Letter Spacing on Labels

One can really go down a rabbit hole when it comes to making labels for book enclosures. In addition to considering the layout and typeface, there are a number of materials and printing or gilding techniques that can be used to create one. Stamped leather labels are certainly a nicer option, but require special equipment and are very time consuming to produce.

Judiciis Astrorum Label

Paper labels are very quick to make, especially in large quantities, and everyone has the necessary equipment. With a little effort in setup, paper labels can look surprisingly good on a box.

5 Volumes of Aldine Galen

One of the major problems I have had with setting up paper labels digitally is the lack of spacing control between lines or between letters that one has with a hot stamp or handle letters. Common word processing software doesn’t make this type of layout work easy; however, I have recently discovered some simple tricks in Microsoft Word that can be employed to achieve a more pleasing arrangement of text.

When setting up a label in Word, I will often start with a simple text box. Before typing any titling text, I set the dimensions of the text box based on measurements from the spine of the enclosure. I will also set the box to have a compound line (thick and thin) to look more like traditional tooling. There is a lot of literature about choosing typefaces and laying out book titling, so I won’t get into any of that here. Let’s just focus on spacing.

With the text generally arranged  and sized to fit, I will start adjusting the spacing between lines, commonly referred to as “leading“. Word seems to default to multiple spacing between lines, so I remove all of that first. With all the text selected, right click and select Paragraph. After setting the line spacing to Single, you can then customize the point spacing after each line to achieve the leading you want.

leading

Next you may need to adjust the spacing between letters, also known as kerning. The example below uses Centaur as the typeface and, on the left, you will see some bigger variation between letter spacing. Compare the “IB” to the “RO” spacing in “LIBRORUM”.

Labels_BeforeAfter

On the right, I have adjusted the letters to have a more uniform appearance. I find this spacing more subtle on a screen, but much more obvious on a printed label for some reason. The kerning is adjusted in a similar way to the leading: with a letter highlighted, right click and select Font. Under the Advanced tab, you can choose Expanded or Condensed spacing and modify it with a number. In this example, I expanded the spacing of the I and B and reduced the spacing for the R. Font Dialogue Box

I find that a little consideration to spacing makes a huge difference in the look of my book titling and labels. Hopefully these simple modifications can come in handy for other folks, too.

Quick Pic: Penny Magazine

Rope Illustration, Penny Magazine (1842)

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.

Never, Ever Tempt Fate

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.

Photo Aug 16, 3 48 10 PMWe 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.

Photo Aug 16, 3 47 41 PMThat said, I’m going to keep quiet the next time I mutter, “I wonder if this would work in the next disaster?”

Custom Cord

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.

Fiber to Cable
(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.

Pre-Cord Thread

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. Drill with HookNow 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.

Cord Comparison

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.

Quick Pic: Double Decker Drying

File under, “Why didn’t I think of that before?”

Photo Aug 05, 9 15 56 AM
Pro-tip: Use folding tables stacked two-high for drying wet books with 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 with this?

When Monday Turns Meta

mondays be like

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.

Photo Aug 01, 10 31 53 AM
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.

Photo Aug 01, 10 37 12 AM
Disaster supply closet
Photo Aug 01, 10 31 11 AM
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.

Photo Aug 01, 10 37 12 AM
Disaster in the disaster supply closet.
Outside our front door.
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.

Quick Pic: Hidden Writing

MssUV

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.

Quick Pic: It Takes A Village To Make Tissue

Creating heat set tissue is a team effort.
Creating heat set tissue is a team effort.

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.

Evidence in Book Edges

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.

Proof

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.

decklededge

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.

Decorated

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.

UntrimmedEdge

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.

Overtrimmed

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.

Duke University Libraries Preservation