What would you do with it?

Removing prior repairs is one of those topics that elicits a lot of opinions from conservators (get four conservators around a table and you will have six opinions on the matter).

As often is the case, my answer to removing a prior repair is usually “it depends.” Is the repair damaging the item or simply aesthetically a mess? How damaging would the removal be and how much more damage are you willing to incur to remove it? What is the value and use of the item and how do these weigh with the physical risk to the item that the repair or its removal pose?

Do you hate it because it is just ugly? is that enough reason to remove it? If it is functioning but ugly, can you live with it?

I found this item in our stacks today. We must remember that not all items in our special collections started out as “special,” many started in the general collections and old-style repairs were not always aesthetically pleasing or reversable (things we strive for now). I suspect this may be the case for this particular item.

What I hate about this repair is that the black book tape is downright ugly. What I love about it is that the person who did it cared enough to write in the part of the title that was covered by the book tape. This is one we probably wouldn’t remove unless we had a better reason than “it’s ugly.” But then again…

Thanks to Noah Huffman for the image as I was caught without my camera in the stacks.

3 thoughts on “What would you do with it?”

  1. It’s a book not a beauty contest entrant. Its not ugly. It’s a book. What is inside is important, not the cover.

  2. I would read it!!! (Is that allowed?) I just finished reading a book that talked about Hayes. Seeing this on the blog made my heart skip a beat.

  3. @Grace, it’s in the RBMSCL, you can request to read it in the reading room.

    @John, for me this particular repair is more about functionality. Yes, if it is just taped and working appropriately, then we likely wouldn’t do anything with it because we have way too many more things in the collection that would take priority. However, if the repair was pulling the boards and first sections away causing damage (both common results of this kind of repair), we would remove it and repair the book in a way that doesn’t make it self destruct.

    In our repairs we strive for several things, reversibility of the repair is our first concern and self-adhesive tape of any kind is not easily reversible. Repairs must be sensitive to the object, they must not impede the mechanics of the book as it is operated. And they must be sympathetic to the original materials, that is they shouldn’t pop out at you as obvious but they also shouldn’t hide the fact that the item was repaired. They should be visually integrated and not distracting. I think this old repair fails on all of these fronts.

    And John, while I agree with you that we read most books for their content, there is value in the aggregate including the binding. This can encompass historical information on construction methods and materials, design trends, manufacturing trends, etc.

    There have also been many famous book designers whose works of art as covers far outweigh the value of the content. There is so much online about 19th Century book designers before the invention of the book jacket. , Parks Library Preservation has a good summary of their attendance at <a href="http://www.rarebookschool.org/"Rare Book School. where they took the legendary Sue Allen’s class on the history of publishers bindings.

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