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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

reellife3

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:
reellife4

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.
reellife1

Coptic Binding Workshop @ Asheville Bookworks

Friday, May 20, 2011 11:39 am

Coptic bound journal with Kakishibu

This weekend, my wife, Kathie and I took a workshop at Asheville Bookworks. This is a center for bookmaking, paper making and letterpress printing located in West Asheville. Bookworks is a large open factory style building that has been converted into a workshop. There is a large paper-making room in the rear. The main work area is lined with letterpress printers, type cabinets and a number of bookbinding cutters and tools. Bookworks also has a small gallery and sales area. This workshop was called: Kakishibu (kah-kee-she-bu) and Coptic and was taught by artist , Heather Swarttouw. I’m writing about this workshop because I really wanted to learn the coptic binding style. This workshop was a way of expanding my binding knowledge and therefore, my understanding and ability to work with a variety of bindings and materials. The coptic style I learned used 2 needles-one at each end of a long piece of waxed linen thread. Before you actually start sewing, you punch holes at each sewing station of each signature of the book. The cover is also punched with holes in the same locations. Sewing progresses from the cover through each signature, to the opposite cover. I have to say: this was the most difficult sewing I’ve ever attempted.
We also learned to use a Japanese dye made from aged, unripe persimmons called Kakishibu. This liquid has a sepia-like color and is also light sensitive. It gains a richer color as it ages and darkens. We tried a few experiments using sunlight and placed objects on paper we had painted with the kakishibu. A piece of paper covered with pennies might create a polka dot pattern.
The workshop was fun and it was a great chance to learn a new stitch, meet new people and experience Asheville.

Hoffman posters….the preservation of

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 3:45 pm

In October, I excitedly accepted dozens of posters from the Gertrude Hoffman Collection. These turn of the last century posters were wonderful and also brittle after being folded inside a trunk for many years. I’ve finally seen a light at the end of this tunnel and delivered 4 encapsulated posters to the closed stacks today. This leaves 3 posters to finish-all are large and brittle. All three of these posters will be handled differently by encapsulation, Japanese paper backing or a simple paper repair. It’s been exciting to work on these posters that are all close to 100 years old. It will be equally exciting to send them back to Special Collections storage preserved and in a condition to be described and actually used.

Poster backed with Japanese paper

Restoration of the Clarence Herbert New Scrapbooks

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 9:24 am

Solidifying the spines

We’ve unearthed over 20 scrapbooks from the Clarence Herbert New Collection. These scrapbooks are from trips Mr. New took from 1890-1926 as he vacationed in Maine and around the world. Many of the scrapbooks also have his collections of cartoons, theater programs and newspaper articles he liked. He was very organized and even typed up a Table of Contents for each scrapbook. These scrapbooks are in various states of deterioration as they are 100 years old! I decided to repairs as many as I could. The photo above shows step 1 where I glued-out the text-block to strengthen it. Following this, I created new spines from book-cloth and glued the new spine to the scrapbook.
New "New" spines drying
Any loose items in each scrapbook were placed into archival envelopes.
Loose items placed into envelopes
Once the new spines were dry, I applied Klucel G- a leather consolidant to the covers and the scrapbooks were ready to be used by researchers.
Completed scrapbooks


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