Big Book Challenge

One of the best things about working at in the conservation lab at ISU is that I come into contact with such a wide variety of books. When choosing items from the shelf I rarely pick them in the order they came in. I tend to take into account the size, condition, color, subject and even language of the book. Art books tend to be larger and usually have nicer end sheets that I like to save. Larger books can be more challenging when cleaning and putting the item back together. Thinner children’s books will sometimes require a board backing along the spine. Sometimes a book just brings to mind a fond memory.

This big book reminded me of something straight out of the 1994 film, Pagemaster. Printed in 1927, the cover was thick and plushy between the board and fabric. An eagle was depicted on the front amidst a decorative background. The end sheets were decorated with using a pale olive and tan along with the saying, “your story in pictures leaves nothing untold.” On the inside, the book was filled with beautiful imagery as it was about photo-engraving and letter-press printing. IMG_0763a

After opening the book, I spent a couple of minutes looking it over and eventually decided to ask Mindy (our technician) a couple of questions. I wanted to make sure that I was approaching the problem correctly. She told me that the spine used to have a special liner called an Oxford hollow and that I could recreate it when repairing the book. Oxford hollows were used to provide strong support to the spine, allowing heavier books to be opened fully. a

That sounds simple enough, right?

Cleaning this book was somewhat of a challenge because the glue had really gotten stuck between the threading. Once cleaned though, the Oxford hollow itself, was really easy to put together and apply. It is made from two sheets of a heavier paper, one cut to the exact height and width and the other cut to one time the height and three times the width.

IMG_0744a IMG_0745a 

After the text block is prepared, tissue and linen are in place, the smaller liner is glued onto the spine with PVA directly on the spine and Wheat Starch Paste (WSP) smoothed on the top. The larger cut piece of paper is folded at one end 2cm short of the width. From that fold, another fold is made the exact width away. This is then glued onto the spine directly with PVA (the center section is glued first, so a flap should be hanging from either end of the spine) and WSP on top. When this has dried, the smaller flap is folded in first and the longer flap is glued on top (note: the smaller flap is not glued onto the spine). When this has dried any excess material is cut from the side. The end result should look like a thinly pressed tube along the spine.



Creating the hollow was only one of three main repairs I encountered with this book. In my next blog post I will talk about preserving the end sheets and cleaning up/repairing damage to the outside of the book.


Pt. 2

– saving the end sheets

– tissue to the outside



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