A side benefit of my regrinding and knife sharpening service is that I get to see some interesting antique knives. These August Eickhoff knives are beautifully made, have a wonderful balance, a lovely patina, and given the amount of distal taper (both on the blade and the tang) must have been forged. Eickhoff also made round knives (aka. head knives) for leatherworkers which occasionally show up for sale today. In the late 19th century, Eickhoff was located at 381 Broome St, NYC, making scissors, woodworking tools, and resharpening knives. He served on the NY Board of Education, and advertised his wares in a Teachers College Educational Monograph. It may be time to make a few reproduction Eickhoff knives.
Lee Valley, perhaps the most innovative large woodworking tool company, recently introduced a one ounce cast stainless steel double boiler glue pot, which is perfectly sized for book conservators.
It works great with gelatin in conservation work or with hide glues for historic models. The heavy cast steel double boiler gives a very gentle and even heat. It is based on a Landers, Frary & Clark glue pot from the 1870’s. There is an image of the original, which was cast iron, in Stephen Shepherd’s hide glue book. (1)
The cup-warmer is cheaply made, but it only costs a dollar when purchased with the gluepot. If the interior of the pot was finished a little smoother to make cleaning easier, it would be perfect. A steal at $35.00.
Arthur Green described his investigations using gelatin on the spines of books in the blog post, “Revisiting Animal Glue: Gluing-up with Gelatin” Traditionally bound books used animal glue on the spines, and paste for the covering and paste-downs: there must have been a reason. He tested starch paste and gelatin separately, and primarily for adhesion.
I find the real magic happens when gelatin and paste are used in sequential layers, or mixed together. Dudin, in the 18th century, described the “marriage” that happens between animal glue and paste. (2) A mix gives the book better resistance to torquing than paste alone, makes it feel more solid, and gives a more secure — yet still easily reversible — bond with a Japanese tissue for the first spine lining in conservation work.
- Stephen A. Shepherd. Hide Glue: Historical and Practical Applications (Salt Lake CIty: Full Chisel, 2009)
- R.M. Dudin. The Art of the Bookbinder and Gilder, Trans. by Richard Macintyre Atkinson (Leeds: The Elmete Press, 1977)
The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia
Jeffrey S. Peachey, Independent Book Conservator, New York City
3:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Rare Books and Special Collections
102 Hesburgh Library
University of Notre Dame
South Bend, Indiana
The conservation treatment of the Hesburgh Libraries’ important copy of Dante’s La Commedia (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) will be detailed in this profusely illustrated lecture. Its deteriorated and damaging 20thcentury binding structure will be described, as will considerations and decisions leading to its resewing and rebinding in a historically sympathetic alum tawed goatskin conservation binding. Evidence uncovered during treatment, which suggests the Inferno and Purgatorio cantiche may have circulated separately at one point, will be explored. Differences between historic 15th century binding practices and modern conservation binding techniques will be highlighted, as will the sometimes problematic differences between historic and modern materials. An overview of aesthetic considerations for conservation rebinding will conclude the lecture. Bibliophiles, conservators, librarians, Italian scholars, and anyone curious about the physical structure of books will find this lecture of interest.
All are welcome to attend.
The term “conservation binding” gets thrown around a lot. It certainly sounds different than just rebinding a book. But what does it really mean?
It is unknown who coined the term, and a google ngram search shows its use beginning in the 1960s, and peaking in the 1980s. It wouldn’t surprise me if it actually started in the 1950s in England. The 1980s were the peak of rebinding in book conservation, which resulted in many treatments that we would now consider too invasive. But the ethos then was to treat a book so that it would last 500 years. Of course, the correlation between the use of the term and making a conservation binding is not known.
The trouble is, it doesn’t have any agreed upon meaning, similar to the even more ubiquitous term “archival”. All the usual suspects for bookbinding terminology — Language of Bindings, Carter, Etherington, The Multilingual Bookbinding and Conservation Dictionary — don’t have an entry for conservation binding. In practice, it can simply mean a binding done by a conservator. And anyone can call themselves a conservator. Or it can often mean a reversible layer of paste and Japanese tissue on the spine of a fine binding. Or it can imply the use of durable and modern conversationally accepted materials (i.e. linen, handmade paper, tawed skin) incorporated into a binding, with minimal attention paid to decoration and finishing.
So here is my first stab at a definition:
A conservation binding is a rebinding that is structurally similar and aesthetically sympathetic to the time the text was printed. It is durable, easily reversible, non-damaging and alters the original binding materials as little as possible. It does not fool someone into thinking it is an original binding, though it is harmonious with actual historic bindings.
Mark Anderson, Furniture Conservator at the WInterthur/ University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, is fixing up a copy press for their Book Conservation Lab. At first glance, it is a large but typical press, though with a nice hand-wheel with spokes extending beyond the rim, useful for extra leverage or pretending to be a captain steering a ship.
Copy press usually have a steep thread pitch, which is great to move up and down rapidly, but they generate a lot of friction when tightening, therefore can’t generate as much pressure as a real book press. This is compounded by a common tendency of not attaching them to the bench. There is a reason almost all presses — like the one below — have four holes cast into the base, in order to screw into the bench! I guess that by having to hold a press with one hand, and tighten it with the other, the total compressional force is reduced by 25% or more.
Once Mark took apart the press to clean it, he noticed an unusual aspect: the central screw had two different screw pitches and diameters on it. Apparently the finer thread is internally threaded into the larger one, though it is currently frozen.
A similar style of screw is mentioned in the 1843 Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine. There may be earlier examples. Even today, external threads are sometimes referred to as male, and internal threads as female. In a surprisingly contemporary note, the writer in 1843 recommends that this coarse language should be abolished.
Although Mark’s example is inoperable at the moment, presumably the larger external coarse thread raises and lowers the platen quickly, and at the same time the internal thread moves more slowly, due to the finer pitch. But when the press firmly tightened, the smaller internal thread kicks in to apply more pressure. Fast operation and lots of pressure would be ideal for a copy or book press.
For this to work, the finer thread needs to be affixed to the platen, as in the image from The Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine. In the press Mark is working on, it looks like it spins in the top of the platen, like most copy presses. An alternative explanation might be that the finer threads were left over from a different project, or cut wrong? But if this mechanism works as advertised, why wasn’t this a more popular mechanism for copy and book presses? Hopefully he can get the screw unfrozen and we can find out.
I introduced the Superstrop about eight months ago, and have been using this one for over a year without having to recharge the substrate, which is a .1 micron Poly Crystalline Diamond spray. And last month, seven students used it to make a total of 24 leather bindings. So I’m guessing one application of the diamond compound, which comes with a new strop, will last at least a number of years under normal use. The substrate itself is more durable than leather. It holds the small diamond particles in place, allows them to move around a little to expose sharp edges, and doesn’t glaze over.The small knife at the top right is a prototype paper conservation scraping knife. Get the Superstrop here