Special Collections & Archives Blog

In the 'Preservation' Category...

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

Wake Forest’s Endangered Artifact

Thursday, May 1, 2014 2:22 pm

ZSR WFU Philomathesian Banner_sm

Special Collections and Archives is honored to be included in the North Carolina Preservation Consortium’s list of North Carolina’s Most Endangered Artifacts. You may have already ready about the “discovery” of our Philomathesian Banner in Wake Forest Magazine. You can read more about the history of the banner and the plans for conservation as well as see the other “Most Endangered” North Carolina artifacts at the NCPC website.

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

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.

A Civil War Gem found in the Archives (by Vicki, Craig and Rebecca)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 11:48 am

A story within a story, three members of the Special Collections and Archives team recount the discovery, preservation, and access of an exciting and well-traveled gem from the collection. We hope readers will enjoy the story and keep the relevance and enduring nature of the “Lebanon Greys” alive for at least another century!


It is amazing what gems we discover in the University Archives and NC Baptist collection on a regular basis… One day last week a researcher called asking to see the “Diary of the Lebanon Grays”. Our able student intern, Kathleen, took down the request and then told us what the researcher was looking for. The request was met with a resounding “huh?” by all of us. I checked our finding aids to see if there was a match, no luck. I went to the trusty ProCite database that usually contains information that isn’t listed anywhere else, no luck. Finally when Megan and I resorted to Googling the name, we found a listing on the Tennessee State Library page, under a Bibliography of Tennessee Civil War Unit Histories >Confederate. Interestingly enough, it listed a transcription of the diary that was done in 2000, the title of which is Diary of “The Lebanon Greys” Located in the Minutes of Sandy Springs Baptist Church, Iredell County, North Carolina, Reposited at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N. C. Lebanon, TN: T. E. Partlow, [2000].


Obviously Mr. or Ms. Partlow had found the diary and done the translation sometime in the past, but we could find no information about it here in our listings. Maybe it was a misprint and the diary wasn’t really here, or maybe it was at the WFU historical museum the town of Wake Forest… Luckily when I went to investigate, I found that we had the original manuscript records for the church as well as the microfilm. As I looked through the records, I came upon a small book that was literally falling apart. I opened it carefully and saw a diary entry from April 23rd 1861 that said “On Tuesday the 23rd day April 1861 at the Court House in the town of Lebanon a company for the defense of the South was organized comprised of the Young men of the town and vicinity- Said company was duly organized at 2 o’clock of the day above mentioned and by report of a com. appointed for that purpose it was unanimously determined to call themselves The Lebanon Greys. Regular entries continue only through August of that year, but one final entry was added that said “April 9th 1865 today the Army of Northern Va surrendered Quite an unpleasant day with the Rebs to day in Va.”

So how did this wind up in a book of church minutes, you ask? On the following page is the inscription “This Book was found one the Battle field of Manases Brought here by T F Hayne and sold to M.S. Vestal and then M.S. Vestal taken this book an presented it to the Sandy Springs Church. M.F. Vestal, C.C.” I suppose that because resources were scarce in the South at that time, the church decided to use the book for its records, which begin on the next page and go through 1879 and hold quite an interesting history of their own as well.


Rebecca Petersen brought this diary/church record to Preservation. I don’t think I am alone in thinking about the person who actually held this book on a battlefield during the Civil War. This kind of makes you get goose bumps. It is one of the pleasures of being part of Special Collections and I’m sure is part of the reason most of us are drawn to this work.

In Preservation, I was able to repair this diary, which was missing the front cover and was about to lose all the pages. I stabilized the text block with Japanese tissue and created a new cover piece which I attached to the text block. I scanned the rear cover and printed out a copy of it for the front cover. After covering the new front cover with book cloth, I glued down the scan of the rear cover I’d made to the cloth so it was roughly similar in appearance. I also created a new end sheet with was glued to my new cover and the recently repaired text block. A few other minor repairs like repairing paper tears and loose hinges meant the book was structurally sound enough for handling and scanning. I have to confess, I didn’t want to give the diary back to Vicki and Rebecca.

It is amazing to hold this book and know that a soldier who fought in the Civil War wrote on these pages. It is even more amazing that we found itbecause of a research request and probably wouldn’t have ever known about it if the researcher hadn’t asked. Just another unique piece of the history we have here in Special Collections!


By the time the diary made it back to me, it had a new chapter to the story and a new front cover. Craig did a fantastic job of restoration and our plan to digitize the item was easier now that the diary was stable. The Special Collections and Archives team has completed many digital projects this year focusing on Civil War materials to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the war between the states. We have already contributed the Herbert E. Valentine Civil War Diary, the Lipe Family Civil War Letters, the Confederate Broadside Collection, and the George L. Bright Civil War Diary. ASERL has put together a “Civil War in the South” to highlight archival collections relating to this time in American History. We intend to digitize the Diary of the Lebanon Greys and add it to both our digital collections page as well as the ASERL project.

It is amazing that an object like a diary can have so many different stages of “life.” We are excited to show the world the journey from Lebanon, Tennessee, to Manassas, Virginia, to Sandy Springs Baptist Church, to the ZSR Preservation room, and finally to a new life as a digital object. Stay tuned and we will soon have the diary available in both the physical form and a digital representation for the public to view, learn from, and enjoy.

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

The joy of rehousing

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 9:32 am

Yesterday, Rebecca and I pawed through the hundreds of documents in the four records cartons left behind by a former university archivist. We found lots of additions to university archives record groups and created piles all around my office. Now that we’ve sorted everything, we are going to accession these materials into Archivist’s Toolkit for later processing.

Our students continue with rehousing and adding instances in Archivists’ Toolkit. We discard at least two recycle bins full of acidic boxes and folders every day!

This rehousing work is paying off in our stacks, where shelves of neatly labeled and newly-rehoused collections have begun to appear:

The Things We Find in Our Trunks!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 4:08 pm

I unfolded one of the Hoffman posters this afternoon-wow! It was in 4 parts and takes up my entire office floor! This will be a preservation feat!

Gertrude Hoffman (1880-1955) was a well known dancer and choreographer, who was actually arrested for indecency in 1909 after dancing Salome in New York City. She danced on Broadway and in a variety of Vaudeville shows. Hoffman later developed her own troupe called The Hoffman Girls.

Gertrude Hoffman poster

ABCs of Special Collections
Collection News
Digital Projects
News & Events
Rare Book of the Month
University Archives
What Are You Working On?
a day in the life of a librarian American Indians American Revolution archives Arthur Conan Doyle Baptist book repair workshops botany Charles Dickens Christmas detective fiction Documentary Film Edgar Allan Poe Elizabeth Blackwell Engraving gift books Harold Hayes herbal home movie day illustrations Ireland James Joyce John White Laurence Stallings Mary Shelley Maya Angelou medieval manuscripts poetry preservation mold programs Rare Book of the Month Rare Books Roanoke Shakespeare Sherlock Holmes Special Collections Strand Magazine Theodor deBry Thomas Hariot Travel Narratives Venice W.B. Yeats W.J. Cash wake forest Writers' Lives
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
December 2009
November 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
October 2008
September 2008
July 2008
April 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007

Powered by WordPress.org, protected by Akismet. Blog with WordPress.com.