Category Archives: conservation

Nicholas Pickwoad’s lecture “Unfinished Business: Incomplete Bindings made for the Booktrade from the 15th to the 19th Centuries”

Dr. Nicholas Pickwoad presented an informative lecture last night at The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.  This was the final venue of a three stop North American tour. Pickwoad is director of Ligatus Research Centre, University of Arts London. He has a doctorate in English Literature from Oxford University. He trained with Roger Powell, and ran his own workshop from 1977 to 1989. He has been Adviser on book conservation to the National Trust of Great Britain from 1978, and was Editor of the Paper Conservator. He taught book conservation at Columbia University Library School in New York from 1989 to 1992 and was Chief Conservator in the Harvard University Library from 1992 to 1995. He has published widely on book history and conservation.

Pickwoad’s thesis—and he took pains to make it clear he is far from certitude at this point—is that there is a previously unrecorded class of books, which he terms incomplete bindings. He noted that he has seen more than 130 of these types of books, which he feels is more than just an accident. This lecture was intended as a challenge, both to refute his thesis and stimulate awareness in these structures, hopefully discovering more of them.

Temporary bindings are different from incomplete bindings if they are sewn in a way that could later be covered. For example, a a tacketed sewing structure would not be covered in leather, but all along sewing on double cords most certainly could be. These unfinished bindings, which seem to start around the time of the invention of printing, seem to morph appealingly into the late 18th century paper covered boarded bindings.

Pickwoad presented numerous images of books that had never been finished, as well as visual evidence from paintings, and some tantalizingly cryptic entries in bookbinder price lists.  An example of this type of binding, in this case from the early 16th century, can be found in Fine and Historic Bookbindings from the Folger Shakespeare Library on page 33.[1] The authors of the catalog consider this to be a temporary binding: Pickwoad, however, interprets the thongs as being meant to be laced into a wooden board structure without needing to be resewn, hence an incomplete binding.

These books fit into a continuum of how books could be purchased.  A traditional, but inaccurate view is that books from the handpress era were printed, then the purchaser would direct the binder or bookseller to bind them. The actual situation seems more complex, with books available in various forms for different price points, at various times in history. Books could be sold in sheets, in temporary bindings [2], sewn, sewn with boards, and bound. [3]

Pickwoad has tentatively identified two main styles of incomplete bindings: sewn, and sewn with boards. The sewn binding is basically a sewn text block as it would have left the binder’s frame, uncut or sometimes trimmed. He considers whip stiching on the sewing cord ends to prevent unraveling a key aspect to identify an incomplete binding: it seems to point to intentionally stopping the binding process at a certain point.  A sewn with boards style has also been identified, some that were trimmed, edge colored, and sewn with primary end bands, and with the supports were laced into boards.  There are many variations of both of these.

Many questions remain. It is unclear if these books were actually sold as unfinished though some of the binder price lists suggest this.[4] Is it possible, as Pickwoad suggested, they were done so to save on transport costs or to escape taxation imposed on bound books?  Out of the many hundreds of thousands of books, can a few hundred be considered a statistically significant sample? Could these bindings remain unfinished due to accident or neglect? A key, possibly unknowable point seems to be if were intentionally sold as unfinished. I would also consider if it were properly beaten a key aspect in differentiating these from more temporary structures.

Some of these incomplete bindings were later covered: this can create a complex situation of a book partially bound by one workshop and finished, possibly at a much later date and possibly in another country by a different bookbinding workshop.  Thinking about these complexities obviously delighted Pickwoad, who seems hopeful one day this vast array of information can be put into a meaningful and accurate construct.

*******************

1.  Frederick Bearman, Nati H. Krivatsy and J. Franklin Mowery, Fine and Historic Bookbindings (Washington, D.C: The Folger Shakespeare Library/ Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992), 32-33.

2. Would temporary bindings have been more or less expensive than these incomplete structures? The term “temporary bindings” is an imprecise term that generally refers to a wide variety of structures: vellum wrappers, publisher’s printed paper bindings, the french broche, and others. Bibliophiles often considered case bindings temporary well into the 20th century.

3. Obviously bound books often are be made to a number of different price points, from a simple trade calf, to an elaborately tooled morocco in 18th century France, for example.

4. Mirjam M. Foot, “Some bookbinders’ price lists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries” in De Libris Compactis Miscellanea, ed. Collegit G. Colin (Bruxelles: Bibliotheca Wittockiana, 1984) Foot discusses the complexities of these in this lengthy 45 page article.

Conservation of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation: Results of a Survey and Treatments

A paper copy of Setbacks, Vol. 3., No. 1., 1990. Oddly, this paper volume is easily accessible in my library, while the more recent, online digital only version is difficult, if not impossible to find.  All three early volumes are indispensable.

I originally published the article linked to below in “Recent Setbacks in Conservation Online” in 2004.  In the intervening years, many of the problems discussed are, regrettably, as yet unresolved. Sadly, Setbacks Online seems inactive and inaccessible. Please be aware that the conservation techniques mentioned in this article are possibly somewhat dated, and are presented for historical and informational purposes only, and the author takes no responsibility for their efficacy or lack thereof. Caveat Conservator!

.
.
.
.

From the Hand to the Machine. Nineteenth-century American Paper and Mediums: Technologies, Materials and Conservation

I wrote a review of Cathleen A. Baker’s new book, “From the Hand to the Machine.  Nineteenth-century American paper and mediums: technologies, materials, and conservation”  in the current issue of  The Bonefolder, Vol. 7, 2011.

Here’s the beginning-

Until recently, I would have assumed that the readers of these words were reading them on paper. But the primacy of paper as the carrier of textually based information is gradually ending, and the words I am writing will likely be read on screens or other non-paper inventions. There seems, however, an inversely proportional relationship in the ways we regard paper itself: the less we look at what is on it, the more we look at paper itself: its substance, structure, tactile qualities and history. Cathleen A. Baker’s book explores in detail the technological artifact that once served quietly as substrate, and now emerges as subject– paper.

Baker has ventured into the enormously difficult and confusing world of 19th century papermaking history, and returned to give us a book that is important, readable, scholarly…” Read the rest of the review.

Challenges To The Online Access of Conservation Literature

Please welcome Guest Blogger Peter D. Verheyen.  There was recently a lively  thread on the CIPP (Conservators in Private Practice) listserve, which is a specialty group of AIC (American Institute of Conservation), and Peter agreed to expand on some of his views into the post below.  He ends this post with a challenge to all of us to become more proactive in securing open access for our professional publications.

Challenges to the online access of conservation literature

By Peter D. Verheyen

BIO

Peter D. Verheyen is a book conservator by training and currently Head of Preservation at Syracuse University Library where he also is part of efforts to use digitization as a preservation tool in addition to working to preserve the digital. He has published, is publisher of an “open access” e-journal, retains the rights to his work, and shares it freely on general principle. < http://www.philobiblon.com > & < http://library.syr.edu/about/people/staffbio/Verheyen_Peter.php >.

The past week or so has seen lively discussion on the Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP, a part of AIC) listserv, about how the research needs of conservators, especially those in private practice can be met. This is an area of concern becauseit is critical to keep abreast of trends and new developments, as is understanding the history of an object. While we can gain access to some of the literature as members of scholarly societies, one cannot be a member of all, nor be completely aware where research is being published. There are just too many diverse sources. The digital age has made finding things much easier, and more frustrating in the sense that we are now coming across articles but not able to gain access.

 

Given that one cannot reasonably afford or be expected to have access to all sources of professional and related information, libraries (and the resources they provide) are critical. Depending on the scope of the library, they may have the resources available on the shelf in print, as electronic, or be able to provide access via inter-library loan. While it is nice to think that all, regardless of location can have access at no expense, this does not reflect the realities. Jstor < http://www.jstor.org/ >, Artstor < http://www.artstor.org >, and dissertations [available through Proquest < http://www.proquest.com/en-US/products/dissertations/ >]… were all mentioned as being essential resources in the CIPP discussion. These kinds of resources are VERY expensive to provide, and as a result of declining budgets and increased costs, libraries have been forced to cut back. I write this as a librarian working in an academic research library that subscribes to Jstor $35,000 and Proquest dissertations/theses at $27,851. Our total budget for e-resources is over $1,000,000… and this does not keep pace with increases in costs. The costs of these resources, especially serials, is something that has been oft discussed in the library literature with articles such as < http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6651248.html >, < http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-science-journal-crisis >, and < http://www.arl.org/sc/marketplace/journals/ >.

 

One of the issues with many of the journals in Jstor and Artstor is that they often bundled with lots of other journal titles saving costs, but making it difficult to pick and choose titles. Subscribing to packages via Elsevier, Springer, … is even more expensive. Publishers heavily restrict who can access the packages, often limiting concurrent users to the packages. In real terms this means that only affiliated users logging in from campus or at the library may have online access. Even then access to particular titles may not be available. This can be because the title is too recent (Jstor has a “moving wall” of on average 5 years before a title is available online to protect publishers), or that title in not available as part of the package. Even AIC has a 5-year moving wall on its website, even for members. In other cases, titles for some journals published by scholarly societies might not be available other than in print. This is especially true for the humanities.

 

While working in a research library has its advantages, it does not solve all challenges of access. There may be options, evenif not affiliated with a research library. Joining a “friends” group can give one borrowing privileges and perhaps access to selected databases and inter-library loan (ILL). Likewise some libraries may also allow one to purchase access to other resources beyond that. While it is worth asking AIC to pursue providing access to titles, I fear that trying to corral and pay for the breadth of resources desired would be very costly and complex. Calls for assistance with research would effectively require at least one full-time research librarian position with access to the collections AND the ability to share that research. Even with grant support, it would invariably need to be fee-for-service to be sustainable.

 

When Jeff asked me to expand on my posting to the CIPP list I used an article he recently posted in ICON’s Journal of the Institute of Conservation, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2010 as an example. Jeff has the abstract of the article at < http://jeffpeachey.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/the-use-of-parchment-to-reinforce-split-wooden-bookboards/ >. Logging into the publisher’s (Francis and Taylor offers it electronically for ICON) website it showed that Syracuse provided access to some of the titles they offer, just not this one. The option to buy an e-version directly was not available… Ordering a print copy of the issue from the publisher would cost $228. Jeff cannot really share the article himself because of the restrictions incurred when he signed away his rights to the article for it to be published in the journal, a common practice that the AIC Journal also demands.

 

This brings us to the next topic… The “rights” (copyright) issue is a complex one, and authors often give away their copyright to their research and other work in order to get published… Then, their institutions (in most cases) have to buy back the output of that work, often created “on the clock,” at very steep prices through those journal subscriptions… Where one publishes can be dictated by tenure requirements (the more prestigious the journal the better), subject matter, intended audience, and any number of other variables…

 

In the case of Jeff’s article,

 

“It is a condition of publication that authors assign copyright or license the publication rights in their articles, including abstracts, to ICON, The Institute of Conservation. This enables us to ensure full copyright protection and to disseminate the article, and of course the Journal, to the widest possible readership in print and electronic formats as appropriate.  Authors retain many other rights under the Taylor and Francis policies, which can be found at < http://www.informaworld.com/authors_journals_copyright_position >. In addition, authors are themselves responsible for obtaining permission to reproduce copyright materials from other sources.”

 

AIC’s policy is at < http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewpage&pageid=586 >. In contrast to ICON, AIC provides free access online. Some organizations do, others do not seeing it as benefit of membership. These policies are regardless of whether the publication is print only, a hybrid, or “e” only. They will also dictate how the articles can be shared, whether authors can deposit them in repositories (see below), share via their websites, and much, much more… The fine print is required reading.

 

In effect, institutions are paying twice for the research and scholarly output of their faculty and staff – once as they pay for their salaries and provide resources to do research, and then again to pay for the outcomes of that research through subscriptions to journals without retaining any of the rights.

 

There is a way out of this, but that requires work and a very long, patient view. That way is “open access” (online) publication. E-Conservation at < http://www.e-conservationline.com/ > would be an example in our field that I know of. So is the Distlist/CoOL. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ at < http://www.doaj.org >) has listings of thousands of journals in all disciplines that are “open access.” Open Access does not imply “public domain” with the authors giving away their copyright, but it does mean that the publications can be freely accessed, shared, and the research built upon. Many are peer-reviewed, just like those exclusive print journals or the AIC Journal and the peers are sometimes even the same as for the exclusive print journals. For more information see , < http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=loadTempl&templ=about > or Peter Suber’s overview at < http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm >.

 

If we as authors don’t want to start our own “open access” publications – doesn’t always cost money, just tons of sweat equity, but also very rewarding from my own experience with The Bonefolder < http://www.philobiblon.com/bonefolder > – we can choose to publish or work via our own websites or “institutional repositories” (IRs) to those working in academia. Here at Syracuse where I work, we recently launched our IR < http://surface.syr.edu/>. I plan to use it for departmental (Department of Preservation and Conservation, Library) manuals, project descriptions, proposals, presentations. This is in addition to using it for my own articles. Individuals can also set up free accounts via SelectedWorks, also hosted by the Berkeley Electronic Press (BePress), with my output at < http://works.bepress.com/peter_verheyen/ >. The advantage of these over sites like Google Docs or one’s own domain is that they work to create and maintain a digital preservation environment in which the documents are more likely to persist over time, important for citations. They also make sure the content is well indexed and rises to the top of Google searches.

 

There are benefits and drawbacks to all publication methodologies. For professionals, the most important is acknowledging that peer-review is essential for vetting research, treatment reports and the like. It can also be critical for professional advancement, especially for those working in “faculty-like” environments. However, as authors we need to be more assertive in retaining our intellectual property rights to our research so as to allow their work to be shared more widely. For example, this could include agreeing to a 6 month “embargo” period during which the publishers have exclusive rights to share the work, but after which authors are allowed to work with the material as they feel appropriate, including republication. The language of agreements is also important because most often restricted is the final published version of an article, with the author able to share the preprint version. Reading the fine print is critical.

 

We can lament the lack of accessibility to professional research, but in doing so must acknowledge our collective role, beginning with signing away our rights, in perpetuating the publication models that can severely limit that access to our peers. What needs to develop is a balanced approach that acknowledges the role scholarly societies play in facilitating research with the rights of the authors and the need for that research to be available. The US National Institutes of Health as taken a lead in that by mandating that any research receiving funding be available “open access” and posts it’s policy online at < http://publicaccess.nih.gov/ >. While not conservation related, it is serving as a model for other disciplines and repositories, especially moving forward because it will be difficult, if not impossible to open up those materials now “owned” by the scholarly societies and publishers unless they themselves agree. Libraries will follow their leads and restrictions, and cannot break their contractual obligations. They can however facilitate the creation of institutional or discipline specific repositories.

What I have attempted to do is outline some of the issues related to being able to access “the literature,” something that is only becoming more complex as society’s and publisher’s business models change, the technology of publishing changes, and user’s expectations rise. In pursuing elusive references we will need to become increasing nimble and self-reliant in that we build the costs of access into our business models or budget for them with our institutions should we not have access already.

 

Email: verheyen(at)philobiblon(dot)com

Hera

Hera are Japanese bamboo spatulas.  There  can be made in a wide variety of sizes for numerous purposes; lifting, stirring, folding, smoothing, mechanical removal of backing material, marking for wet tearing, etc….  They are typically owner made, and can easily be customized with a knife or chisel– ie. making the blade slightly more flexible (by thinning) or less flexible (by shortening), making it smaller to fit a specific purpose, and making it sharper or duller.  In fact, since the edge is very delicate, it is almost necessary that the owner be able to repair or reshape them.  Recently, I became interested in them thanks to Robert Minte, conservator at the Bodeleian Library in Oxford, UK, who showed me some examples he made when he was studying scroll mounting in Japan.

Fig. I.  Examples of several hera I have made.

.

 

 

Fig. II.  Close up of a single hera, showing the flexible curved blade, transition from the handle, and the typical placement of a growth node near the end of the handle, on the right.

 

Hera are quite easy to make and another useful tool in a conservators arsenal. Small, thin ones as pictured above are useful for backing removal. I’ve even used some stout ones for lifting weak, deteriorated book cloth. Some conservators find them useful when removing pressure sensitive tape.  Thicker pieces, with more of a knife shape, after soaking in water, are an effective tool for wet tearing, since they slightly abrade the tissue as well as wetting it. The strength, flexibility, and smoothness of bamboo is unique among materials.  They are also very fun and highly addictive to make.

Bamboo.  I found some bamboo at a local hardware store/ garden center.  Larger diameter bamboo permits making a wider tool- a 3 inch diameter piece yields about a maximum .5 inch wide tool. There are over 1200 kinds of bamboo, but traditionally the best for hera is susu dake, or soot bamboo, which is very hard.  According to Thompson, “Soot bamboo is so called because it was reclaimed from the roof beams of old Japanese houses.  Other bamboos are perfectly acceptable but the slower grown (the hearly growth nodes should be as close together as possible) will produce more durable tools as the structure of the wood is more compact.” (1)

I cut the bamboo to the desired length with a coping saw.  It is best to cut the pieces longer than required, then adjust the length after preliminary shaping.  After cutting to length, it is easy to split into desired widths with chisel, then to pare them into rough square of rectangular shapes.

Fig. III. Splitting the bamboo with a chisel.

Working on a small block of wood to protect one’s work surface, the chisel was then used to square up the sides to the desired width, clean off any of the thin, soft inner lining of the bamboo, and smooth any rough corners.  Mainly the soft interior of the bamboo is shaped– the cutting edge (the outside of the tool) is the outside of the bamboo.

To shape the blade, I found it easiest to clamp the handle of the tool and working with the bevel of the chisel, gradually shape a graceful transition.  Bamboo is very easy to split and shape.

 

Fig. IV. Shaping the blade

Once the blade is at the desired thickness, it can be chopped to length with a quick chisel blow.  At this point the bamboo is fairly brittle (2) so it is safest to continue to shape and refine the edge with sandpaper or scrape it.  Caution: as it gets thinner, it can get sharp enough to easily puncture flesh. A progression of 150 US grit followed by 400 US grit worked well for the initial shaping.  Final polishing consisted of a using 3M Tri-M-Ite  polishing paper of 1200 then 6000 grit.  A thin coat of Renaissance wax gave it a nice look and  feel.

(1) Thompson, Andrew.  ‘Japanese tools for conservation’ in The Paper Conservator, Vol. 30, 2006. (Pp. 65-72)  There is a picture of a variety of sizes and shapes of hera in the article.

(2) In fact, it occurred to me that bamboo is much like the structure of a Japanese chisel– there is an extremely hard cutting edge (the outside of the bamboo), supported by a softer backing material (the inner pith) that adds flexibility and strength.

wooden board workshop at the Huntington

This fall, November 8-12, 2010, I will be teaching an intensive five day master class at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.  This will be the first time I’ve taught this class, and hopefully it will be a great introduction to woodworking and the conservation of wood board books.  I’m really excited about it and think it will be a lot of fun, as well as a lot of learning. The workshop fee is a very modest $650, and I’m estimating about $150 for materials and some basic woodworking tools.  Please contact Justin Johnson ( jjohnson (at) huntington (dot) org) for an application, or if you have questions, please contact me.

WOODEN BOOK BOARDS: THEIR CONSERVATION, HISTORIC CONSTRUCTION AND THE PRAXIS OF WORKING WOOD.

This five day master class will focus on the fundamentals of wooden book boards: the basics of using hand tools to shape wood accurately, easily and efficiently; the making a sample set of wood to identify common historic varieties; the examining of historic techniques of shaping wood; and the making a sample set of common treatments for split boards. Choosing, tuning, using, sharpening and maintaining woodworking tools will also be taught. Exploring some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for conservation treatments will also be covered. Participants are encouraged to bring documentation concerning specific split board treatment problems for class discussion. No previous woodworking experience is necessary.

Bio: Jeffrey S. Peachey is the owner of a New York City-based studio for the conservation of books and the inventor of conservation tools and machines. He is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation. For more than 20 years, he has specialized in the conservation of books and paper artifacts for institutions and individuals.

GOALS OF THE WORKSHOP

  1. Learn how to evaluate, use and maintain basic hand wood working tools.
  2. Construct a sample set of reference wood commonly encountered in historic book boards.
  3. Construct a specialized jig to plane thin wood boards.
  4. Reproduce historic board shapes, channels, tunnels, chamfering and learn to recognize the tools used to make them.
  5. Construct samples of currently used techniques to repair split and splitting boards, and discuss their applicability in various real world situations.
  6. Make one sample board from a log, by hand, to understand the historic hand technologies– using a maul, froe, and broad axe.
  7. Begin to appreciate some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for real world books.
  8. Discuss in depth the results of a recent article by Alexis Hagadorn and  Jeffrey S. Peachey  “The use of parchment to reinforce split wooden bookboards, with preliminary observations into the effects of RH cycling on these repairs” Journal of the Institute of Conservation, Volume 33, Issue 1 March 2010 (pp 41 – 63)
  9. Consider storage, housing and display issues unique to wooden board bindings.
  10. Discuss specific potential treatment options from examples that participants supply.

The registration fee for this 5-day workshop is $650.00. Other costs apply. Class size is limited to 10. For more information and to apply contact Justin Johnson at jjohnson (at) huntington (dot) org.

Free X-Ray Magnification Fluoroscopy Offer

Last week I attended the Atlantic Design and Manufacturing Show at the Javits Center in NYC.  There are similar shows around the country, and if you are interested in cutting edge technology that may have possible applications to conservation, they are well worth attending.

I noticed a couple of interesting items; super-fast absorbent sponges designed for Ophthalmic applications, sub $200 ( 10-70x) USB microscopes, and a very cool, open source 3d printer for less than $1000.  Three dimensional printers can print virtually anything, in this case up to  100 x 100 x 100mm out of ABS, HDPE or PLA plastic.

But perhaps the most useful offer came from Gil Zweig, President of Glenbrook Technologies Inc. He has invented a patented, real time, MXRA x-ray machine with magnification up to 20x.  If you have a bit of money left over in your budget, he sells a desktop machine for about $39,000.  Or you can rent lab time for $250/ hr in his Randolph NJ location.  He is primarily marketing his services for medical, industrial and forensic applications, but seemed interested in expanding his market to conservators, and offered a free hour on the machine if you have an artifact than needs x-rayed.