sized sheets of polyester which are attached on several sides and provide a safe and transparent enclosure for each document. The indentures are often hand-written and many times are signed with an X instead of a signature. These indentures often have a homemade or hand-drawn seal attached to the document. The wording of each indenture usually begins in a similar way as the document above: “This indenture made this twentieth day of October in the Year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred six between Thomas Graham Senior and the State of North Carolina and the County of Stokes.”


The indenture above is for Alexander Boles in 1795. This indenture shows Boles’ X and the words “his mark” in lieu of his signature and also has a paper seal affixed. An indenture was a legal contract between two parties. Indentures could be for property, labor or other service. The Dalton Family papers primarily have indentures for property.


The indenture above from 1797 between William Martin and the State of North Carolina shows the beautiful handwriting on many indentures in the Dalton Papers.


Surveys, such as this one from 1779 in Surry County, were often attached to an indenture to show the exact location of the property.


The indenture above from 1796, also has an attached survey. Interestingly, this indenture was paid for in Shillings, and at the bottom the indenture mentions it was signed in Raleigh “in the XXIst (21st) year of our independence.”

The Dalton Family papers have many more documents and materials that are fascinating to research and study.

Repairing Shakespeare with a “tacket”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:19 pm

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “tacket” as a nail; in later use, a small nail, a tack: a hob-nail with which the soles of shoes are studded. In the case of book preservation, a tacket is a physical connection between a loose board and the book itself with linen thread. I learned to make a tacket from Jim Hinz, a book conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, in his leather preservation workshop in 2008.

Close up  of tacketing on joint

This particular book is Shakespeare’s Comedies, histories and tragedies from 1685. The binding i am repairing, however, is likely from the 19th century.

The best candidates for this repair are usually larger sized books with a distinct “shoulder” through which you can punch holes for the tacket.
The shoulder is a ridge on the inside joint of the book where it joins the cover board. When making a tacket, you punch a hole though the shoulder and thread a piece of linen thread through it.

Two holes are then punched diagonally though the cover board. The two ends of the linen thread are then threaded through these holes and a knot is tied.

Tacket-both sides threaded

By creating a shallow trench in the board, the knot and thread are embedded and glued into the cover, which is then not very visible.A piece of thin Japanese Moriki paper is then attached over the break in the joint.


Interior hinge repaired

Finally, another piece of Japanese Moriki paper is attached over the outside break in the joint. Several coats of a leather consolidant make the repair quite presentable as well as usable.

Completed repair

Preservation Training From Our Friends at UNCG

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 12:00 pm

We go to training for a variety of reasons, but often because you may have good basic skills, but need to get to another level. You need someone at a higher skill level to show you the ‘tricks’ that will help you excel and help your work rise to a higher level of accomplishment.

Clamping corner repairs
Isabella Baltar and Preservation Student Assistant, Lauren Peirish

On Friday, February 13, 2015, Isabella Baltar, from UNCG spent the day training me and my student assistants. Isabella holds degrees from two universities in Brazil; a BA in Museology from Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and an MA in Art History from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. She also spent 6 years working under Don Etherington at the Etherington Conservation Center in Browns Summit, NC.

Applying Japanese paper to repair the broken internal hinge

Repairing a broken internal hinge

Isabella and I worked exclusively on Special Collections books bound in leather. We have so many leather bound books that have loose boards and bad joints, that it seemed the best use of our time. We covered may topics such as the use of Klucel-G (a leather consolidant) and SC6000 (a leather wax). We worked on reattaching loose internal joints on books using Japanese paper. Isabella also led me through the steps of restoring damaged head-caps and damaged corners of the books. This process involved creating a Japanese paper support on the corner of the board. Then a papier mache-like form is created from shreds of twine to reconstitute the missing portion of the book cover. This form is pressed and allowed to dry, after which, it is toned with either acrylics or gouache to match the leather on the cover. After the toning is completed, it is hard to tell where the work begins and ends. This technique is commonly used by book conservators and one that we can use in our lab.

Head-cap reconstruction

Repairing a missing head-cap

We used rice starch paste and PVA adhesive to repair missing pieces of our books. The first step is to attach a piece of Japanese paper on which you build back the shape of the missing piece. To do this, we shredded jute twine and added paste to recreate the missing shape.

Rebuilding loss area of book cover corner

We then let this piece dry, covered it with Japanese paper and clamped it between pieces of binders board to dry.

Repaired corners drying under clamps

After the repair dried, we used acrylic and gouache paint to tone the repair and match it to the color of the surrounding leather. We even tried to replicate the gold tooling on the leather. The final product is quite presentable and will last indefinitely.

Finished and toned corner repair

The work we did was very helpful and I am very appreciative of the training I received from Isabella Baltar. Thank you UNCG Preservation for lending Isabella for a day to help us out. We are better equipped because of this experience.

Deconstructing Book Repair

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 3:03 pm

Comedies and Tragedies

Many books come into Preservation with a broken joint or torn internal hinge, which makes the repair needed easy to see. Sometimes, one might see the repairs of a prior bookbinder. This was the case when I began work on Comedies and Tragedies, by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, printed in 1647. Small tabs of vellum with a cursive script on each one had been attached to the spine (I assume to help hold the cover board on securely). These vellum tabs were obviously cut from a sheet of vellum used for another purpose and were now being re-purposed. In addition, 2 strips of printed paper were also sewn onto the edge of the spine created a flange (again, I assume for more secure board attachment). I think this underscores how valuable unused pieces of paper, vellum or leather were to early binders. They used everything they could in order for there to be almost no waste.

In an article by Barbara Rhodes , 18th and 19th Century European and American Paper Binding Structures: A Case Study of Paper Bindings in the American Museum of Natural History Library, she mentions these spine linings using “printers waste.” Rhodes states that in a survey of the American Museum of Natural History collection, 63% of spines were lined with printers waste. In this collection, the earliest book lined with printers waste dated from 1759 and Rhodes states this practice became common by 1830.

I am currently doing a folio review in our Special Collections and this practice really teaches you about the collection: the content and the condition. I enjoy this meditative practice which involves examining and measuring each folio (approximately 15″ or taller) in the collection. This review will identify preservation needs as well as space requirements.

Clarence Herbert New Collection announced in Archival Outllook

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 1:04 pm

CHN Archival Outlook

In the November-December 2012 issue of The Society of American Archivists publication, Archival Outlook it was announced that the Clarence Herbert New (1862-1933) Collection had been processed. Now, the world knows. New was a prolific writer and world traveler. The C. H. New Collection is very rich with albums of photographs, coats of arms, maps from around the world, scrapbooks of world voyages and of course New’s writings in The Blue Book and Free Lances in Diplomacy. The finding aid may be explored here.

The Signal and other digital preservation resources at the Library of Congress

Thursday, January 17, 2013 4:19 pm

The Library of Congress is doing a great job of developing best practices for digital preservation-both for individuals and libraries.

The National Digital Information Infrastructure Program (NDIIP) has a very good digital preservation site which focuses on a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations.

They have developed a number of resources, one of which is a monthly newsletter on digital preservation.

Their blog,The Signal has a good piece on personal archiving and webinars on this topic.

Preserving Diderot’s “Tree of Knowledge”

Friday, December 7, 2012 11:40 am

I recently began work on repairing an important book in our special collections, and thought I’d share the process of preservation.  The book is loaded down with a long French title, but is known as Diderot’s “Tree of Knowledge.”  The “Tree of Knowledge” was an attempt to represent the structure of knowledge graphically and was somewhat based on the work of Francis Bacon.  Special Collections book historian, Megan Mulder, could tell you much more about Diderot and the “Tree of Knowledge” than I can.  I can tell you that our volume was printed in 1780.  The paper in this book is wonderfully healthy after over 200 years.

The primary problem with our “Tree of Knowledge” (TOK) was the front board was detached and there were some minor paper tears.  The interior hinge must be repaired first.  Repairing the exterior hinge before the interior hinge will result in the repair you had made on the exterior popping off.  Physics.

Diderot- interior hinge repair

I measured and tore a piece of toned Japanese paper for the inside hinge repair, glued it out and applied it to the inside hinge.  Any paper used in repairs are always torn to give a softer edge when it is applied to the paper.  A cut edge can eventually cut into the paper.  The interior hinge repair is allowed to dry open.

There were a few paper tears on the TOK, which is a large (38 1/2″ x 24″) folded and illustrated engraving of all the fields of knowledge just past the title page of the book.  It folds out into 9 panels and had a few small tears. 

Diderot- Folded "Tree of Knowledge"

I applied a natural colored Japanese paper (Sekishu) to three small tears on the reverse side of the large panel.

Diderot- paper repair

The exterior hinge of the book was completely torn, leaving a break in the leather.  I was able to lift the leather off the boards revealing the attachment of the text block to the board with leather cords which were inserted through the boards.  This work is beautifully done and very uniform.  I doubt it has been seen by anyone in many years.  Today, individuals who do this work are considered artisans….in 1780, binders were mere craftsman.  I love seeing the guts of a book.

Diderot- leather from the cover lifted off the board

I tore a sheet of toned Japanese paper which I applied to the board and overlapped it onto the spine. 

Diderot- hinge repair

One of the leather labels had come off the spine. I glued the label back in place and filled several small openings in the spine with Japanese paper.  I then glued down the leather of the cover making a clean and not too noticeable repair.

Diderot- hinge repair

This repair was pressed into place using a teflon bone folder and allowed to dry under a weight.

Diderot- repair drying under weight

The final step is to apply a leather consolidant to the covers.  This helps keep the leather from dissolving into a powder and also improves the appearance.

The book is now ready to return to the Special Collection closed stacks to amaze our patrons.

Diderot- Completed Repair

Found in a Rare Book

Monday, December 12, 2011 12:11 pm

Party scene

We found a very interesting photograph in a book undergoing repair last week. The scene is a 1930’s vintage cocktail party- held somewhere in London. On the reverse of the photo is a stamp from the processor which reads: A.V. Swaebe, Society & General Press Agency, 11 Mitre Court, London. A note on the reverse of the photo, written in pencil reads: “At a party of C.R.W. – Nevisons R.R. smiling at M.F.” The photo itself is one of a society party where the party goers are reveling and talking. Everyone is dressed to the nines! This photograph was found inside: Men and Memories, Recollections of William Rothenstein 1892-1900 (ND497 R85 A27 1931). The inscription by the author reads: “For my dear John with whom I have spent some of the happiest hours of my life – Will Rothenstein Jan-1932″

reverse of Party scene photo

Thanhouser Theater Posters from the C. H. New Collection

Monday, December 5, 2011 11:42 am

The Cat's Paw poster- version 3

The Mohammedan's Conspiracy poster

I recently brought a group of old theater posters, which are about one hundred years old, out of the flat files they’d been stored in. These posters are part of the Clarence Herbert New Collection (http://wakespace.lib.wfu.edu/xmlui/handle/10339/28053). I knew we had these posters, but had not seen them or handled them. I was prompted to look at them because the processing of the Clarence Herbert New Collection is almost complete and these posters were about the only part I had not examined for preservation needs.

The Mohammedan's Conspiracy poster-version 2

There were six posters: all were very large in two, three or six panels. The posters advertised films from 1913-1914 which were based on the writings of Clarence Herbert New. Mr. New was a prolific writer, editor, novelist and adventurer. Adventure, which was an actual part of his young adult life, became part and parcel of his writings (both as subject matter and in an actual magazine entitled: Adventure). New wrote for a few publications, now largely forgotten which were entitled: The Red Book and The Blue Book as well as Advenure (which employed novelist Sinclair Lewis). New had a number of pseudonyms, and he wrote stories which had titles such as: “The Hatching of a Pirate” (1919) and “A Great Ruby Disappears” (1921). This same man lost an arm to a bear in New York City’s Central Park Zoo, was shipwrecked (twice) and often made the adventure of his early life the source of his later writings. This collection was largely processed by ZSR Archivists Audra Yun and Rebecca Peterson. The collection is visually rich and is full of New’s photographs, scrapbooks from his vacations to places like Lake Pennesseewassee (near Norway,Maine).

The Cat's Paw poster
The Thanhouser Film Corporation made films from 1910-1918. It is still in business, operated by the grandson of it’s founder as a film preservation company.

The posters are large affairs which I guess would have been applied to walls in New York City. Each poster is made up of several panels, which when joined together make a poster ranging in size from about 3′ x 4′ to 4′ x 6′. The colors are incredible and rich especially since these are almost 100 years old, being printed in 1913 and 1914.

The Cat's Paw poster- version 2

I will be doing some very minor repairs on these posters using heat-set tissue. They are in great condition and only have some minor tears and a few holes. It is one of the joys of preservation work to be able to handle and repair these visually stunning (and possibly politically incorrect) materials.

The Mohammedan's Conspiracy poster-version 3

Reel Life – restored

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 10:46 am


A few weeks back, I was happy to begin some work on Special Collections materials in Preservation. I grabbed a few likely suspects off the shelf and opened one: this was a thick volume of bound magazines entitled Reel Life: A Weekly Magazine of Kinetic Drama and Literature. This project by Mr. Clarence Herbert New was like many of his projects- it seemed like the most important thing in the world to him and must be thoroughly documented. For some perspective, it would be a little like this: pretend that one day I was walking across the magnolia quad and had a great idea. I then wrote that idea on a magnolia leaf, because there just isn’t a stack of paper available on the mag quad, right? I would then proclaim to the world that I had this great idea and wrote it on a magnolia leaf! You get the picture. Mr. New has documented his idea for the masthead of “Reel Life” by drawing a draft of the first page. On this draft page, Mr. New wrote that this idea came to him and he wrote it on a piece of driftwood at Rockaway Point,NY in a tent on August 11,1913. (we must know the exact day and time!)
Here is a draft of the masthead for Reel Life:

The magazine documented the newly developing moving picture business. It is filled with ads for for the 1913 Edison Kinetoscope, coming attractions at theaters, scenes and reviews of current films and all sorts of film related products. Mr. New must have been quite a fellow!

In terms of preservation, I stabilized the text block, re-attached any loose pages and then re-attached the loose text block to the covers so this piece of history can be used by researchers. This is the catalog record in ZSR.

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