A few weeks ago, I wrote about a method for making your own custom cord. I had included an illustration of fiber to rope by Jane Dalrymple-Hollo, which mirrored a diagram from Tom Conroy’s 1987 article. A few days later, Jeff Peachey sent me a much earlier example of that same diagram from an 1842 issue of The Penny Magazine. This was quite serendipitous, as I am currently treating four volumes of that serial from our collection and I had already posted images of one in my post on book edge treatments. The illustrations in this magazine are just fantastic and the whole run is available through Hathi Trust. You can find the 1842 article about a rope and sail-cloth factory here.
Remember a couple weeks ago when I mused that we might stack two folding tables on top of each other to dry twice the amount of books in the same footprint? I can report that it works really well.
We found some additional damp books from the disaster we had a couple weeks ago. Since the tables were still set up I decided to test my hypothesis. It worked really well. As you can see below I made sure there were plenty of fans to circulate the air around the top layer. The books are drying nicely and we can still move around this small space with relative ease.
I have been trying to catch up on some reading lately and just finished a wonderful collection of essays titled Roger Powell, the Compleat Binder. If you are interested in early manuscripts, I would definitely recommend that you give it a read – but one article in particular provided an excuse for some fun experimentation with broader book binding and book conservation application.
Robert Espinosa published a paper on a rigid board, laced structure for potential use as a conservation rebinding in the early 1980s, and a heavily revised version of this article appears in Roger Powell. In this second version, Espinosa expands upon his discussion of hand spun sewing supports.(Illustration by Jane Dalrymple-Hollo)
Sewing supports are just one of many components in a sewn binding that can influence the action of a book, as illustrated in Tom Conroy’s excellent article The Movement of the Book Spine. Choosing the right combination of sewing supports, sewing structure, and spine linings can make a big difference in the resulting binding. We keep a selection of commercially-made linen cord on hand, but sometimes, when creating a new binding or replacing a damaged sewing support, they don’t quite meet the needs of the book. I decided to give Espinosa’s method a try.
The process starts off with a length of 18/3 Coats Barbour linen thread, tied together at the ends and doubled to create a length of four threads. I have stretched that piece over two needles in the image below to hopefully illustrate the starting configuration.
I dampened the thread a bit to soften some of the sizing and make it more flexible. I needed something to hold one end firmly while the other was twisted, so I just looped one end over a wall-mounted cabinet door handle. Next I tightened a small screw hook into the chuck of a cordless drill. Now I just needed to figure out which direction to twist. Since the thread I was using has an “S” twist, the cord (or hawser-laid rope) would need have a “Z” twist. With one loop of the threads over the cabinet handle and the other over the hook of the drill, that meant it the drill should turn counter-clockwise (or in the “reverse” setting). Even going pretty slowly, I was able to wind approximately 3 feet of cord in about 10 seconds.
The result is about half the diameter of the smallest 4-ply cord we have on hand and frays out nicely. Using this method, one could create a custom cord to any specification simply by adjusting the thickness or number of strands of the starting thread.
File under, “Why didn’t I think of that before?”Pro-tip: Use folding tables stacked two-high for drying wet books in a more compact footprint.
This morning I stacked two of our folding tables on top of each other to allow the tops to dry before putting them away. It occurred to me we could have created this two-tiered drying table to dry the wet books we got this week. We could dry the same number of books using half the floor space. Alternatively, we can dry twice as many books on the same footprint if we had four tables in two stacks of two. I need to remember this for next time. I think it would work as long as you were sure there was enough air flow around all the tables. Am I the last person to come up think about this?
We got a lot of rain in the wee hours of Monday morning. Housekeeping alerted the library, and our Preservation Officer and Head of Security sprang into action. The rain found its way from the roof down three levels to the sub basement. Most of the damage was to ceiling tiles, carpeting and equipment.
It could have been worse. Less than 100 collection items got wet. We set up drying stations in the lab and in the fume hood-room and quickly got to work. At one point we ran out of fans and put out a request to our colleagues. Within minutes we had more than enough to get the job done. We had to take only one book to the freezer.Rachel setting up drying stations in the fume-hood room.
Unfortunately the water found its way inside the walls of the Digital Production Center, Conservation and our disaster supply closet (oh the irony). Our vendor had to pull the baseboards out and cut holes in the wall to allow air to get inside to dry the drywall.Disaster supply closet Conservation Lab
We had more rain Tuesday night with additional moisture seeping through the walls. Looks like we will be working undercover for a while until they track down the problem. We’ve had some good practice at this sort of thing, so we know how to be productive even though the lab is a mess.Disaster in the disaster supply closet. Outside our front door, before pulling up the carpet.
We are hoping for drier weather in the days to come, but July and August are our rainy seasons so anything can happen. Until then, we will do what we can and stay vigilant for more leaks.
*I realize this video has been said to be staged, but it is still pretty accurate to how we felt on Monday morning.
Some recent acquisitions are in the lab this week for rehousing. We thought it would be interesting to peak at this small piece of illuminated parchment under ultraviolet light and a palimpsest became clearly visible. You never know what information may be hidden under normal lighting! For more examples, see previous posts on Preservation Underground and Bitstreams on multispectral imaging.
Yesterday we took a break from repair work to make heat set tissue. We followed the NARA recipe, tweaking as needed. We set up an assembly line to make quick work of it. We made about fifty sheets that varied in color and weight. We have some big digitization projects coming in, so it will be good to have a stockpile of this tissue ready to go.
The treatment and decoration of book edges vary greatly depending upon the time period or style of binding. The edges of a textblock can sometimes reveal information about how the book was assembled or used over the years. I came across an example of this the other day in a 16th century printed volume with this small tear and flap of paper.
It appears that this little piece was torn and folded back before the edges of the textblock were trimmed down. When unfolded, you can get an idea of how much of the sheet was cut off that edge by the bookbinder’s plow.
There are a number of reasons why a binder might trim the edges of a textblock. For one, the edges of a sheet of handmade paper naturally have a kind of feathery undulation to them from the wooden mold used to make the sheet. These are known as a deckle edge and the image below illustrates the difference between a cut edge (left) and the natural edge (bottom) on a piece of modern handmade paper.
When a number of deckle edges are assembled together in a binding, they form a very rough, uneven textblock edge. This can allow dust to filter into the textblock and can’t be elaborately decorated like this example of a gauffered edge.
Book collectors may prefer a deckle edge on a binding, however, because it demonstrates that the paper has not been overly trimmed. Sometimes one will find just a few uncut edges within the textblock. This can be an example of what is called “proof” or “witness” (Zaehnsdorf, 1900, p. 178), demonstrating that the edges have been trimmed as little as possible to achieve the smooth textblock edge.
I’ve noticed that most of the modern hardback case bindings we are acquiring for our circulating collection come with an untrimmed fore-edge. It does imitate the deckle edge of older books, but I suspect that its popularity is primarily driven by cost-cutting measures from printers, rather than aesthetic reasons.
Unfortunately, it was historically common practice to re-trim the edges of a texblock during rebinding. Books that have been rebound many times may be significantly smaller with no remaining margin or even some missing text, like this poor bound serial.
I should close with the disclaimer that no book edges are harmed as part of our modern conservation efforts. The treatment of an edge can tell us a great deal about how a book was prepared or repaired, so we make every effort not to alter or obscure that evidence through repairs or treatment.
Etherington, D. , & Roberts, M. (1982). Bookbinding and the conservation of books : a dictionary of descriptive terminology. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O.
Zaehnsdorf, J. W. (1900). The art of bookbinding. A practical treatise. London: G. Bell and Sons.
This poor pamphlet got split in half when it got caught in the mobile shelving. It seems rather metaphorical. Can Conservation put the European Union back together again? Maybe. Or maybe we will just replace it with another copy. If only the other EU split could be solved so easily.
Written by Tedd Anderson, Conservation Technician
Welcome to Part Two of EXTREME ENCLOSURES: Miniatures.
If you ever want to feel like some sort of extreme being (a giant, perhaps, or even better: Andre the Giant), you may want to take a gander at the tiniest books that Rubenstein Library has to offer: the miniatures. The raw power you feel when holding five leather bound books in the palm of your hand is astounding. Rubenstein has almost two hundred miniature books. These little guys, known as The Minis, are often bullied by the notorious “big boys of the stacks.” Once again, Conservation has to step in to take care of at-risk books. We needed to help the Minis bulk up so they are not beat up by larger books or lost in the wild (albeit highly climate controlled) world of the stacks.Do not let the sense of “being huge” go to your head when handling the miniatures.
The miniatures had previously been housed in folders within document boxes; usually a dozen or so in each box. One may handle multiple volumes before finding the one they wish to access. Once the desired volume is finally found, it can be easily lost due to its miniscule size. To facilitate handling we wanted to house them individually in standard size corrugated clamshell boxes (aka “pizza boxes” or “drop spine boxes.”). First we had to decide on what that standard size would be.
The height of the standard box was set by the 8-inch-high shelves. To determine the width and depth of the standard box, I measured each miniature to find the largest amongst them. I settled on a standard box that would measure 6 inches x 1.75 inches x 4 inches. An added advantage to a standard box is the ability to batch tasks. I would measure, cut, and crease 30 or so clamshells at a time, saving a lot of time.A pride of Minis in their new homes.
The highly sought after “batch stack.”
Once I had the standard clamshells figured, I had to determine how to settle the books into their new houses without them rattling around. I wanted to keep the inserts simple and intuitive. After a few experiments, I chose a two-tiered system of spacers made from corrugated board adhered with double stick tape. I added Volara and 10 point card stock tabs to further stabilize when necessary. Watch as this Mini “Addresses of Lincoln” gets a house.I used the Mini to determine the height and width of the first spacer. Inserting the first spacer with double stick tape.
I used the space left in the box to determine the size of the 2nd spacer. The Mini-Two-Tier-System™.
Inserting Volara. Those Minis love a good foam party.
I used the height and width of the Volara recess to determine the tab size.
The tab allows for easy retrieval of the Mini.
When finishing up the nearly two hundred enclosures for all these vulnerable Minis I rejoiced. Knowing how intimidating other large volumes can be to the slighter books in the collection, it’s nice to know a conservation technician can make a petite book’s size anxiety just a little less extreme. I am comforted that the Minis now rest easy: safely tucked away in their soft foam and supportive board havens, never to feel lost or intimidated again.A vulnerable mini prior to receiving a house.
Several adequately housed Minis basking in their new security:
Be sure to visit part one of Extreme Enclosures: Boxing the Audubons.
Written by Tedd Anderson, Conservation Technician
My love of extreme things (extreme sports, extreme reality television) has led me to create a two part blog series: EXTREME ENCLOSURES.An example of a beloved extreme enclosure, the Boo Box, from “Hook.”
In part one, I will detail the creation of four Andre-the-Giant-sized cloth-covered telescoping boxes for our cherished Audubon’s Birds of America. Part two will chronicle the construction of corrugated clamshell boxes (aka “drop spine boxes” or “pizza boxes”) for the few hundred miniature books held by Rubenstein Library.Those are some BBB’s (big, beautiful books). Boxing The Audubons
Audubon’s Birds of America is a four volume set of double elephant folios containing life size prints made from engraved plates. Each volume has a footprint of around 40 inches x 27 inches, and weighs around 47 pounds. When making an enclosure for a book this gigantic there are a few things to keep in mind: the weight of the item after boxing, and the area of the materials needed to construct the box. Measures need to be taken to ensure the box itself isn’t too heavy. Per Beth’s suggestion, I used double-walled corrugated board for the bottom tray. Double-walled corrugated board would lend adequate support while also being significantly lighter than a tray made of double walled binder’s board.
One problem: the sheets of double walled corrugated are not large enough to create a box this big. Using a micro spatula, I peeled one layer off each sheet and laminated two sheets of corrugated together with a Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) and Methyl cellulose mix.Peel one layer off the bottom of the top sheet, one layer off the top of the bottom sheet.
Keep adequate weight on the sheet while it dries so as to avoid warping.
Once the sheet is dry I can construct the bottom tray and cover it with cloth. I chose a tray that had three fixed walls and one collapsible wall that would facilitate removal of the book. Working with wet adhesive and corrugated board was the most frustrating step of all. Unlike binder’s board, corrugated will buckle under pressure from my bone folder. When adhering the cloth, I had to be very careful of how hard I pressed. A ginger touch was key. The corrugated also felt unstable while the adhesive was wet. The inner corners of the tray were especially wonky after getting all the cloth laid down, making me feel as though all was lost. This wonkiness did, however, subside after adequate time had been given for the adhesive to dry. Once dry, the tray was remarkably strong.‘Tis a rough road, the path of the corrugated…one might even describe it as extreme.
Attaching the collapsible wall.
Moving on to the top tray was a reprieve. What a cake walk! The top tray was constructed like any cloth covered box; a single wall of binder’s board. The cloth stuck to that binder’s board like a Californian on a skateboard. The main challenge was adhering large swaths of cloth consistently to avoid air bubbles.This step was such a cake walk, I had to keep myself from imagining these bricks were cakes.
If I flipped the whole tray over, it resembled an oversized sheet cake.
Next I created Velcro tabs to adhere in between the tray and the outer lip to keep the top and bottom lids securely fastened when the box is handled. I lined the Velcro with book cloth and shaved down the Velcro parts that would be placed in between the tray and the lip to reduce their swell. Making sure the Velcro strips stayed stuck to the tray was an issue. The PVA often had trouble keeping the plasticized Velcro in place, making it easy to dislodge the strips. I found that once the lip had been firmly adhered, the strips stayed in place.Lining and shaving the Velcro strips.
Adhering Velcro before adhering outer lip.
Next comes adhering the outer board to the tray. Because this behemoth would not fit in any of our presses and the area of the tray was impossible to adhere in one go without adequate pressure, I resorted to a multiple-step-adherence-approach. I used brick weights for an initial gluing. Once dry, I had to re-glue each corner, one at a time, and place each corner into the press with blocks. I rigged up an extreme support system for the tray while in the press: a stool.Step one: Bricks.
Step Two: Press with Duke Stool Support System™
And finally, the finishing touches: labels.Like an expertly landed kick flip.
Upon fitting the item into the box I weighed the item with its enclosure. It totaled a whopping 66 pounds. The book weighed 47lbs, and the box 19 pounds. Saving a bit of weight on this box kept us from reaching into the twenty-pound range on the enclosure alone.It fits! No meltdown needed. My first 66 pounder.
But alas, we must always say goodbye. In extreme circumstances, I prefer to keep my eyes closed so as to avoid crying.Emotions run high.
The Audubon’s have settled down in their new homes. Although they continue to amaze visitors of Duke University with their awe-inspiring depictions of the Birds of America, their bindings are no longer at risk in un-enclosed spaces.
Stay tuned for Part Two of Extreme Enclosures: Extreme Miniatures.
*sung to the tune of Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time
Older bound volumes in a research library collection have often been subjected to multiple interventions or campaigns of repair over the years. If a leather-bound volume has not been completely rebound, it has often been repaired in some visible way. One of the more common repair practices is rebacking, in which either new material is added underneath the leather covering the spine and boards or the spine is replaced entirely. In preparing the book for rebacking, original covering material may be removed, obscuring evidence of previous repair efforts. This second edition of the works of Samuel Johnson, printed in 1713, is more like an onion with many layers of repair material.
The current binding appears roughly contemporary to the text. It is covered in full brown calfskin and decorated with sprinkling and blind tooling in a style commonly referred to as the “Cambridge Panel“. Many decades ago, this book was actually part of Duke’s circulating collection and was repaired using the typical techniques employed by libraries at that time. A strip of green buckram was adhered to the boards and spine with an acrylic adhesive and the inner hinges were repaired with strips of white textile. The repair is doing it’s job by keeping the boards on, but it is a little awkward. What used to be a tight-joint binding, now has a space between the shoulder of the textblock and the spine edge of the board. This pushes the boards out at the fore-edge and creates an unnaturally large square.
In my initial examination, it was clear that the book had been repaired before the green buckram, too. The endsheets had been replaced with a smooth, wove paper and somewhat crude sheepskin corner repairs were visible through the pastedown (see above). There is some obvious insect damage at the corners of the front board, but interestingly the insects appear to have only liked the new repair materials. The original text and calf leather are un-chewed.
In discussing treatment options with the curatorial staff, it was clear that the unsightly cloth repairs should come off of this book. When I separated the binding from the textblock, though, I found another leather spine underneath.
This is not the original spine of the binding. It appears to be a reback using the same sheepskin as the corner repairs. Most of the red leather label remains in the second panel, but the leather is quite powdery and large patches of the grain layer have peeled away. After further deliberation, the decision was made to also remove this spine material, since it was not original and in very poor condition. During removal of the second spine, however, something else was revealed.
A gilt ‘W’ and a tiny piece of gold line are visible in the second spine panel. Could this be the remains of a third (and possibly original) spine? It is unclear. While it does not appear that a full calfskin spine is underneath the sheepskin reback, it is possible that the reback was applied on top of small remains of the original spine. It is also possible that titling was added directly to the reback leather, but then because of error or damage a red leather label was added later.
The textblock spine will be cleaned and lined with strong, high quality materials like Japanese paper and unbleached linen to create a better functioning book. The results will certainly be better than just following tradition and adding another spine on top.
… is (often) paved with good intentions.
Last year the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History acquired a small collection of fashion design drawings from the 1940s and 50s by Vivian Gauld. Gauld was West Coast-based commercial artist whose drawings were used in retail advertising campaigns for companies like Rose Marie Reid, Jantzen, and Carr’s Fashions. Some of the drawings are currently on display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery, highlighting recent acquisitions to the collection.
Before coming to Duke, each drawing had been mounted to foam-core board with double-sided tape and then shrink-wrapped. I can see why this packaging method was done. While it does reduce the risk of mechanical damage from handling and shipping, the tape and sealed package are not the most stable environment for long-term storage. Curators and conservators always assess items with our Exhibitions Coordinator before they go on display. Because the items going on exhibit needed to come out of their shrink wrap anyway, the team made the decision to rehouse the whole collection.
I was able to carefully cut and remove the shrink wrap from each package. The few drawings with friable media (like pastel or charcoal) actually have it applied to the back of the thin drawing paper, so there was little risk of disruption from the static charge of the plastic film. I was able to separate each drawing from the backing board by heating a very thin metal spatula with a hot air pencil and passing it between the drawing and the tape carrier, however, residual adhesive still remained on the verso of the drawing and needed to be removed prior to rehousing (image below, left).
The double-sided tape appears to have been applied fairly recently and had not yet penetrated the paper or crosslinked. I was able to remove it without disturbing the paper fibers by gently rolling the adhesive off with a crepe eraser (image above, right).
These drawings will now be stored in either clear polyester L-sleeves or paper folders, depending upon the drawing media. The collection had been placed into two metal edge boxes, but removing the foam-core backing has significantly reduced the required storage space. We can now fit them all into one box. While the shrink wrap package probably seemed like a good idea at the time, I am glad we were able to rehouse the drawings before they were visibly affected by it.
I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. You don’t grow up in that city without knowing two things: the Wright Brothers invented the airplane there and thus Dayton was “first in flight” (sorry North Carolina); and the city suffered a devastating flood in March of 1913. The Great Miami River flooded downtown Dayton killing almost 400 people and displacing tens of thousands. You can still see remnants of the high water mark if you look closely at the historic buildings that survived.
Damage to the main library in Dayton during the 1913 flood.
Image from Dayton Metro Library Local History Flickr page.
Floods and disasters are never far from a collection conservator’s mind. Just a couple weeks ago the entire American Institute for Conservation’s annual conference was on the topic of disasters. Even our own lab has been flooded during the Rubenstein Library renovation. All this is to say stuff happens, and we always seem to think about it.
Which brings me to my very true story. The other night I had a nightmare that seemed to combine just about every worst-case-scenario event that could happen to a conservator. The scene: the conservation lab. I am in my office and I hear a loud noise above my head. All of a sudden out of the ceiling comes a huge circular saw and it is cutting through my office walls sort of like how Bugs Bunny cut Florida off from the United States.
“No one told me we were under construction,” I said to myself. At the same time, there is water coming from everywhere as if a live water pipe had been cut. It’s coming up fast and we are scrambling to get things out of the way. While all of this is happening, I am trying to conduct a tour through the lab. I said under my breath, “This is about three times the number of people Development told me would be here,” but I carried on because that is what we do, right? I was trying to ignore what was happening around me and get the thirty or so people on the tour to focus on the amazing projects that my conservators were working on. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. The last thing I remember is thinking, “How will I represent this on our statistics.” Then I woke up.
What does it all mean? Have you had conservation nightmares?
This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week. Don’t be fooled, just because your institution is inland doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by hurricanes. The remnants of large storms can move inland for hundreds or thousands of miles causing flooding and spawning tornadoes. Hurricane Fran hit landfall at Bald Head Island on September 5, 1996. It’s 115 mph winds carried inland and dumped 8.8 inches of rain in Durham, the highest recorded rainfall at the time. You can still see the remnants of the damage of Fran in some areas of Durham.
The 2016 hurricane prediction forecast is for a very active year. If you didn’t review and update your disaster plan on May Day or during Preservation Week, now is the time. At the very least, update your institutional phone tree and make sure your vendor contacts are updated.
If you have more time to devote to preparedness, check out NEDCC’s D-Plan, a free disaster planning site that allows you to customize your plan to your institution. NEDCC also has a good handbook for developing a community based disaster response called Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness (CoStEP).
We have written before about useful apps for disaster situations. Downloading these now could help you during an emergency situation. There is also a lot of disaster preparedness and recovery information online. Be a good consumer and start with trusted sources such as the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), the North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC), or the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).