Name That Enclosure!

There are many different options for protective enclosures or wrappers for books and you can find a variety of examples in a typical research library collection. Occasionally I will find something that I have never seen before and this week I encountered a 15th century binding with a very simple, but novel form of book wrapper. I am not quite sure what to call it.

Wrapper01

The wrapper is constructed of thin card (similar to 10 pt Bristol board) and fits snugly over the fore-edge. The wrapper is held together by cut tabs, which are folded over the board edge and glued down.

Wrapper02

It slips on and off the book fairly easily and offers some protection to the exposed wooden boards and fore-edge clasps. It’s certainly a very quick and economical option, but has it’s own problems.

Wrapper03

Rachel Penniman has suggested calling this a “book bikini”, which I think has a nice ring to it. I’d be interested to know if a more established name exists, though. Regardless, I believe that this particular book deserves some more protection, so I will be replacing the wrapper with a full enclosure.

What We Find In Books: The Mummy Edition

gekko
If we discover her other leg, maybe we can reattach it.

This gecko mummy was found in a collection being processed at Smith Warehouse. I suspect she was long gone before the collection came to us.

Geckos are what we call an indicator species. They don’t pose a hazard to your collections per se. She may have crawled into these papers looking for a snack of insects, or a nice place to raise (or deposit) a family.

As we approach Preservation Week at the end of April, it’s a good reminder that you shouldn’t store your collections in basements, garages, attics or outbuildings. Spaces with unregulated environments can harbor unwanted guests looking for a dark, quiet home or a food source.

 

Quick Pic: Tiny Tin

We currently have a small collection of late 19th and early 20th century cosmetic samples from our Advertising Ephemera Collection in the lab for stabilization and rehousing. The majority of the samples are little paper envelopes with loose powder inside, but one of them contained a fun little surprise.

Paper packet

This sample of Charles Meyer Exora Rouge was quite a bit thicker than the others and I could feel a tiny, rigid container inside. The adhesive on the envelope flap was easily released and inside was the smallest tin I’ve ever seen.

Tin in Hand

I don’t know exactly when this item was manufactured, but the bottom left of this page from a 1907 issue of the New York Clipper features an advertisement for free samples of Exora Rouge.

Tin Measurements

You just never know what you will find!

When Everything Goes Right

By Rachel Pennimen, Senior Conservation Technician

Sometimes items come to the lab that have so many problems we just can’t predict how the treatment will go at first glance. These items from the Reva Korda papers were that kind of challenge.

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Mounted advertisements before treatment.

These four advertisements had been mounted onto foam core backing board that was deteriorating and delaminating. They had also been exposed to water which caused mold, warping, and two of the ads stuck to the back of two other ads. Because the ads were stuck together, we couldn’t even see what the bottom two ads looked like.

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Mounted advertisements stuck together and warping.

With all the condition issues there were plenty of ways for this treatment to go wrong. The back of the ads could get skinned or tear as I tried to remove the backing boards. The mold could have completely disfigured the lower ads. The ads stuck to the backing boards could be stuck so irreversibly that we would lose parts of the image in trying to separate them. We had a meeting with the curators to discuss the range of options. We decided that because the bottom two advertisements were so completely obscured, it was worth making an effort to separate them even if it resulted in a little bit of loss. I first planned to try mechanically removing the foam core backing boards and separating the stuck ads either mechanically or with a little humidification. If that didn’t work we agreed to have another meeting to discuss more invasive treatments like full immersion in a water or solvent bath.

The first step was to remove as much of the mold as possible with a soft brush and vacuum. Once that was done I started trying to separate the ads from their backing boards. Sometimes conservators really hate how old adhesives turn yellow and brittle with age, but when an adhesive has aged so poorly that it fails completely it can actually make our jobs easier. In this case, on three of the advertisements the dry mount adhesive had become so brittle that with the tiniest bit of pressure I was able to slip a thin metal spatula between the board and the advertisement and it just popped right off. Success! It was very satisfying separating these from their foam core boards. Using a little bit of solvent on swabs I was able to remove most of the yellow adhesive residue from the back of each advertisement.

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Back of one advertisement before yellow adhesive was removed and after adhesive was removed.

The fourth advertisement had a different adhesive that felt soft and waxy. Sadly for me, it was still doing its job and was holding the ad firmly to its backing board. In 2014 our lab hosted a photograph conservation workshop taught by Gawain Weaver. We learned a number of methods for removing photographs from mounts. I recognized this waxy feeling adhesive from that workshop and remembered doing tests on how to most easily remove it.

photo notesThank goodness for taking good notes and keeping all my test samples!

By placing the advertisement face down on a piece of blotter on a hotplate on the lowest setting I was able to soften the adhesive so I could separate the final ad off its backing board. More success!

I was able to separate the ads that were stuck together but some of the paper from the foam core board remained stuck to the faces of the ads. This was far better than the alternative where some of the face of the advertisement could have been skinned off though so I considered that a win.

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Advertisements that had been stuck on the bottom with paper still attached to the front.

I was able to remove all of the attached paper with water or alcohol on swabs pretty easily. There was still some discoloration from the mold but the alcohol helped to reduce it. Mostly success!

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Previously hidden advertisements after the paper was removed.

While these ads still show evidence of their hard life they are now free of their bad mounts, failing adhesive, and separated from each other. The discoloration from mold and water damage will remain, but at least now we can see what had previously been completely hidden. It’s always a happy surprise when something goes smoother and more easily than anticipated. It’s a rare treat. With the very low expectations for the treatment it was an extra special pleasure to be able to show the previously unseen advertisements to the curators.

 

Previous Repairs in Leather

One of my favorite aspects of my job is getting to closely examine books from our collection and learn more about how they have been used and maintained over time. A binding’s current condition or the way in which it has been repaired can tell you a lot about its value and use, but I am also very interested in the variety of the techniques or craftsmanship found in historical book repairs. The history of book repair is as long as the format has existed, and the level of proficiency can range from crude utilitarian (like this example) to a more subtle sophistication (such as our current standard of repair). We have shared examples of historical repairs from the collection before, but I found this next item to be very interesting in its execution and level of workmanship.

This 16th century atlas in a full calfskin binding has obviously been through a great deal and has been extensively repaired. The spine has been rebacked in dyed calfskin, the corners have all been repaired, and large areas of loss have been filled with new leather. I cannot say for certain when these repairs were done or even if they were all done at the same time, but suffice to say they are not recent. Several techniques have been used to blend the repairs with the original binding material and they are marginally successful in this regard. Click the photos below to enlarge.

Civitates orbis terrarum

New leather has been applied to the spine in the way of a typical reback: the original covering material has been lifted and new material has been adhered underneath. Nothing unusual there. The board corners and edges, however, have been repaired with onlays, or very thin pieces of calfskin adhered on top. Lines have been tooled in blind over the reback and onlays to continue the original decoration around the boards.

Civitates02

The fore-edge corner of the lower board has been repaired with a large inlay. Inlays are shaped pieces of leather of the same thickness as the original material, which fill the area of loss. My favorite part of this repair is the decoration which attempts to imitate the original floral patterns at the corners. The image below shows an intact original corner with decoration on the left and the decorated inlay on the right for comparison.

Civitates_Inlay

The binder who executed this repair did not have decorative rolls or stamps to match, so they just kind of made it up. The lines in this corner decoration are quite rough and shallow, which makes me think they were just drawn into the dampened leather, rather than actually impressed. Decorative rolls have been used around the outer edge of this corner, but they are quite different from the other decoration on the book. The binding has been heavily dressed, resulting in a very shiny surface to the leather.

It is apparent that a great deal of time and effort was put into this repair and it is successful insofar as it is still structurally sound and allows the book to function. We would approach treatment for a similar item very differently today, however.

Say Hello to Eddie Cameron

Eddie Cameron is a very well known figure around campus. His forty-six year career with the athletics program is the second longest tenure in Duke’s history and our indoor stadium was renamed for him in 1972.

The Edmund M. Cameron Records in the University Archives consists of nearly 14 linear feet of materials produced during his career, and includes three large scrapbooks. Those scrapbooks were adopted for conservation treatment recently through our Adopt-a-Book Program and, over the course of treating one of them, I was able to (quite literally) see Cameron in a whole new way.

Two of the scrapbooks in the collection focus on particular bowl games, but the third is a more general collection of photographs and newspaper clippings from Cameron’s time at Duke. The scrapbook is no longer bound and is currently stored as loose sheets in an over-sized records box.

Cameron Scrapbook

During my initial examination, I came across a large folded sheet at the bottom of the stack, which I could pretty quickly tell was a large drawing executed with a few different colors of marker.

Before Treatment
Before Treatment

The thick, machine-made paper had been folded in half three times so that it could fit inside the scrapbook. Two of the edges of the sheet had been rough-cut with scissors, leading me to believe that the paper came off of a large roll. Short pieces of masking  tape had been applied along the outer edges of the sheet, presumably to mount it on a wall.  There were also stains along the folds and some significant scarf tears. In consultation with the University Archivist, the decision was made to unfold and repair this drawing. We decided not to pursue stain reduction as a part of this treatment, but it could be an option for the future.

The adhesive of the masking  tape had become desiccated and powdery, so I was able to simply remove the carrier layer of the tape and gently brush adhesive from the paper surface. The front and back of the poster were then dry-cleaned with white vinyl eraser crumbs to remove any surface dirt or grime. Since the paper was quite thick and had not become brittle, I was able to unfold the sheet during cleaning, but it remained heavily creased and undulated. After testing all of the inks for solubility, the folded poster was placed in a humidity chamber for a couple of hours and then moved to a large felt stack to press for several weeks. When fully flattened, the tears were mended with toned Japanese paper and wheat starch paste.

After Treatment
After Treatment

The drawing is not signed and we may never know the name of the artist, but I really like it. I think that it captures Cameron’s likeness pretty  successfully. The unfolded poster is quite large (39″ x 30″), so it was placed in a Bristol board folder and will now live safely in flat file storage.

I am wrapping up treatment on the three Cameron scrapbooks now. With some repairs and new enclosures, they are now much easier to handle and have already been getting some use. On March 1, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl trophy was on display in Perkins Library, along with other historical Duke football memorabilia from the University Archives. Cameron’s scrapbook about the 1945 Sugar Bowl was one of the items on display.

University Archivist Valerie Gillispie with Coach Cutcliffe and President Brodhead
University Archivist Valerie Gillispie with Coach Cutcliffe and President Brodhead

Revealing Hidden Texts

For months a group of DUL staff including Mike Adamo and Molly Bragg from the Digital Production Center, Josh Sosin and Ryan Baumann from the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing, and myself have been discussing the potential use of multi-spectral imaging (MSI) in our work. This week, Mike Toth and Bill Christens-Berry of R.B. Toth Associates were on campus to facilitate two days of MSI imaging.

Day 1: An alternative to scanning mice eyes
Mr. Toth’s sister, Dr. Cynthia Toth, is an ophthalmologist at the Duke Eye Center. She uses optical coherence tomography (OCT) to scan premature infants’ eyes to detect neurological and visual problems. Dr. Toth and Mr. Toth coordinated time with Dr. Sina Farsiu and his graduate student Guorong Li to image a few papyri from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Dr. Farsiu uses OCT in his research. When he isn’t kindly imaging papyri, he is scanning mice eyes. Dr. Farsiu also coordinated time in Dr. Adam Wax’s lab in the Biomedical Engineering Department where we used their OCT scanner to image the papyri using a slightly different set up. Dr. Wax’s team is usually scanning rat esophagi and mice eyes, so a day with papyri was a bit out of their wheelhouse but everyone seemed to enjoy the collaboration. The Raleigh News & Observer was there as well and posted this story.

Mike Adamo from the DPC and I escorted the Rubenstein collection materials to the Duke Eye Center and the Biomedical Engineering lab. My role was to provide safe transportation across campus, and to handle the fragile items. Having researched OCT, I felt that this was a safe, non-destructive imaging technique for the papyri. It’s hard to say what the outcome of the OCT scanning will be, but it has potential to reveal hidden media, which is exciting to think about.

(L to R) Dr. Cynthia Toth, Dr. Sina Farsiu, and Mike Toth look at preliminary scans.
(L to R) Dr. Cynthia Toth, Dr. Sina Farsiu, and Mike Toth look at preliminary scans at the Duke Eye Center.

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(L to R) Dr. Farsiu, Guorong Li, and Mike Toth review preliminary scans at the Duke Eye Center.

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Ryan Baumann, Josh Sosin, and two technicians from the Biomedical Engineering Department review preliminary scans.

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Lasers have a lot of parts.

Day 2: MSI Scanning in DPC
On Wednesday, Toth and Christens-Berry set up their MSI equipment in the DUL Digital Production Center. Their system scans at a variety of UV and IR wavelengths. The Library was interested in testing a range of problems to  see what this system could reveal. The materials we scanned included several papyri with obscured text,  two early Hebrew manuscripts whose writing is almost completely obscured by the condition of the gevil, a bound book with a Latin manuscript paste-down that is obscured by a previously adhered bookplate, and a Greek manuscript that was scraped and written over. All of these items present common problems for researchers using ancient texts.

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Bill Christens-Berry scans a papyrus fragment.

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Bill Christens-Berry shows us preliminary results. You can clearly see writing underneath areas of gesso on this papyri.
DPC doesn't normally have this many people in their camera room. (Photo by Mark Zupan)
DPC doesn’t normally have this many people in their camera room. (Photo by Mark Zupan)

 

Proof of Concept
The work that we did on Tuesday and Wednesday was meant to provide  “proof of concept” for the conversations that must happen regarding funding, staffing, training, workflows and service expectations if the Library were to develop an MSI scanning workflow.

Conservation is excited about MSI for its potential to discover more about the materials we work on. Having the ability to image in both UV and IR would expand our knowledge of the materials, expose information we can’t see with the naked eye, and enable us to envision better treatments. I think we are all excited for its potential to provide access to materials that right now cannot be easily used or read, such as the Hebrew manuscripts and the hidden texts on the papyri cartonnage. We literally had a “Holy [Cow]” moment when we saw these materials give up their secrets. It gave me goosebumps.

Mike Adamo wrote a blog post for Bitstreams describing their side of this project.

Tool Time: Lifting and Scraping

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Conservators can be a bit obsessive when it comes to hand tools. Not only must a tool be well suited to perform a specific task, but it must also be ergonomic. If a stock tool is not quite right for the job, I may modify it or just make the tool that I need from scratch. Making or adapting tools does not have to be time consuming or expensive, and some of my favorite tools are quite simple.

For example, I find myself doing a lot of lifting and scraping in my day-to-day work. Original binding material may need to be lifted or damaged paper may have small scarf tears that need to be manipulated. Scraping may be an effective method for mechanically removing accretions, desiccated adhesive, or old lining material. The following three examples are my favorite tools for these tasks, which I have either modified, fabricated, or purchased.

The Casselli 6 1/8″ micro-spatula is great for lifting very thin material, like paper. The size of the spatula ends and thin, flexible steel make it perfect for a lot of small tasks.

Casselli micro-spatula
Casselli micro-spatula

Two modifications have really improved the working properties of this tool for me: shaping the rounded edge and making the center handle thicker. I have left the pointy end of my spatula unmodified, but I added a single bevel to the rounded end with 3M micro-finishing film abrasive to make it more like a blade. This allows me to get the tool underneath very thin material. The unmodified octagonal handle is fine for quick work, but really becomes tiresome on the pads of my index finger and thumb after lengthy use. I used a common material known as Elastack (by Sutton Scientifics, Inc.) to increase the circumference of the handle and make it more comfortable to hold. Elastack is available in two levels of softness and is very quick to apply or re-wrap to adjust the shape of a tool.

The Casselli is not robust or sharp enough for lifting heavy material (such as leather), so for those tasks I will often switch to a lifting knife. I made this small lifting knife from a 1/2″ Starrett hacksaw blade a few years ago in a workshop with Jeff Peachey and use it just about every day.

Small lifting knife
Small lifting knife

The total time to make this tool was less than an hour and the material cost is quite low. After grinding the teeth off of the hacksaw blade and rough shaping the round edge using a belt sander, the final sharpening was done by hand. The handle is just thick horse butt leather cut to shape and adhered with PVA. Because the high-speed steel makes sharpening fairly quick, I find myself more likely to resharpen this knife than others in my collection made from harder steel.

A recent acquisition that I have been experimenting with lately is this micro-chisel made by Shanna Leino. With a bit of stropping, it is incredibly sharp and I find that it can do certain tasks better than a scalpel.

LeinoMicrochisel

One method of mechanically removing a solid, brittle accretion is to press a blade vertically, very close to the edge of the layer and break it off (Ashley-Smith, 1992, p. 30). Of course there are many variables to consider on whether this is a safe or effective method to employ, but in cases where I have been able to use it, the micro-chisel works wonders. I suspect that it will also come in handy the next time I am creating a model of a wooden board binding, particularly for shaping the sewing support channels.

I really enjoy experimenting with different hand tools and applying simple modifications to improve them. What is your favorite hand tool?


Ashley-Smith, J. (1992). Science for conservators: Volume 2 cleaning. London: Museums and Galleries Commission. 

How Hot Is Your Book Drop?

We have two external book drops available to library patrons. The “Bostock” book drop is an aluminum box that sits under an archway between our two library buildings. It is somewhat protected from the elements by being under a stone archway and nestled against the library building. The “Drive By” book drop is a powder-coated steel box located at the back of the library near the parking lot. It sits in a sunny spot and is exposed to the elements. Last fall, a coworker in Circulation came to me with his concerns about the conditions of the books he retrieved from the external book drops. He said they often felt damp and even warm. I thought it would be interesting to put a HOBO datalogger in each of our external book drops to see what was happening inside.

Last August we put one HOBO in the Drive By book drop for a short test. I knew it was likely to be hot and humid in that box. I was eager to see the actual data. My advice? If you aren’t prepared for the truth, do not seek it. At its hottest, the Drive By box  reached 131 degrees Fahrenheit. At its most humid it reached 99% rH.

The graph that no preservation librarian wants to see.That test brought up a lot of questions. Since we were moving into the cooler and drier fall and winter seasons, we decided to do a longer test during the spring semester. This January, we put a HOBO in each of the external book drops and set them to record at the same time and interval rate so we could compare them to each other.

This afternoon I downloaded the data for the past week. This week was a typical North Carolina winter week. We had low temps in the 30F’s and high temps close to 60F. There were rainy days and sunny days.

Temperature readings in both book drops.

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Environmental readings in both book drops from Feb. 11 to Feb. 19, 2016.

You can see that even in winter that steel box gets quite warm on sunny days. The humidity levels range from very wet to very arid. The aluminum box has its extremes, but they don’t spike as high as the steel box. It’s interesting to think about how the different metals, and the different locations, may be effecting the interior conditions.

I do not expect external book drops to have perfect preservation environments. I am, however, concerned about the extremes these environments present. I’m sharing this data with the Head of Access and Delivery Services so we can figure out what, if anything, we should recommend to the library in terms of these boxes.

I really love these HOBOs. They are easy to use and reasonably priced, and the data  can be easily downloaded in a variety of ways. Henry wrote a review of these HOBOs recently if you are interested in learning more about them.

 

 

 

Duke University Libraries Preservation