Book Treatments


 

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.

QHoratiiFlacci-KathyAbbott

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/

Kintsugi_

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). Right side: after conservation. Left 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.

They Hoyt Sherman Place Guest Book

Last year Sonya was contacted by a staff member from the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines with a request to conserve the institution’s treasured Guestbook. One of the house’s most important objects in it’s collection is their Guestbook. In it you can find the signatures of many artists, musicians, writers and public figures who had attended events at the Hoyt Sherman Place. The Guest Book was started in 1914, and the latest signature Sonya could find was from 1989. The Hoyt Sherman Place, built in 1877, is now a recognized historic house and theater, and draws big crowds for its musical acts. It also houses an art gallery.
The sections of the guestbook lay loose in its damaged binding and its original green box was frayed and falling apart. Conservation was required for the volume to be safely exhibited at the Hoyt Sherman’s August VIP public event. The volume required paper repair, resewing the textblock, and reattaching the weighty, leather-covered boards.

 

The pages of the book before, during and after treatment.

Tears and losses in the textpaper were mended and filled with Japanese tissue. The sewing holes in the damaged spine folds were reinforced with Japanese tissue patch repairs so the binding could withstand resewing. The textblock was resewed on linen binder’s tape using a French link-stitch sewing technique.

 

Sonya attaching the binding to the textblock with hinges; the book after completion of work.

The spine was lined with transverse aerocotton and Japanese tissue panels, which served as the board attachment for the cover. Below, you can see the lifted pastedowns, under which the spine linings were inserted.

The binding during and after treatment.

As the volume could not fit in its original cloth case after conservation, a new box was made to house the guestbook and case separately. A cloth-covered, collapsible cradle was made by Cynthia so that the book could be displayed at a 90° angle, enabling safer handling. Once conservation was finished, we were able to arrange dropping the book off and getting our own private tour of the space.

The exterior and the reception area.

Executive Director Robert Warren with Sonya and Cynthia.

When we arrived, Executive Director Robert Warren was excited to see the final result of the conservation treatment, so we displayed the book with a brief description of the repair, and presented it on the custom cradle support. This setup would perfectly display such unique artistic signatures as the one above of “Mr Tweedy.”

The art gallery.

Our first stop on the tour was the gallery. Robert pointed out several notable paintings, including Apollo and Venus by Otto van Veen. This particular painting had been found stuffed in the back of a storeroom closet during renovations. It was badly damaged and discolored, and would undergo conservation before it could be displayed. Speculation as to why the painting was thrown in the storeroom seems to hinge on the central nude form featured in the painting and the conservative nature of early 1900s America. Read more about it here.

This massive secretary desk was meant to travel with the lawyer on his work trips. How unfortunate for his servants!

Robert showed us a lawyer’s desk, which was specially made with a mirror in the center. No, this was not for the jurisprudent to stare into his own reflection at will. Rather, it allowed him to see if anyone was approaching from behind with a look of vengeance and quite possibly a knife!

Original mural painting on the right and the modern recreation on the left.

During the renovation of the house, a conscientious team of historic preservation specialists found a square of the original mural painting when they were preparing the walls to be repainted. They decided to decorate the walls with the same design. True to principals at the heart of preservation, they left an original fragment behind, retaining a record of history and showing the changes the house had undergone.

Cynthia in one of the historic rooms on the second floor of the house

Since its foundation was first laid, the house has worn many hats. It first served as the family home to the Sherman family, built by Hoyt Sherman, a postmaster and politician. At one point, Sherman rented out his home for two years to The Sister’s of Mercy of Davenport, Iowa to host a 52-bed hospital. From 1907 onward, the Des Moines Women’s Club, whose growing membership prompted the construction of the theater in 1923, held their meetings at the house. They still operate out of the Hoyt Sherman Place to this day.

The interior of the historic theater including original Des Moines Women’s Club end panels on each row.

The theater hosts a variety of events, including rock concerts, ballet, and stand-up comedy. It is a must-see if you are ever in the Des Moines area.

Image courtesy of www.comicsbeat.com
An image from the pages of Wonder Woman, with Trina Robbins’ signature in the lower left corner. Photo credit: www.comicsbeat.com

History and background

The term “underground comix” defines a style of small press or self-published comic books produced outside of the mainstream styles. The Underground Comix Collection in Iowa State University Library’s Special Collections includes over 1,500 printed comics, hand-drawn sketches and related materials ranging from 1947 to 1995. Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist Amy Bishop notes that while many of the pieces in the collection made their way to the university library in the 1970’s and the 1980’s, records indicate that there are some comics in the collection from as recently as 2007.

Photo courtesy of Iowa State Daily
Fight Girl by Trina Robbins, 1972. Underground Comix Collection,
MS 0636, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the artists who worked in this style created comics that discussed controversial topics and mocked conventional society. Their work explored mature themes like drug and alcohol use, sexuality, violence, feminism, anti-abortion and anti-war sentiments, Black Power, and LGBTQ+ issues. In doing so, the artists and the publishing companies did not adhere to the Comics Code Authority (CCA), which was introduced in 1954 and was intended to censor comic book content. At one time, Underground Comix were banned books.

The official logo of the Comics Code Authority (CCA).

As an aside: While doing a little online research, I came across an interesting blog post on this subject. It was published by The Robert E. Kennedy Library of Cal Poly State University on their Special Collections blog. You could take a brief detour and read it: “Understanding Underground Comix: An Introduction to the Moore Collection.

Covers of selections from the Moore Collection of Underground Comix, Special Collections of the Robert E. Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic State University. Photo credit: CPSU

People

Many artists published with Underground Comix instead of a larger company because it gave them the opportunity to present their work with less censorship of the X-rated content. Underground Comix greats included cult figures like Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Richard Eugene “Grass” Green, Denis Kitchen and Trina Robbins.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton at an event at Lucca Comics & Games in 2014, Tuscany. Photo credit: Creative Commons

You may be surprised to learn that popular TV shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Johnny Quest, and Space Ghost drew their first breath as underground comix. In fact, Trina Robbins, a female artist who published with Underground Comix, was the first to draw Wonder Woman. Richard “Grass” Green was the first African American comix creator to participate in the movement.

Photo courtesy of the Jewish News of Northern California.
Trina Robbins, the first woman comic artist to draw Wonder Woman, poses in a book shop next to her creation. Photo credit: The Jewish News of Northern California.

ISU Library Special Collections also holds a related collection of Clay Geerdes photographs (MS 0630). Clay Geerdes took numerous photos of Underground Comix artists and of their work. Geerdes’ photographs have appeared in many publications and were published as a book, “The Underground Comix Family Album“, in 1998.

Left: Gilbert Shelton inks a page for his Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in Venice, CA, July 1971. Right: Gary Arlington gives a few tips to Armageddon artist Barney Steel in his San Francisco Comic store, 1971. Images from the Clay Geerdes Collection, MS 0630, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library

Conservation treatment

The library’s collection of 3-dimensional artifacts contains a few dozen buttons from the early 1970’s. The buttons feature some of the iconic characters from Underground Comix. Assistant conservator Cynthia Kapteyn and I have recently run into a box of these buttons in the process of doing a comprehensive survey of the library’s artifact collection.

Underground Comix buttons, 1971-1972, Artifact Collection, 2009-R035, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library

Recently we have been seeing lots of Comix at the Preservation lab, both printed issues and artist sketches.

Left: An issue of E.C. Comics Tales from the Crypt, 1953, PN3448 S45 T34x, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library. Right: Crime SuspenStories, 1952, PS648 C7 C74x, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

The printed issues were from the 1950s, published by E.C. Comics. Many of the covers and pages had become torn and creased over time. Chunks of brittle paper have been lost, since these prime examples of ephemera were printed on low quality wood pulp paper and were not made to stand up to time and the relentless deterioration mechanisms of oxidation in cellulose. Mindy Moeller, Senior Conservation Technician, has repaired hundreds of pages using light weight Japanese tissue, pre-coated with a mixture of wheat starch paste and methyl cellulose and activated with a light application of de-ionized water.

Mends and fills made with pre-coated Japanese tissue are visible around the edges of the back cover.
Left: A large fill in a back page was made with Japanese tissue that was pre-coated with a mix of wheat starch paste and methyl cellulose. Right: A detail from an artist sketch, Underground Comix Collection, MS 0636, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

One of the oversized boxes within the collection holds a number of drawings by an unknown artist associated with Underground Comix. The sketches were taped together with masking tape. The adhesive from the tape has started to penetrate through the paper, giving the paper a translucent oily quality and causing the sketches to stick together.

Using a micro-spatula, Sonya is lifting the edge of a small “speech bubble” fragment, taped over a previous version.

The artist had gone through a fascinating editing process, while creating their story line. If the artist was dissatisfied with a given cell or a speech bubble, they would rework the image or text on a fragment of paper and tape the new fragment over the segment they did not like. The artist used small loops of masking tape to stick down the fragments, so that the tape would not be visible past the edges of the stuck-on fragment. But over time the adhesive from the tape had leeched into the paper, making the tape underneath show through.

Left: A smaller fragment of paper is attached to the larger sketch with loops of masking tape. Right: Masking tape is lifted and a previous iteration of the sketch is revealed under the small fragment.

Masking tape was removed from the sketches and adhesive residue was reduced as much as possible. Mends of Japanese tissue were used to hold the sketches together in place of tape.

A heated spatula is used to remove fragments of masking tape from the reverse side. A Japanese tissue mend runs along the mid-line of the sketch (note the faint white tint).

The artist’s “edits” were reattached to the sketches using small hidden hinges made from Japanese tissue, using wheat starch paste. The sketches look and function in much the same way as they did before the conservation treatment. But the damaging tape adhesive has been removed, so it will no longer contribute to deterioration of the paper.

Other mentions

In the past, the Underground Comix Collection has been mentioned, exhibited and written about by other people on campus too. The Special Collections and University Archives blog, Cardinal Tales, has featured the Underground Comix Collection in 2015 in a post titled “Not Your Ordinary Comic Books”. The staff at Special Collections has used some rather spooky Underground Comix titles for the library’s Halloween Pop-Up Exhibit.

The Special Collections department featured Underground Comix in their Halloween pop-up exhibit in 2017.

The ISU Daily student newspaper had published the article “Underground Comix Have Rich History” in 2013. Student writer Victoria Emery had interviewed ISU College of Design professor John Cunnally about his scholarship related to the collection.

This is my humble homage to the candid and unapologetic art of Underground Comix artists. The image on the left is part of the cover of “The R. Crumb Handbook”, by R. Crumb and P. Poplaski, 2005.

Student employee Julianna Biedenfeld straining wheat starch paste at the Preservation lab

Student employee Julianna Biedenfeld straining wheat starch paste at the Preservation lab

The repairs we do on books in the Preservation Department is something that many might think seems really complicated or something super scientific. However, the work we put into books up here on the 4th floor isn’t all as complex as it appears to be and can be related to hobbies done outside of the Preservation Lab. Personally, I really enjoy putting together puzzles. In some aspects I can relate this enjoyment to the work I do in Preservation at the library.

A slow and steady progress through a puzzle

A slow and steady progress through a puzzle

Most recently, I have been working on a book repair technique called a reback. A reback is done when the spine of the cover is damaged, but the rest of the book is intact. Books that need repairing like this are what I would consider a puzzle that’s put together, but not quite finished. A damaged book needs something more – a few more pieces – to make it look complete. When working on a puzzle, sometimes you take a few pieces out that had already put together to get a closer look and find which pieces match with it.

Books with damaged spines, re-backs in progress and a completed repair

Books with damaged spines, re-backs in progress and a completed repair

A similar approach goes with the books I have been repairing. You take off the damaged bookcloth and replace some of it with new bookcloth. Then you put the final “piece” back on – the title – and the book looks complete. Once all the parts are together the book is finished and can be put back on the shelf to be used. In a similar way, once the pieces of a puzzle are all together, you can see a full image and sit back to enjoy it.

 

During my first week at the library, I came across some 19th century periodicals that needed treatment because they were requested for a class. The magazine is called Demorest’s Family Magazine. The issues that I am dealing with are from 1871 to 1893.

As an occasional reader of Parents magazine in waiting rooms, break rooms and at home, my interest was piqued as to what a family magazine used to look like at the end of the 19th century. Moreover, as I was examining one of the issues, I found a small piece of stationary that had been used as a bookmark. On it was the logo of the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. The discolored portion of the stationary on the right hand side had been sticking out of the magazine, thus exposed to wear and tear, UV light and environmental pollution.

Miramar_Stationary_bookmark

Since I had just moved from the LA area the previous week, this seemed like a sign, so I decided to put this item on the Parks Library Preservation blog.

The Miramar Hotel stationary took my mind on a circuitous journey of thinking about the hotel and imagining what it used to look like back in the day. Thanks to Google, I did not have to wonder for long:

The original Miramar, the home of Senator John P. Jones and Mrs. Georgina Jones, 1890

The original Miramar, the home of Senator John P. Jones and Mrs. Georgina Jones, 1890

The Palisades Building, built in 1924, seen here in the 1950s

The Palisades Building, built in 1924, seen here in the 1950s

The present day Fairmont Miramar Hotel

The present day Fairmont Miramar Hotel

Throughout its history, the hotel had been frequented by such celebrities as Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow. Public figures like J.F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt stayed in the private bungalows. (http://www.fairmont.com/santa-monica/hotelhistory/)

Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy

Garbo, Harlow, Roosevelt and Kennedy

Present day fashionistas of Santa Monica

Present day fashionistas of Santa Monica

 

 

But I very much digress here, which is one of the guilty pleasures of looking at original objects “in the flesh” – so many associations spring to mind. Now imagine if I was an academic scholar and if this flow of information was a stream of original research ideas based on interactions with unique special collections materials! Peer reviewed articles would be flying off the press.

However, at this point let me get back to the objects to be treated: 1871-1893 issues of the Demorest’s Family Magazine…Right away, as I was examining the volumes, I became drawn in by the subject matter and was charmed by the illustrations. How did women conduct themselves in family life back then? What was important? What were the ads for? How did ladies keep themselves looking fresh and pretty? One of the answers must be “hired help”…

Here are some images from the pages of the Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Fancy a walk in the park, dear daughter?

Fancy a walk in the park, dear daughter?

Finally, a way to make your children perfect!

 

Publications like this one were often printed on thin wood pulp paper, which was not made to hold up to the test of time. Unsurprisingly, the paper had become brittle, with numerous large and small tears afflicting the pages and the covers.

In order to make the item ready for viewing by a group of students or for digitization, some stabilization repairs will need to be performed.

Small tears in the fore-edge

Small tears in the fore-edge

These will include reattaching covers and loose pages and mending the more significant tears that could cause further damage upon handling. When making repairs to thin brittle paper, it is especially important to select a mending tissue that is lighter in weight than the page being mended.

A selection of Demorest's Magazine issues from different years

A selection of Demorest’s Magazine issues

This way the mend will not be too bulky and will not cause the paper on either side of it to break. Another consideration is the level of moisture that can be introduced to paper that does not have a great deal of absorbency and strength due to being coated and/or heavily processed.

A selection of volumes from different years

A selection of volumes from different years

The mending of these pages would require a low level of moisture in the repair adhesive. And of course, protective housing enclosures will do a world of good for these limp and fragile ephemeral objects. I look forward to sharing more about the treatment of the magazines as I move forward through the steps of the process. Please stay tuned, dear readers!

PeelAndStick-01

“Peel and stick” are very bad words in the world of books.  We know these as adhesive labels or sheets to correct errors made by editors and publishers.  I haven’t seen one in a while, but this time I found two old sheets as replacement pages in the book Turbidite-Hosted Gold Deposits, GAC Special paper 32, 1986.  This book came to me after a recent mini-water disaster of roughly 1,000 books here in the Parks Library.  The book survived the water disaster very well; however, its old adhesive pages had not.

PeelAndStick-02

There were two “replacement pages” in large sheets that had been inserted as corrective pages for errata, and over time the adhesive had stained other pages, come apart in some areas, and also was very sticky in other areas.  The old “Fasson Crack’n Peel Plus” was failing in several areas.

PeelAndStick-03

To remedy this, I will remove the two adhesive sheets, photocopy the pages onto acid free paper, and tip them in.  I cannot remove the yellow stains on the other pages but can scrape and clean away any remaining sticky residue.  The peel and stick correction seems to be a good idea but in reality is not.

InterestingBook-00

I recently made a box for an old book titled The Medical and Agricultural Register, For the Years 1806 and 1807.  I like the comment on the title page “designed for the use of families.”  This book was very interesting, not only in its content, but also in what has happened to the book physically over time.

InterestingBook-01

I see that the price of 35 cents had been handwritten in ink inside both the front and back covers.

InterestingBook-02

Inside there was some moisture damage, foxing, and staining from the oily printing ink, yet the paper quality is in great shape and has a nice “feel” to it.

InterestingBook-03

This book is still in relatively good condition considering it is over 200 years old, and I can handle it without it crumbling in my hands. This is where I get a little misty-eyed thinking of how cool this book really is.  Books were made better back then with good materials and strong paper, not like the cheap books that are constructed today, which are pricey and will fall apart easily after a little use and abuse.

InterestingBook-04

What I find most interesting about this book is the information and topics it contains.  “To prevent the fatal Effects of drinking cold Water, or cold Liquors of any kind in warm Weather,”  “Case of Lock-Jaw Successfully treated with Brandy and Opium,” and “To prevent the fatal Effects of Lightning.”  Under the lightning section, it reads:

“When a person is struck by lightning, strip the body and throw buckets full of cold water over it for ten or fifteen minutes; let continued frictions and inflations of the lungs be also practiced:  let gentle shocks of electricity be made to pass through the chest, when a skillful person can be procured to apply it; and apply blisters to the breast.”

The books also contains planting and meteorological tables, cider and pickling recipes, more interesting medical treatments and advice, and the “Bill of Mortality for 1806, in 20 Towns.”  Just a wealth of information in 1806 and 1807 for a very interesting time, but it makes me happy to be alive in 2015.

 

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