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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
According to legend, St. Patrick chased all of the snakes out of Ireland in the fifth century. We see snakes occasionally here in the conservation lab – just in book form. This binding is supposedly covered in python and features some very colorful endsheets.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This coming summer Duke will host a 2016 NEH Summer Institute, titled “The History of Political Economy”. In preparation, the library is putting together a small exhibit of complementary materials from our collection. One of the items that will be on display is our first edition set of what is widely considered to be Adam Smith’s magnum opus, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith’s 1776 text is most commonly known for coining the phrase “the invisible hand” to describe forces which guide free markets.
I am a big fan of the NPR podcast Planet Money, and over the years I have learned quite a bit about the significance of Smith (and this work in particular) through the show. Therefore, I was very excited to for the opportunity to examine this item and address some of the condition issues for each volume. While Smith is mentioned frequently on Planet Money, two episodes explore the man and his work in greater depth: “Adam Smith, Mama’s Boy” and “Adam Smith and the Not So Invisible Hand“.
The two volumes of this edition are in matching tightback bindings with single raised sewing supports. The spine and corners are covered in green goatskin with green marbled paper siding-up the boards. The spines are extensively decorated with gold tooling and there is some blind tooling on the faces of the boards. While I cannot determine if these are the original bindings, they appear to be contemporary to the text. The goal of this treatment was to stabilize each book, reattaching any loose pieces and making the bindings functional for safe display or use in the reading room. My repairs attempt to satisfy this goal with minimal alteration to the appearance of the books.
The first volume was in better condition, but had been damaged at the tail of the spine. The joints were splitting along this panel, the tailcap was missing entirely, and the leather was continuing to lift where the damage had occurred.
While the sewing supports all remained intact and the boards were securely attached, the splitting along the tail end joints and the risk of additional loss was a concern. After fully lifting the leather away from the tail panel of the spine, the textblock spine was lined with thin Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. An extended lining of bias-cut airplane linen was then adhered on top. The extended pieces of this lining were split and adhered on either side of the board using David Brock’s board reattachment method. Finally, the volume was rebacked with a thick Kozo fiber Japanese paper, toned to match the original leather. All original covering materials were readhered.
The front board of the second volume was nearly detached, hanging on by just a single thread! I began by carefully lifting the leather at the boards and spine to gain access to the textblock.
As with the first volume, new structural board attachment was created with bias-cut linen transverse spine linings. The spine was rebacked with toned Kozo paper and the original covering materials were re-adhered. The edges of the reback material were lined up with the edges of the existing leather, to visually blend the repair materials with the original covering.
Repairs to the interior of the text were kept to a minimum as well.
It appears that the endsheets of both volumes had been replaced at some point with a thin wove paper. These new endsheets had become creased and were developing cracks and tears along the folds. Using local humidification techniques, the creases were flattened and tears were mended with thin Korean papers, toned to match.
The second volume features an interesting blank leaf with a large bookplate adhered to the recto.
The catalog record indicates that this item once belonged to Prince Lieven, the Russian ambassador to London from 1812-1834. This leaf is currently around 1/4″ shorter than the rest of the textblock and had a very poorly repaired tear along the head edge near the spine. During treatment, I was able to release this repaired piece and reattach it correctly along the tear. Strangely, when the torn corner was put back into place, the height of the leaf matched the rest of the textblock. My best guess is that the top edge of this leaf had become damaged at some point. Possibly when the new endsheets were added, this leaf was hastily repaired and trimmed down to have straight edges.
The last issue for me to deal with was the somewhat awkward enclosure. In more recent years, someone had constructed a double slipcase for the two volumes.
Each volume was also placed inside a cloth-covered 4-flap enclosure.
This was actually an enclosure solution that I had not seen before, and is a nice addition to my post about restraining enclosures. While the 4-flap does mitigate some of the dangers of a slipcase that a standard chemise cannot cover, having two books in one slipcase makes handling much more difficult. The case doesn’t have pull tabs or an easy way to extract a single book. The user must tip the entire set forward so that both books will slide out simultaneously. As you can imagine, this can be quite dangerous if the user isn’t being observant. Additionally, the 4-flap creates a very large footprint when open (see above). As these enclosures were made fairly recently and not artifactually significant, we discussed with the curator the option of replacing them with standard cloth-covered clamshell boxes.
With the new board attachment, consolidated covering materials, and simpler enclosures, Mr. Smith is ready for engagement with human hands again. Check back with our Exhibits Page to see when this and other exciting items from the collection go on display.
Last week a rather strange and amusing item came in for rehousing, prompting me to do a little research about its origin. This satirical engraving by Stephen College, fittingly titled Strange’s Case, Strangely Altered, was printed in 1680. The dog represents Robert L’Estrange, an English pamphleteer, fleeing the gallows from his alleged involvement in the “Popish Plot“. “Crack-Fart” is one of the many names given to L’Estrange. The British Museum has digitized their copy, which includes extensive contemporary annotations on the characters involved. Ironically, the printer was hanged and quartered for sedition a year later, while L’Estrange returned and was knighted in 1685 for helping to discredit the plot.
With the incredible diversity of Duke’s collections, you never know what will come through the conservation lab. For example, some of my recent treatments included a 17th century printed bookand a photograph album from the early 1990s. Despite the differences in format, materials, and subject matter between these two items, one common thread persists: big hair never goes out of style.
The Content, Context and Capacity Project (CCC) was a multi-year collaborative digitization project of archival collections that documented the civil rights movement in North Carolina and the triangle. Josh Hager of Duke University Libraries’ Digital Production Center scanned several collections and approximately 66,000 individual items to contribute to this important project.
Some materials required minor repair before digitization, but since they are relatively modern, most of the materials were in stable condition and could be safely handled for scanning. There were some instances when items weren’t fragile, but because of format issues they needed attention before they could be imaged. These items included documents with attachments or bindings with restricted openings.
The Basil Lee Whitener Papers, 1889-1968 contains several government issued documents that were side stapled to form quick bindings. These bindings didn’t open freely and some had text positioned so far into the gutter that they could not be scanned as they were. In some cases the staples were rusting and damaging the paper as well. With input from curatorial staff, we decided to alter the bindings in order to better capture the content and to ensure their long term preservation.
This process involved Conservation staff removing the heavy duty metal staples — sometimes with a microspatula, and sometimes with every tool we could get our hands on — from wire clippers to vise grips. We then replaced the metal staple with a loop of linen thread that was tied very loosely to allow for unrestricted opening during scanning. After scanning, we cinched and tightened the loop of thread to form a linen “staple.”
After treatment: Metal staples replaced with thread.
We received a 12-volume set of books on the history of Washi. Each page has a description of the paper and includes a large (approx. 8″x10″) swatch. They are bound in a traditional side-sewn binding with each volume in a separate slip case. The set is amazing and beautiful.