Bindings


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.

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:

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  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.

It’s my final week at ISU Library, and I’m feeling nostalgic. Looking back on my five and a half years in the Conservation Lab, there are a few treatments that stand out as particularly memorable.

The 2010 flood hit during my first summer in Ames, and strongly impacted the next 18 months in the lab, as we salvaged and treated thousands of flood-soaked documents, architectural drawings, blueprints, and photographs for Facilities, Planning & Management.

2010Flood-Melissa

In 2011, this ISU football manual from the 1930s landed on my bench. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to preserve the original structure of the 3-ring binder, while also giving the acidic and insect-damaged pages some support. You can read about the treatment in my original post.

FootballManual-04

In 2012, I worked on another football-related conservation treatment, the housing for the last letter written by Jack Trice. He wrote the letter on hotel stationery in 1923, on the eve of his first major college football game, during which he sustained fatal injuries. The double-sided letter is suspended in a Mylar window in this portfolio, so both sides can be read.

The last letter written by Jack Trice in 1923, on the eve of the college football game in which he was fatally injured.

The last letter written by Jack Trice in 1923, on the eve of the college football game in which he was fatally injured.

The original letter is housed in ISU Library Special Collections, but we also created a facsimile which I bound into a custom enclosure decked out in Cyclone colors for Coach Rhoads to take with him on recruiting trips.

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Facsimile of the last letter written by Jack Trice.

In 2013, I thoroughly enjoyed working on a display rehousing for unclassified botanical specimens in the Sarah Underwood Papers.

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In 2014, a new acquisition came to the lab with a curling, brittle paper label. I ended up resewing the textblock and rebacking the spine. This project was a particular pleasure because the sewing structure was a bit of a mystery to unravel, quite literally.

The Practical Planter (1799)

The Practical Planter (1799)

It turned out the volume had been sewn five-on, five-on, seven-on, seven-on, five-on on four support cords. This method would have saved time and money for the bookseller, and was in keeping with the humble paper retail binding. I resewed following the original pattern.

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And finally, just this month, I finished a full leather rebinding of a 1579 Italian imprint of Garcia de Orta’s Aromatum et simplicium aliquot… The book came to us bound in a typical eighteenth-century English style tightback binding covered in acid-sprinkled calfskin leather. Although the binding style was anachronistic with respect to the textblock, it told a story of the volume’s provenance, so I was hesitant to remove it. However, the volume had been oversewn and had some tears and sloppy hide glue repairs that made the book virtually unusable. I disbound the volume, removed the hide glue accretions, and mended and guarded the damaged pages. Then I rebound it in a manner sympathetic to the imprint’s sixteenth-century Italian origins by resewing on alum-tawed thongs with made endpapers of Italian handmade marbled paper. I sewed on silk endbands, and laced on boards built up from layers of paperboard. I covered the volume in edge-pared goatskin leather, working around the bands to give the appearance of a tightback, but in fact allowing a hollow on the spine when the book opens. According to Bernard Middleton, spine labels were not used before 1600 in Europe, although titles were sometime blind-tooled directly on the spine. However, most spines were left blank, and this is what I chose for this volume, since it would be housed in a cloth-covered clamshell box along with its previous case (which was given a foam insert for support).

Previous binding on left; rebound volume on right.

Previous binding (with foam insert)  on left; rebound volume on right.

Benchwork has been only one part of the enriching professional activities I have enjoyed during my tenure as ISU Library’s Conservator, but it has been a fascinating and deeply rewarding part of my work.

“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.

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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.  

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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.

Special Collections has asked us to work on the scrapbooks from the ISU Theatre Department. The scrapbooks suffer from all the common ills of scrapbooks.

The support pages in many of the volumes have become so brittle that they have started to break away from the bindings. In most cases I have been able to disbind the volume so that future viewers will not be horrified that they ripped a page from the scrapbook just by turning it gently.

SplitOne

There is massive adhesive failure. When possible I have re-attached things back where they belong, but some things are a mystery so they get encapsulated and left between the pages where I found them.

Adhesive

The adhesive failure is so serious that I know that more things will fall off the next time the books are opened. As a partial solution, I’m making a four-flap for each book to keep everything as contained as possible and to minimize abrasion since multiple scrapbooks are often stored together in a box.

Fourflap

I could spend weeks on each scrapbook, but there are many of them and just one of me. And quite frankly given the condition of the supporting pages and many of the contents, it is not worth the time or effort to do a full treatment on these. In the near future, they will need to be  taken apart and put in folders.

Here is the perplexing thing. I’ve come across several pages with what we are calling “googly eyes.” The markings are in blue editor’s pencil.

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I’m pretty sure that the clippings came from a clipping service. Can anyone confirm that? And does anyone know what is it with the circles? They don’t appear to be around anything specific.

 

 

 

 

 

1091map1 For this month’s 1091 Project, we asked student worker Devin Koch to answer some questions about her position in the Conservation Lab at Iowa State University Library.  Here’s what she had to say.

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What is your major, and when do you graduate?  How did you find out about this job?  

My name is Devin Koch and I am an Integrated Studio Arts Major, concentrating in ceramics and painting, and graduating in December.  I happened into my student conservation job by chance. I was already working in Preservations Services, which is another unit of the Preservation Department. During the summer of 2012, I was looking for more hours at the Library, and I was in luck: the Conservation Lab was in need of an extra student during the summer. First, I was told that my presence would be a temporary change, and I would just be doing minimal work to assist with the summer workload. Over the course of the summer, Melissa and Mindy gradually had me do more advanced treatments. I started by organizing cabinets, and cutting spine liners, and finished the summer with double-fan adhesive binds. Seeing how I had progressed, Melissa offered me a student worker position during the school year. I gladly accepted the position, and for the next school year split my time between Preservation Services and the Conservation Lab. This past summer, I decided to move my schedule exclusively to the Lab.

Devin Koch

Devin Koch

What are your favorite parts about this work?  What has been the most challenging thing you have had to do in this position?

Everything about this job is interesting to me. The first day I arrived in the lab I was fascinated by the presses, guillotine, tissue, and array of books for repair. Being an art major, I love materials. The act of making is very important to me. So I greatly value having a job that permits me to do so. It allows me to maximize the hand skills that I have learned in my major. Working at the lab has given me a greater attention to materials and methods that have crossed over into my studio work.

I might have a very different attitude about the work I do if the staff and students here were different. They make it easy for me to learn new treatments, and are approachable when I have questions. Mindy Moeller, our Technician, is beyond patient when teaching. I’m surprised she doesn’t get annoyed at all the questions I ask. Melissa loves to share her knowledge of materials and treatments with the students. Mindy McCoy, our Preservation Assistant, and Martha, our volunteer, are very helpful with any other questions I might have about the lab and treatments. The staff makes this job easy to come to every day. The other student workers are enjoyable to work with. The collection of personalities working at the lab, while diverse, mesh together well.

The two treatments I enjoy the most are sewing and full repairs. Sewing is a relaxing treatment that requires patience and persistence, especially when the odd stitch breaks when pulled too tight. A full repair is the most advanced treatment that I can currently do. It is so enjoyable because it has taken everything that I have learned in the lab and put it into one treatment. The most challenging treatment for me has been making enclosures. A misstep in the final placement or a slightly crooked fold can take something that you have been laboring over and make you have to pitch it. It can be frustrating, but it is so satisfying when finished correctly.

Do you have a favorite project you have worked on?

My favorite thing so far was participating in the Order of the Knoll with fellow student Hope Mitchell and Head of Preservation Hilary Seo. At this event, Hope and I manned a demonstration booth and were lucky enough to talk to donors about what we do in the lab and why it is important to the University.

Hope Mitchell (left) and Devin Koch (right) at the Order of the Knoll on October 4, 2013.

Hope Mitchell (left) and Devin Koch (right) at the Order of the Knoll on October 4, 2013.

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Don’t forget to stop by Preservation Underground to hear the perspective of one of the student workers in the Duke University Libraries Conservation Lab!

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