Encyclopedia of Plants before conservation

Encyclopedia of Plants after conservation

I recently completed conservation work on a very thick volume entitled The Encyclopedia of Plants. While I was able to give the textblock a solid attachment to the case, the thickness of the textblock creates a weakness to any method of reattachment. I contemplated making a custom clam shell box for the volume, but worried that having a textblock support in the box would make it difficult for users to carefully insert and remove the book. Instead I decided to make a book shoe, but wanted it to look a little less rough and ready than a basic shoe, as this volume is going on exhibition in the fall.

After reading through Pascal Regnault’s article about making book shoes for the Duke Humfrey’s Library, Oxford, I decided to set out on my own shoe. My first try followed the instructions given in the article. The shoe turned out fine but I was not happy with the way it bowed outward at the sides. The instructions say to attach a velcro fastener to prevent this, but I was still not completely satisfied with the result.

In response, I decided to try to create my own book shoe that would not have the bowing problem and could be easily covered in cloth. Rather than folding the binders board, I decided to cut 4 separate pieces of board: 2 the width and height of the book, 1 the height and thickness plus 2 binders board thicknesses, and the final piece the width and thickness of the book. Next I attached the 4 pieces of board to the cloth, keeping one binders board thickness between each piece. They were arranged so that they could be folded into the shape of the book shoe with the cloth side in. I then covered the outside of the shoe and attached a little “book seatbelt” to help keep the book in place and snug in the shoe. Like many “make it up as you go” projects, I was not sure whether this would actually work, and was worried that it would not be structurally stable. In other words, I did not take any pictures as I went because if this turned out badly who would want detailed documentation of what not to do?  Well, as it turns out, it did work!

Cloth covered book shoe with textblock support

Book shoe with book

The shoe fits the book and most importantly it prevents the heavy textblock from sagging and pulling away from the case. Maybe someday I will write up a set of instructions on how I made this one, but I think I will have to work out some of the kinks before that happens. Either way, I think a book shoe — whether of uncovered binders board or covered, as this one is — provides an excellent solution for heavy, sagging textblocks.