Last week, Paula Curran’s ArtGR 492/592 class, Publication Design: Books, visited the Conservation Lab to learn some basics about the nature of book and paper-based materials, their inherent vice and degradation, and common preservation approaches.

Handling various types of bookbinding leather.

The students handled various types of leather, including tanned goatskin, tanned calfskin, sting-ray leather, alum-tawed goatskin, and parchment while learning about the different properties of each type of skin.

Comparing marbled papers.

The students compared machine-made marbled papers to handmade marbled papers, and learned to distinguish the difference.

Students view a dramatic example of light damage on a green leather spine.

Hilary and I led the students through a brief history of bookbinding, explaining the inherent problems of various types of bindings and how we deal with them from a preservation perspective.

Students handle a selection of artist's books and unusual bindings from ISU Library's General and Special Collections.

After discussing typical book structures and types of degradation, we shared a selection of volumes from our General and Special Collections which presented more unusual challenges.  Some of the General Collections books included a book whose original enclosure was a reproduction of a Tide laundry detergent box, an interactive pop-up tour of Elvis’s Graceland, and an accordion book.  The Special Collections materials included several of Jill Timm‘s artist’s books, as well as Kenneth Davids’ The Softness on the Other Side of the Hole, a binding with untreated wooden boards and fur.

We really enjoyed meeting Paula’s class, and hope that their visit to Library Preservation will help inform their choices of materials and book design decisions.