Book Arts


You never know what you are going to get. As an artist myself I can appreciate art books and books with unique characteristics but let me tell you that when they enter the lab we usually groan. These books are often neat and unique and creative but more often than not they just don’t hold up well. Take for instance the most recent one to enter the lab – and funny, check out the title.

img_0863

This book looked fine on the outside but when we opened it we realized the cover of this book had separated itself from the text block. A fairly easy fix by our technician and she also constructed a box for it to give it some protection since this item will be in our general collection and may get used a fair amount.

img_0861

img_0862

Curious if you see items like this in your repair work and how you feel about them.

 

 

IMG_1045

June 28-30, 2016 Iowa State University hosted the Iowa 4-H Youth conference titled “Dive to the Depths”. Students grades 8-12 from all over Iowa converged on the ISU campus to participate in group activities and workshops. Every year  almost 1000 kids attend! The workshops introduce the students to new professional environments and careers.  They also give participants an opportunity to develop practical life skills that they will use throughout their lives.

IMG_1054

I taught three  workshops about books at the Parks Library preservation lab. At the start of each workshop I did a short presentation about the history of books, into which I crammed as many interesting images as I could find. Then we made a fold-up book and sewed a pamphlet out of multi-colored papers. Most of the participants already had extensive sewing experience. Many had made a quilt or an outfit before, so it took them all of 3 minutes to sew a simple pamphlet! Oops, I will have to step it up with the difficulty level next year!

IMG_1053  samples

At the end of the session I showed the 4-H-ers some conservation projects that I was working on. Many of them were really curious about the chemistry of the materials that they saw – both the artifacts and the conservation supplies. They answered my questions readily and were not too shy to ask their own, which I appreciated.

IMG_1059

Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

A couple of months ago I hosted a tour for a College of Design class, which focused on binding and printing  design in the context of current publishing practices. Preparing for this tour prompted our technician Mindy and myself to seek out contemporary binding structures from our general collections that present preservation challenges for library professionals.

Most of these items ended up being art books. Because of innovations in the realm of  publishing, many coffee table books now feature all kinds of fancy bells and whistles, going for a unique look with an element of surprise. There is a tendency to deconstruct the traditional book form.  What that means for us here in the Preservation Department is: ENCLOSURES! These unconventional bindings and textblocks require an extra level of protection for a variety of reasons. Dear reader, behold the art book medley!

Colibri Jackets – why do we need them?
Colibri

1. The spine of a book needs all the protection it can get.
2. Fabrics and 3D elements can rub against other books on the shelf.
3. Loosely associated items: a sticky note serves as a title label.
4. Exposed board edges will delaminate extra quickly.

Boxes and pockets

Boxes_Pockets

1. Some binding structures are inherently vulnerable to handling. A 4-flap made from a lightweight board, also called a tux box, will do just fine for this delicate binding.
2. & 3.  Security is important: enclosures can help keep small desirable items from walking off the shelf.
4. The artist print that comes included with this monograph is larger than the book.
This sturdy 4-flap, called a phase box, had to be retrofitted with a spacer to keep the two items from shifting around inside.

And sometimes…
Books come to us with their own boxes, and they need a little help. Here are three examples of that, clockwise from left to right:

BooksInBox

  1. A collection of vintage recipes in its original box packaging. The lid of the box got ripped off. It was later hinged back on with a strip of matching book cloth.
  2. Inside the Tide box there is a soft cover paperback book. The box was not as secure as we would have liked. In addition, the ingenious colorful box  presents a real temptation for a library user to take it home. So the book got an additional clamshell box (a nice boring gray).
  3. The multiple small books contained in the tan cloth box are all identified by the same bar code, pasted onto the side of the box. There are no volume numbers present. So, each individual book within the box got its own label, even though they all say the same thing. This way the books can be better tracked if one of them gets lost.

“Oh, what a beautiful book,” we thought when this General Collections item was given to us to work on. Oh wait! It’s not a book – it’s a box! Our excitement quickly turned into…despair? Those darn artists and publishers; don’t they think about how libraries are going to handle items like this? That’s a common thought around here – I am sure many of you have thought the same at some point.

IMG_0543

This item fooled us in more ways than one. Not only did we think that this item was a book, but based on the condition we thought that this was a new item as well. We soon learned that this item was actually from 1967!

Now, while the outside of the box looked to be in great shape for its age, the inside pieces were another story. While at first glance the 4 inner portfolios don’t seem to be in terrible condition, upon looking closer it was evident that there was in fact some damage. Due to the type of tape used, the adhesive has seeped through and stained the paper, failed entirely, or a combination of those on the various parts in this item. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do to correct this other than reattaching the detached items.  

IMG_0546

IMG_0548

IMG_0551

IMG_0550  IMG_0549

 

Have you seen items with similar inherent vice? Do you think the creator intended them to last longer than they did? Or maybe they were meant to have a short lifespan?

Every year in July, I try to take items to show at the Open Class at the Boone County Fair, and sometimes I’ve taken things I’ve made at work.  This year, I had four entries for the miscellaneous class: an icicle-stitch cord-bound book,  a post-bound guest book, a tool box for my specialty tools, and a bow made from book pages.

Icicle-Stitch-Binding

My icicle-stitch book had been started at a staff development day several years ago, but was never completed, so I decided it was time to finish it and make it an interesting book by attaching the cover with Bookmakers Irish hemp cords.

Post-Binding

The post-bound guest book was made right after I had to do one for work and decided I needed to do another one for practice and as a model.  It served another purpose at the All 70’s BHS Class Reunion the weekend following the county fair.  The cover of the guest book featured a copy of Boone’s matador mascot “the Toreador” and was covered in red and green bookcloth (yes, our school colors are Christmas red and green!)  I had guests sign in with red and green markers as they “oohed and aahed” over the guest book with its red and green colored ribbons and silver beads spelling out “Boone” and “Toreadors.”

ToolBox

A while back, I received my own set of Caselli spatulas and tools. I decided I needed a nice box to keep them in to protect them at work when not in use.  We don’t buy boxes here in Preservation, we make them!  The box I made has two lift out Ethafoam cushioned trays and a cushioned bottom to store my Caselli tools, a brass triangle, specialty bone folders, and other miscellaneous tools.  Of course, I used my favorite Canapetta Natural bookcloth from Talas to cover the box.

PaperBow

My last entry was a paper bow made from the pages of a discarded children’s book during a staff development day, and it can be hung on a tree or wall as an ornament.

All four entries received blue ribbons and each received good comments.  This is just another way to show off my talents from work and support the Open Class at the Boone County Fair.

We have a charming little mystery in the Conservation Lab right now.  A particularly aesthetically pleasing volume from our General Collection,  A Little Book of Nature Thoughts by Richard Jefferies (Mosher Press, 1903) caught my eye as it sat on the shelf awaiting repair.  Its type, its fine laid paper, its worn but once-beautiful sheepskin full leather binding, and its spare but elegant gold-stamped cover decoration all gave this slender, pocket-sized book an air of something special.

A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (1903)

A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (1903)

A little bit of digging revealed some characteristic particularities of Mosher Press editions, which expressed Mosher’s love of the book as artifact, as an object of beauty, and not merely as a utilitarian vessel for its content.  All books were hand-set, usually with Caslon type, with a few, modest decorative flourishes.  Most were printed on Van Gelder hand-made paper, and indeed, our little volume bears the Van Gelder watermark on a few of its pages.  Forty-seven Mosher titles between 1898-1913 were also printed on vellum.  Finally, most of these publisher’s bindings were bound in white, blue, green, or gray paper-covered boards and housed in slipcases.  This last detail about the binding surprised me, until I came across evidence of the allure that Mosher Press editions held for contemporary fine binders.

ALBNT-04

According to the program of An Exhibition of Books from the Press of Thomas Bird Mosher from the Collection of Norman H. Strouse (1967), “No press has tempted the best efforts of so many of the world’s great binders as has the Mosher Press, but even when rebound in full leather, whether by the famous Grolier Club Bindery, Zaehnsdorf, or Sangorski & Sutcliffe, there is always something about the dimensions and title of a Mosher book that admits its identity to the Mosher collector on sight.”

Mosher himself was aware of his books’ appeal for the fine binder.  He commented in his 1898 catalog A List of Books in Limited Editions, that “In America, Mr. Otto Zahn, the Misses Nordholf and Bulkley; in London, Miss Prideaux and the Guild of Women Binders have re-clothed in exquisite bindings not a few of the special copies” of his editions.

ALBNT-03

Our copy of A Little Book of Nature Thoughts, unfortunately, bears no bindery ticket, and no discernible private mark of its binder.  Something about the blank endpapers and simple, somewhat generic, floral board decoration suggests the work of a larger bindery rather than an individual fine binder in private practice.  I had hoped that the gold-stamped symbol on the back board (pictured above) would provide a clue to the binding’s origin, but my cursory searches have turned up no lead.  If this lit torch, surrounded by intertwined serpents (or vines?), represents a bindery with which you are familiar, then please let us know.  We welcome any and all theories and speculations!

LiliBrik

Along with our wishes for a happy new year, we’d also like to say thank you to our readers for making last year such a rewarding one for us.  We appreciate your shared insights and feedback, and thank you for being part of our virtual preservation community.

2013 is already off to an exciting start, beginning with a frozen pipe which burst in the offices of our Special Collections and Archives over break.  Since I was basking in the Arizona sunshine at the time, Hilary will fill you in on the details of that escapade next Tuesday.  We’re also in the midst of our search for the 2013 Lennox Foundation Intern; if you or someone you know is planning to apply, please note the January 17 deadline.

Parks Library, Iowa State University

Parks Library, Iowa State University

As we look ahead to the rest of 2013, are there any favorite topics you would like to see us revisit?  We’ve covered topics as diverse as disaster response, conservation treatments, digitization projects, book and paper arts, commercial binding, reformatting, book reviews, conferences, sustainability, whimsical quizzes, and local preservation events.  Are there topics we’ve never discussed that you wish we would?  Guest bloggers from other departments of the Library from whom you’d like to hear?  Join our conversation!

Wishing you all a productive and fulfilling 2013!

Next Page »