Today is Good Friday and we happen to have our three-volume octavo edition of Audubon‘s Quadrupeds of North America in the lab to get some stabilizing repairs and enclosures. The first volume of the set is absolutely teeming with prints of hares and rabbits and this seems like an auspicious day to share them. Audubon’s Quadrupeds first appeared in three folio volumes (under the title “The Vivaparous Quadrupeds of North America”) between 1845 and 1848. The first octavo edition was published by John James Audubon’s sons (John W. and Victor) following his death in 1851. Initially both editions were issued in parts. You can view full a full digitized version of this book here.
It’s that time of year. The time to rush around frantically looking for gifts for your friends and relations. If you need some last minute ideas, any of these would be a lovely gift for your conservator friends
What’s On Your Wall?
“Bitten by Witch Fever” is a beautiful book about the history of arsenic in wallpaper. The book contains 275 facsimile samples of wallpapers that were tested and found to contain arsenic. The book explains the manufacture, uses and effects of arsenic. Arsenic, it’s not just for silking documents anymore.
Shanna Leino makes wonderful tools. This little steel micro chisel is a workhorse of a chisel. It can be used on paper, leather, binder’s board, and wood. Henry says, “I use it all of the time!” Can’t argue with that.
Steel micro chisel (the website says “sold out” but there’s always Ground Hog Day to shop for).
“Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections” is a companion catalog to a multi-institutional exhibit of illuminated manuscripts that is taking place this fall. Gorgeous reproductions of over 260 manuscripts from the collections of Harvard University’s Houghton Library, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, and more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Several adequately housed Minis basking in their new security:
Written by Rachel Penniman, Senior Technician for Special Collections
When two copies of a newspaper arrived in the lab I didn’t expect then to be terribly exciting.
They were folded and as is typical with old, acidic newsprint it had become brittle and split along the folds. After discussion with curator Andy Armacost we decided to carefully unfold and repair the one copy that was in slightly better condition.
Unfolding the newspaper revealed something quite unexpected: the paper was gigantic! What I expected to be multiple issues folded together was in fact a single extremely large issue.
The Constellation: Illuminated Quadruple Sheet claimed to perhaps be the largest sheet of paper ever made and printed when it was published in 1859 in New York. Created as a one-time, limited edition of 28,000 copies, it had taken ‘eight weeks of unceasing labor of nearly forty persons to produce this MASTODON PAPER!’ To generate one issue, a single sheet of 70X100” paper was printed and folded into four leaves of 35×50” each. In comparison, the massive double elephant folio Audubon Birds of America volumes currently on display in the Mary Duke Biddle room are a paltry 26×39”.
In total each copy of The Constellation has 49 square feet of paper! It is made up of 8 pages with 13 columns of text per page, and 48” per column totaling 416 feet of printing. Along with historical articles, essays, stories, and poems, there are four pages with numerous portraits and illustrations. Originally sold for 50 cents an issue, this copy was marked down to only 15 cents. This seems like a really good deal for what adds up to a small book’s worth of reading material.
Unfolding the paper also revealed the full extent of the damage. The main folds separating one leaf from another had degraded so badly that each leaf was held to the next with only a few inches of weak paper.
In order to allow for safer handling and easier storage, I got approval to completely separate each leaf. Working with individual leaves of 35×50” was much more manageable; though I still had to work on two folding tables pushed together with board across the top in order to have a large enough flat work surface.
Very carefully, bit by bit, I flattened the creases and mended the tears using a very thin toned Japanese tissue paper and wheat starch paste making the repairs almost invisible. Wherever possible, I reattached loose fragments of paper that I found loose in the old folder. With 49 square feet of paper work on, I did mending on and off for many weeks.
After mending, each leaf was encapsulated between sheets of Mylar using our ultrasonic welder. See this previous blog post for a video of our encapsulator in action.
Now that it’s finally finished, this huge newspaper is the perfect candidate for storage in the Rubenstein Library’s new super oversize cabinet drawers. It actually looks tiny in comparison to this large flat file drawer.
Part of a description of the newspaper on the back page reads:
The Publisher does not wish to conceal the honorable pride which he feels in presenting this magnificent sheet to the public. It is the off-spring of Invention, Taste, Enterprise and Herculean Industry; it is without a compeer or rival; and he believes it will never be excelled. It cannot be surpassed in typographical beauty – in its artistic splendor – in its general imperialism of thought and design. It will be the pride of every true-hearted American, and the wonder of the world; and those who are so fortunate as to obtain a copy will obtain a curiosity which they will keep and treasure with the utmost care.
I am very proud to have been able to help provide this curiosity with the utmost care its publisher desired. Though to be honest I would be happy to take a break from such oversize items and work on miniatures for a while.
It’s been a while since we talked about the renovation project, mostly because of this. But yesterday I was working on a short video to explain how to make a “burrito” and was reflecting on why and how these came to be.
Our renovation project came at us fast due to a major gift that allowed us to accelerate the renovation schedule. We had just over a year to plan and move the special collections stacks to make way for demolition. That is not a lot of time to move an entire library of rare, valuable and decidedly fragile materials.
The library approached us with a problem. Many of the older flat archival boxes were too large for their contents. Staff were concerned that moving these off site would cause damage when the objects shifted around inside the boxes. Could we come up with a low cost, low tech, fast, anyone-can-do-it solution?
We sat down as a lab to brainstorm ideas. There was no way to pay for and manufacture hundreds of corrugated-board spacers for all of the boxes we needed to move off site. After a lot of thought, we developed “the burrito.”
These are made of buffered 10-point folder stock and tissue paper. They are non-adhesive, easy to make, fast and just about anyone could make them. We pre-cut the folder stock to the standard box sizes and trained the Rubenstein staff to make the burritos.
These are meant to be a temporary solution. However, I’ve seen some of these boxes come back and I have to say they are working pretty well. They aren’t as sturdy as a corrugated spacer, and some of them aren’t quite the right size for the space they were meant to fill, but for the most part they are doing what they were designed to do. I think it is a solution that works, and could be a good one for small institutions and organizations who may not have a lot of resources, or for anyone faced with a mountain of boxes that need spacers in a hurry.
What do you think? Have you come up with a solution like this that you want to share?
Our loyal followers will know that we contribute content to the Duke University Libraries Instagram page. Instagram allows us to post visual content quickly and is fun to use. It also reaches a different audience than our other social media sites.
Recently I’ve started using Instagram’s new video function to experiment with creating training videos. The app allows videos up to 15 seconds in length. It is a challenge to get your information across clearly and succinctly in such a short period, but not impossible. Mission accepted!
As a first attempt I think it works. The audio is a little faint, but then again we were in the middle of the stacks so I didn’t want to talk very loudly. I have some other topics to try. If it works, we may be able to move some of our care and handling training to an online version, which would catch more student assistants and new employees, especially those that work the late and weekend shifts.
If you are on Instagram, you can follow “dukelibraries” to see our posts. If you don’t use the app, you can find our posts on the Instagram website. There are a lot of libraries on Instagram, I encourage you to find and follow them. Are you using Instagram for your department? Let us know in the comments.
I’ve just finished the most challenging and enjoyable treatment of the year for me: a ledger book from the 1880’s that was later repurposed as a scrapbook for a Duke Tobacco card collection. The collectors cards were included in packs of Duke Tobacco and most of this collection appears to date to the late 19th Century. The cards were issued in various topical series: international costumes, historical figures, great ships, flags, and writers, among others. They range in physical format, from chromolithographs, to tiny booklets and even albumen photographic prints.
The most interesting thing to me about the cards are the different portrayals of women. There are cartoonish representations of women fishing, colorful illustrations of women bicycling and exercising, and of course some early pin-up type photographs of actresses and performers of the era. Look for this album and other Duke and Sons Tobacco materials in an upcoming Duke University Libraries Digital Collection. Here are some of my favorite pages.
Today in conservation Grace is washing a newspaper published in 1815. Erin is at Smith Building for our bi-monthly Conservation At Smith consulting hours. Mary is working on rebinding some 18th Century Government Documents. I am air drying a box full of damp materials that have been in the freezer for a while. We also hosted a lunchtime tour for faculty and we discovered our water was turned off due to the construction.