This week was a very busy week in Conservation. We had the floors cleaned and sealed. “Easy enough,” you say? It literally took one week, a moving company, the flooring company, Facilities, Housekeeping, Facilities and Distribution Services, and of course a lot of work from Conservation staff.
Phase 1: Move half of all the things!
Before the equipment could be moved, lab staff had to shift all the books onto carts, label all the equipment and furniture, move sensitive equipment like the encapsulator, etc. Once that was done, the movers came and shifted half the lab to one end.
The fun part was uncovering the floors that have never seen light. This is what the cork looked like when it was installed in 2008!
Even with the light differences you can really see how the cleaning and sealing has improved the look of the floors. They feel so much better, too.
Phase 2: Move all the things to the other side of the room!
Once the first half of the cork floors were cleaned, all the furniture and equipment had to move to the opposite side of the room. We decided not to move heavy things like the two board shears and the flat files.
Mid-week we helped move some paintings. We also worked on several projects that were not located in the lab including some work for the Lilly renovation and helping in Technical Services with some boxing.
Phase 3: Move all the things back, then move some more things!
Lastly, the floors in the store room and photo documentation room got cleaned. To facilitate that work we moved what we could out of those rooms into the lab.
Those floors are now nicely cleaned thanks to Housekeeping. They have never looked this shiny even when they were new!
We are so happy to have this work done. We know it took a lot of coordination and time, and the disruption was real for all the departments involved. Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen!
We’ve written before about book publishers’ novel and sometimes misguided attempts at including additional media in bindings (see Robots 1:1). Many new acquisitions to the circulating collection include supplementary images, audio, or video on CD, and they often come to Conservation Services for a pocket that can be physically attached to the book to keep all the parts together.
Night Falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties (2018) is a wonderful graphic exploration of the cultural and technological “golden age” of the Weimar-era, immediately proceeding the rise of National Socialism. Illustrations by Robert Nippoldt, accompanied by texts from Boris Pofalla (translated by Ida Hattemer-Higgins), profile prominent individuals and places in the city.
To complete the experience, an audio CD of music from that period is included inside the rear board – and here is where the book design really shines.
The rear paste-down features a print of a “cathedral style” table-top radio. The CD is printed to match the design of the radio and mounts to round plastic knob, rather than being stored in a plastic case or paper pocket. The audio track list is printed on the adjoining flyleaf as if it were coming from the radio.
But the best part is when you remove the CD to reveal the vacuum tubes and other internal components of the radio! We like to complain about modern structures and design in book publishing, but in this case they really got it right.
The ghostly, rhythmic creased pattern in the leather covering this volume caught my eye when the set came through the lab for boxing. I wondered how it was done and if the technique had a name. I consulted with coworkers, but no one had seen anything quite like it. This first suggestion of the rarity of the technique was born out by additional efforts to share this image on social media and search down any leads in the literature on leather decoration. I was invited to compose a blog post about this unanswered question, which we present as an invitation to any of our followers who could shed light on the subject.
For lack of a known and accepted, term, I am calling the leather effect ‘crazed,’ indicating it’s similarity to finishes seen in ceramics and paint finishes. Inside the volume, the leather around the paste down and the leather hinge material are dark green, so this was presumably the original color of the leather, difficult to determine on the more degraded exterior. The leather must have been given this crazing prior to application to the structure.
The book is in Russian, v. 3 of an 8 volume set of Works of Pushkin published in St. Petersburg from 1903-1905. Oddly, only this one volume is full leather with ‘made’ end sheets using an inner hinge of the same leather and paste paper—the volumes before and after v. 3 are quarter bindings using the same leather on the spine and corners with book cloth sides and standard printed end sheets.
A member of a group to which I posted the image shared a photo revealing similar creasing in the leather covering a Spanish binding (Rosy Gray, on Bookbinding Art and Conservation on Facebook). The image she shared was of a much more colorful leather volume, and from an earlier historical period, but looking closely I could see that creasing was indeed part of the effect. She was experimenting to create the effect but had found little to guide her in the available literature.
Most embellishments of leather in binding (such as tree calf) occur after binding, but the crazing of this leather must have occurred prior to the application of the leather. If the methods used in Spanish Calf Marbling of the 17th-18th came more fully to light I suspect this would be true of it as well. Without knowing if I was getting warmer or colder I took the time to track down what information I could find about what is variously termed Pasta Espanola, Spanish Marbling, and Spanish Calf Marbling. English language materials on Spanish bookbinding history are scarce, with just a few examples of this style available for view online and no concrete descriptions of methods.
So the question remains. Has anyone seen this form of leather decoration before? Do you know of a term for it or how it was executed? An interesting question that might follow a definite identification of the technique as Spanish in origin would be how it happened to be used in Russia in the early 20th Century. Dissemination of a technique isn’t always how things come about—sometimes we are seeing completely separate iterations of an idea. It could be worth considering the fact that this volume was bound in a historical period that hosted the International Workingmen’s Association (Second) and various experiments in organizing industrial and trade work across borders, as well as significant industrial strikes.
Mary Yordy, Senior Conservation Technician, is retiring after over 30 years of service to the Libraries, almost 20 of those in Conservation. She leaves us with this unanswered question, and tens of thousands of items that have been repaired or boxed by her hands. You can see the impact of her work on every floor of the library. We will miss her presence in the lab. Thanks Mary! –Beth
We would like to welcome Justus Jenkins, our summer HBCU Library Alliance intern. Justus is a student at Claflin University. He is one of eight students studying preservation this summer through the University of Delaware/HBCU-LA internship program.
This year the program is again being presented online due to COVID-19 restrictions. Interns will be meeting together twice a week with their cohort. Each session will be taught by one of the host sites. We are teaching a class on Archives Conservation Issues, and co-teaching with staff from the Library of Congress to teach some simple bookbinding structures. We will be teaching the Metamorphosis, and this zine.
For his capstone project, Justus has decided to create a portfolio of bookbinding models. Over the next several weeks he will work with Conservation staff to learn Japanese stab bindings, Longstitch binding, Coptic binding, pamphlets, and zines. The University of Delaware sent all eight interns a box of tools and supplies for the term. We put together a box of materials and bookbinding kits and sent that to Justus.
We started last week with a simple pamphlet, and the Japanese stab bindings.
This was the first time I taught a bookbinding class over Zoom. I don’t have a fancy set up at home, but I was able to use a variety of boxes and crates to set up my laptop and phone in a way that worked. I used the laptop camera for my head shot, and set up my phone so that it hovered over the work area. By pinning my “hand cam” and Justus’ cam, I could see both at the same time.
Justus did a great job on his first bindings. He was a patient student as I learned how to do this along with him. We look forward to seeing his next book!
Despite the library (and campus in general) feeling very quiet and empty this past year, there has actually been a lot going on. Library exhibits are no exception and there are currently two really wonderful shows up and available by appointment in the building. Plans are already underway for bigger and more exciting events in the fall. This very large and sturdy crate containing a loan for an upcoming show just arrived this week. Stay tuned for more details!
We have all seen sticky notes peeking out the edge of bindings. I have to say, I’ve never seen them put completely inside a book. It’s almost like they didn’t want to use a pen, pencil, or highlighter. Thanks for that at least.
So. Many. Sticky notes. Luckily this paper isn’t very brittle or this would be much worse.
A plea from the underground, if you put sticky notes in a library book, kindly remove them so the next patron can read without distraction.
One of the greatest challenges to digitizing moving-image sources such as videotape and film reels is the enormous file sizes that result, and the high costs associated with storing and maintaining those files for long-term preservation. To help offset this challenge, Duke University Libraries has recently implemented the FFV1 video codec as its primary format for moving image preservation.
FFV1 enables lossless compression of moving image content, and produces a file that is, on average, 1/3 the size of its uncompressed counterpart. Alex Marsh, Digitization Specialist—Video and Craig Braeden, Audiovisual Archivist will give a brief overview of FFV1, and their experience utilizing it to digitize the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s moving-image assets.
Careers in Preservation: A Panel Discussion (University of Illinois)
Another very exciting and very large book arrived in the lab this week: a volume of the Sanborn fire insurance maps for the city of Durham.
The Sanborn maps were used as a reference by insurance underwriters to assess risk and determine how much insurance to offer without having to physically travel to the location. Originally published in 1913, the contents of this book were continually updated until 1931 to accurately reflect changes in buildings throughout the city. Rather than reprint the maps annually with updates, corrections were just pasted in. You can see the evidence of these corrections everywhere. For example, the endsheets are covered in additional indexes:
Looking closely, you can see printed instructions to the corrector for which indexes to paste over with the update. Small cutouts of updated maps are also pasted, layer after layer, throughout the interior. The binding is reflective of common ledger bindings from the late 19th and early 20th century, which feature a number of structural components designed to allow such a large and heavy book to function. These include both leather and heavy cloth spine linings, a shaped rigid spine piece, and cloth reinforced hinges. Despite the added strength from those materials, they have not been able to withstand the stresses that this book places on them when opening – particularly as they have aged and weakened. Large portions of leather and the “hubs” (raised bands) are missing from the spine. The leather joints have completely split and the spine piece is just hanging on by a thread now. Fortunately the sewing and spine linings remain intact and functional.
Luckily, most of the stamped leather tabs remain.
While examining the book, I was keeping an eye out for some of Durham’s more notable landmarks. The Erwin Cotton Mill, located at the corner of 9th and Main street, was easy to spot.
I also found the oldest operating business on 9th street, the White Star Laundry. That corner looks a little different these days. The building in yellow was demolished in the 1950s.
When I came across the Liberty Warehouse, it looked like it was in the wrong place. But the building that I have always known as the Liberty Warehouse (now the site of an apartment building by the same name) was actually the third iteration of the warehouse, built in 1940.
I even found the infamous “Canopener” bridge on Gregson St!
The Sanborn maps contain a wealth of information about the cities they describe and are an important resource for scholarship. We will be working with the curators at the Rubenstein Library to determine the best treatment plan for stabilizing and housing this volume so that it can be safely accessed by patrons.
One of the perks of working in a university library is that you will regularly encounter some very strange and delightful things. The item that checked that box for me this week was the Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini.
It was pretty obvious why it came in to the lab for repairs. The cover to textblock attachment was way too weak for the size of the book.
The text held a number of surprises, though. This illustrated encyclopedia, written in some imaginary language, contains images of all kinds of crazy stuff. The illustrations cover everything from animals, …
… to fashion, …
… , to elaborate machines and architecture.
It even has some suggestions for activities to occupying your free time.
If you are a fan of mysterious illustrated books, like the Voynich Manuscript or the Rohonc Codex, then Codex Seraphinianus is probably worth a look. Once we’ve had a chance to reattach the case, of course.