Book Arts


I posted pictures of this lovely contraption on the isupreservation Instagram feed a couple of months ago. This post goes into more details about the construction of it.

There must be many different ways to support an accordion book for an exhibit. Here is one idea, as envisioned and executed by Conservation Technician Jim Wilcox. This mount is made from 4-ply museum-quality mat board, adhered together with 3M 415 double-sided tape.

Conservation Assistant Jim Wilcox cutting out a paper template for the mount.

This accordion binding is a miniature artist book. The small size of the book means that it is very light, which makes it easier to manage stress on the joints and folds.

Mount without the book.
Mount with the miniature book.

The mount enables the accordion binding to be displayed open. The covers of the book sit lower than the pages, since the covers are slightly bigger than the pages on all sides.

The mount as viewed from the front and from the back.

The open pages are supported by the top-most layer of mat board, cut in a zig-zag shape. In order to create this custom shape, the profile of the pages has to be traced onto a piece of paper, with the accordion open.

These are the layers of board that went into making the mount. Hopefully my sketch and notations are not making this more confusing.

As seen in the sketch above, this particular mount was made from 4 layers of mat board. The number of layers can be adjusted depending on the book. Level 2 can be added twice if the cover has tall board squares or if the cover boards need extra support.

Board squares are the spaces at the edges of the book boards that are not covered by the pastedowns. These spaces are the difference between the size of the cover and the size of the textblock (all the pages).

For a bigger, heavier book, additional support would have to be provided for the boards in order to keep them upright. A piece of mat board the size of the cover could be inserted and secured in the slot behind the cover to prop it up.

The red arrow points to one of the cutout slots, where the book boards fit.
The space shaded in green is the extra deep recess, where each book board can be positioned

The area of green color seen in the picture above is created by one of the cutout slots, which is mentioned in the hand-drawn diagram. The book boards sink down to Level 1, the lowest level. The cutouts are made in Level 2.

Often, students and the broader community may not be aware of the role preservation and special collections staff play at a university research library. Short workshops afford both parties the opportunity to learn about a new topic or gain a new skill, while collaborating with different library departments.

Such was the case in a recent two-part workshop proposed by graduate student Sang Lee from the Graphic Design department at the College of Design. Sang wanted to give her students, who primarily design on a computer, the chance to do a hands-on project. The objective of the workshop was to familiarize the students with book and box design using historical examples as well as modern objects followed by a second session learning how to make their own box.

This class was a joint effort between graduate student Sang Lee from the College of Design, Special Collection’s archivist Amy Bishop, and preservation staff, including Sonya Barron, Jim Wilcox, Mindy Moeller, and myself.

A montage of two photos. Each shows the class surrounded a table with books laid out on the table. In the first conservator Sonya Barron is holding a book and describing it. In the second archivist Amy Bishop is picking up a book she is discussing.
Conservator Sonya Barron and archivist Amy Bishop showing students and instructor Sang Lee bindings, book models, and artists books.

Sonya and Amy described various bindings including a German wooden board binding, a Cambridge panel binding of the volume Citie of God, St. Augustine, Pilgrims Progress translated to Cantonese and bound in an Asian style binding, a parchment in-boards volume titled Philosophia Botanica,  artist books in a box made using organic materials like stone and sand called Nature’s Details, a tunnel book called Falling Leaves, and many others.

The classes were a nice way, too, for staff to review some of our prized collections and share what is important or interesting about each item. The present and history repeat itself, recycling designs and creating new ones from the old. Students had a worksheet with a list of questions and tasks meant to guide them through the experience identifying the use of materials and interpreting artists’ intent.

I’ve included several of my favorite items below out of the myriad examples we laid out for the class.

Block-printed Casebindings

Below is a highly decorative block printed cloth casebinding published in 1871.

A photo of the front cover of a casebinding that has been block stamped with gold, red, and yellow. The design includes sun and moon graphics as well as leaves, wavy lines that possibly depict a river, and Tennyson's portrait.
The poetic works of Alfred Tennyson published by Harper & Brothers in a highly stylized casebinding.

Sir Humphry Repton’s Landscape Designs

The library has a facsimile of Humphry Repton’s Red Books. Humphry was an artist and self-trained 18th century landscape designer. He gained success by creating red covered bindings of his landscape designs with overlays that could be lifted to show the space before and after his work. Check out the Morgan Library’s videos on the history of the red books for more information.

A montage of two photos. The first shows a river with an irregular bank. The second photo shows the same landscape with a paper flap that was atached to the image lifted to reveal a more regular riverbank and animals wading in the river.
The transformation of a riverbed by Humphry Repton.

Pop-out Books

A class on book structure can’t be without at least one pop-up book. Here is one titled Ruckus Rodeo by Red Grooms and Barbara Haskell.

Photo of a pop-out book open to show 3D nature of book. Features a rodeo with a bull and cowboy on horse in an arena.
Ruckus Rodeo book opened out.

Wooden Board Bindings

Highly stylized historic wooden board binding as compared to a simpler modern wooden cover.

A montage of two photos. One photo is of a historic German bindings with wooden boards and a tooled cover. The other is of a modern wooden cover binding with decoration on the cover.
Left: A German style wooden boards bindings with clasps and a tooled cover. Right: a modern wooden boards binding.

Eastern Style Bindings

Special collections has several stab-bindings and accordion bindings. Here is a modern stab-binding including a traditional style wrap cover with peg closures.

A photo of a stab-bound book laying on top of a wrapper constructed in an eastern style with bone clasps attached to ribbon to hold it closed.
Talk to a Stone: Nothingness by Tetsuzan Shinagawa.

Recipe Boxes

Some items in our collection include recipe boxes with cards and dividers. The box is necessary to complete the object. Without it, the cards would not be received in the same way to the viewer.

A photo of a box with recipe cards and dividers listing food categories such as beverages, cakes, meat, and poultry.
Food Preparation Recipes by Alice M. Child. Home Economics was historically a notable department at ISU and collections include recipes, artifacts, and manuscripts on the subject.

Artist Books

My favorite artist book was this project called The Nearness of Distance, published by Eastern Air Lines in 1967. It is quite deceptive at first glance. It begins as a box masquerading as a book which, when opened, contains several folders. Each folder has attached graphics, objects, and texts to tell a story. The texts come in single sheets and pamphlets.

A montage of four photos showing the book-box closed, opened to reveal folders inside, and a folder closed and then opened.
The book-box Nearness of Distance opened to reveal folders. The first volume , Ionosphere, opened showing a letter stamped with wax.
Photo of first folder opened.
The first folder called Ionosphere opened to show a map, a letter, and a perpetual calendar.

Conservation technician Jim Wilcox modified the traditional blue-board clamshell box so the students would fold over the triangular tabs at the box corners instead of plying them apart. Previous to the class, conservation technician Mindy Moeller made double-fan adhesive books with marbled paper covers for each student.

The students constructed their boxes over the course of an hour and a half. The result was a functional clamshell box they could use as a model or inspiration for their box project.

A photo of the students working on box making at 3 sets of tables configured in circles. Instructor Sang Lee and archivist Amy Bishop look on.
Session two of the workshop. Students making boxes under the guidance of instructors.

A finished box!

A photo showing a completed box with metal clips sitting on a cutting mat with the pre-made book near it.
A well-made box constructed by one of the graphic design students below the pre-made book. The metal clips are holding the glued parts together while it dries.

 

Endbands

Objects are invariably changed by the hands of those charged with their care. Traditions have been built on the question of how to properly repair  damaged artifacts. Some cultures have developed historic traditions like the Japanese art of Kintsugi. Bookbinders have even experimented with this idea in their personal work (See an interview about Kathy Abbott’s work) and as a collective of bookbinders in an exhibit called Tomorrow’s Past, which explores ways of rethinking conservation from the bookbinder’s perspective.

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Repair on Q Horatii Flacci by Kathy Abbott. Photo from an interview on the blog Herringbone Bindery. http://www.herringbonebindery.com/blog/2015/12/13/bookbinder-of-the-month-kathy-abbott-2/

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Tea bowl, Korea, Joseon dynasty, 16th century AD, featuring Kintsugi. Author: Picasa. Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As conservators, however, we follow a set of professional ethical guidelines when determining the best course of action. Conservation is not a renewal—it is not restoration. Conservation seeks to make stable, make accessible, an object for use. In book and archives conservation, aesthetic is not always a point of accessibility in the way that art on paper tends to be. Books are primarily tools to impart information. However, the history of the book has many examples celebrating the importance of aesthetics, not to mention the sensibilities of the eye.

Oversized set of volumes Theatrum machinarum hydrotechnicarum (TJ144 L573th). Left side: after conservation. Right side: before conservation. Note damaged endband with losses. Only a scrap of parchment remained of the head endband.

 

So when I was deciding on how to repair two large, thick set of volumes that were from a 3-part set, I had some choices to make. Both sets of volumes were missing an endband each. They had both been bound in the same way, with the same style of stuck-on endband composed of pale creamy tan and creamy white linen thread sewn over a linen cord and through a strip of parchment. Both had tooling on the spine. Even the paper appeared to be largely from the same papermill based on the watermarks. I could remedy the loss of the original endband by constructing a conservation endband—choosing a simple pale paper over a linen core—or I could resew a stuck-on endband to mimic the current endband.

Conservation endband by ISU’s Conservator Sonya Barron.

In no way would I try to reclaim the former glory—like a localized Benjamin button phenomenon–of sewing a new-looking endband on this book. That would not be congruous with the current state of the binding. (And again, conservation is not restoration.) In conservation I aim for an inconspicuous, functional repair. I want to preserve a book’s current faded state and the methods with which it was made in order to retain the truth of the object while restoring (ha!) it’s function.

Top: First set of volumes. Original on Left and New endband on right. Bottom: Second set of volumes. New endband on Left and original on right. The second band is a little less satisfactory, but functional.

In-painting Paper repairs

There is a certain comfort and security to toning repair paper before using it in any given situation. You have complete control over the pigment’s location until it dries. If, despite having made several practice swatches, the toning job doesn’t come out exactly as desired, you can start again. Not so with in-painting.

Left side: my set-up for in-painting. The object is placed on boards to both for my ease while working as well as to keep it off the table in case of any leaks or spills. Right side: pre-toned repair paper. There is some ability to achieve a mottled effect, however one cannot situate any variation in color as precisely as in-painting will.

After my first experience with in-painting, I have come to appreciate its merits. You can mimic the variations of color found in deteriorating leather bindings more easily than if you had tried pre-toning the repair paper . I make several color mixtures matching the main hues of the leather near the repair. Another position note: the pigment will only sit on the repair paper, instead of sandwiched in between the paper and the leather on the covering boards.

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Myself in-painting the endcap using a brush sized 5/0.

In the course of my experience, I have discovered several things:

  • Wheat starch paste on top of tissue makes for a great size, and thus will inhibit the absorption of paint and cause weird tidelines, or streaks, in the acrylic pigment. See the image below. Try not to get any errant paste where you want your acrylic to go!

    Streaks seen in a layer of acrylic wash over Okawara tissue that had been coated with a layer of wheat starch paste.

  • Speckle several shades. See the image below of an outer join repair using Okawara Japanese repair paper on a leather binding.

    in-painting

    In-painting on Japanese Okawara repair paper using acrylics to achieve a mottled effect. Click the picture to view a larger version.

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    In-painting on Japanese Okawara repair paper using acrylics to achieve a mottled effect.

  • Dilute the paint with deionized water until it is slightly runny. It shouldn’t be thick like on the left side of the tissue in the example photo below of Okawara tissue. Additionally, too many layers of paint will create a plastic-like look.

    Experimenting with washes of acrylic pigment on thick Okawara Japanese repair paper.

  • Use SC6000 to achieve the amount of sheen you’d like, if required to match the sheen of the leather. You can even burnish the repair further.
  • Building up the joints with too many layers of tissue, paste, and acrylic pigment causes the paper to loose its flexibility, and increases the chance of the repairs cracking upon flexing.

 

Conservation Binding at a University of Iowa Visit

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Image by Tom Jorgensen from his article, “UI Libraries’ new conservation lab merits a closer look.” https://now.uiowa.edu/2012/09/ui-libraries-new-conservation-lab-merits-closer-look

I had the chance to study some bookbinding structures at the University of Iowa Library’s Special Collections, attend their sixth annual William Anthony Conservation Lecture with Maria Fredericks, participate in a historic long-stitch class with maria Fredericks, and visit their conservation lab. It was a happily busy two days! By chance, I happened upon this awesome, simple and effective conservation binding while browsing bindings in special collections.

Diagram of the conservation binding.

As a viewer of this binding, I had no way of knowing its previous state. Did it ever have a cover? Was there any evidence at all of its previous structure? All I could know is its present state. The pamphlet was sewn to a set of endleaves with two bifolios each.

Aside from the subtle guarding of the pamphlet, no adhesive touched the little binding. It is unclear to me if the structure was sewed through existing holes. There was a cloth spine piece that lay loose against the textblock’s spine and was adhered between the pastedown and thin cover boards. The color of the covering material was an alum-tawed white.

Text written by by Cara Stone, Instruction Librarian. Photo captions by Sonya Barron, Collections Conservator.

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Susan Vega Garcia talking to the students in the beginning of the workshop. Susan shared about books in the library that were written by Latinx writers and poets, who have a connection to Iowa.

Library staff had the pleasure of welcoming 4-H students from around the state to ISU for the 2018 4-H Maize Retreat on April 13th. In their time at the University Library, students participated in three different workshops focused on “Telling Your Story.” They worked with Sonya Barron and Susan A. Vega García to learn about preservation and sew their own memory books.

Susan Vega-Garcia offering tips on getting the needle to go into the right sewing hole.

Ana Moreno, student assistant with the Special Collections/University Archives Department, helps an 8th grade student figure out the sewing pattern.

Students hard at work

Rosie Rowe and Harrison W. Inefuku led a workshop where students crafted a story that was meaningful to them and recorded it as an audio snapshot. Rachel Seale and Cara B. Stone focused on visual storytelling in their workshop where students combined pictures, stickers, decorative tape, images from magazines, and polaroid photos to add to their memory book.

The students created the first scrapbook page in their newly constructed memory books. Many of them made their page about the experience they had in the library workshops and the new friends they made.

It was so rewarding to see these students come together from all over Iowa (Marshalltown, Tipton, Muscatine, Des Moines, and Boone, to name a few) and develop new friendships, face challenges (the consensus was that sewing is hard, but the outcomes from the sewing were cool), and gain confidence in sharing their voice and being on a college campus. After their day at the library, the students spent to rest of their weekend at the Clover Woods Camping Center to continue celebrating Latino and Native American heritage, growing as young leaders.

In September, the Preservation Lab participated in a day-long workshop for 4-H youth in grades 8-12 from minority communities across Iowa.

4-H’ers participating in Ujima. Photo credit: J.P. Chaisson-Cardenas

The day that the kids spent at the ISU library was a part of a 3 day retreat called Ujima and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander). The kids who come to these retreats are African, African American and Asian American. The event was developed by the Culturally Based Youth Leadership Accelerator Program (CYLA).   The purpose of the initiative is to encourage underrepresented and underserved youth to become part of their local 4-H learning communities, drawing upon their cultural strengths, knowledge and narratives.  The library partnered with ISU’s Extension and Outreach in order to be able to reach this audience of 4-H students.

Participants were welcomed at ISU State Gym before breaking up into groups and scattering across campus. Photo courtesy of Extension and Outreach, 4-H, CYLA

The partnership has been of great benefit to the library because the university’s 4-H program provides the infrastructure that is necessary to be able to bring dozens of kids from communities across Iowa to the university campus. They stay at the Clover Woods camp center outside of town, where the majority of their activities take place.

The youth spend the first day of the retreat  on the ISU campus, participating in workshops that are offered by different university departments. This year the library was one of the sites that they could pick from.  ISU’s Extension and Outreach 4-H Office  took care of all the complicated logistics, all we had to do was prepare awesome, memorable workshops and be ready for a day full of exciting high energy interaction with our audience.

UjimaPreservation

Co-teaching one of the groups at the Preservation lab. Sonya Barron and Emilie Duncan, our Lennox Preservation Intern.

During their day at the library the students participated in 3 different workshops. And yes, we definitely provided plentiful lunch and snacks! Three departments within the Curation Services division created hands-on teaching sessions united by one theme: Telling Your Story. The inspiration for the theme came from observing and acknowledging that minority individuals are extremely underrepresented in professions engaged with cultural heritage. Most often, minority communities have their stories told by people who are not a part of that community and may not understand their experiences or have a similar perspective on their history. In our workshops we wanted to champion the idea that the students had a part to play in telling their story and the stories of their family and community.

UjimaRosie

Rosie Rowe, AV Preservation Specialist, explaining how to use an iPad to record a storyteller’s voice

Our AV Preservation Specialist, Rosie Rowe, taught the students how to record each other’s voices on an iPad app, StoryCorps-style. Most of the kids were willing to share a story about themselves and their families. In some cases English language skills presented a barrier. Most of the young people in this group had spent a significant amount of time in refugee camps and had been through difficult traumatic events. Their stories were powerful. At the end the day the students got to take their recorded story home on a USB jump drive.

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Practicing detective skills: looking at original documents from special collections.

At Special Collections and University Archives they worked on piecing together a real life story by examining  original documents from the library’s rare collections. Each person in the group only had information about one part of the story. How these fragments fit together was revealed only at the end of the session, when everyone shared what they discovered.

5 pamphlets sewn into a 10pt wrapper

Different colors for sewing

At the Preservation lab the participants got to try their hand at making their very own memory book/scrapbook. They selected colors of thread to sew a simple non-adhesive structure using attractive archival-quality materials. For all of them, this was the first time they had made a book. Although there was some frustration involved, there was a lot more enjoyment and pride of accomplishment.

This student said that he surprised himself. He didn’t know he could make a book.

This student was very proud of her finished product

I think that exploring the behind-the-scenes parts of the library was eye-opening for many of the youth. The conventional image of a librarian is a person sitting at a desk with a computer, helping people find books. The students were surprised that librarians could also be teachers, history detectives, recorders of others’ voices and could work with old books and historical documents.

On a personal level, I also made some discoveries:

  1. I got a glimpse into the depth of experience that the students possessed because they were willing to share their stories. I felt lucky to be there and was filled with respect for them.
  2. Phew, teaching is hard! I take my hat off to all good teachers out there. We really need to show our children’s teachers that we value their work. How about a bigger salary to start with?

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