The Conservation lab at Reyniers recently hosted a week-long workshop with Jeff Peachey on the Conservation of Leather Bookbindings, organized by Liz Dube and supported by the American Institute for Conservation. You may remember Jeff from his 2018 presentation in Rare Books and Special Collections on his treatment of Dante’s La Commedia, from 1477.
Seven conservators took part in the workshop, in addition to our conservation staff at Reyniers. The hands-on, intensive workshop covered treatment decision-making, various repair techniques, leather working skills, and tool sharpening. Our group took time out to visit RBSC to view the 1477 Dante up close with Jeff and enjoy the exhibits on display. Thanks to Julie Tanaka for hosting our group.
The workshop provided the rare opportunity to learn, practice, and share with colleagues from other institutions. It was a lot of fun! We are grateful to Jeff, and to our colleagues who were able to make it to campus and stay focused during such a challenging week. Special thanks to Tosha McComb, Neil Chase, and Kathy Colbert for their flexibility and support during the workshop.
I’ll be teaching this week long workshop for at Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, March 9-13, 2020. The workshop will be devoted to a wide variety of contemporary book conservation techniques to deal detached boards, arguably the most common place books fail. There was much lively and informative discussion when I taught this two years ago at Emory University, and plenty of demonstrations and hands-on work time. The workshop details forty-six methods — although many are combined in practice — organized into five basic groups.
In this week-long intensive workshop, students will be introduced to a wide variety of current techniques used to conserve leather bookbindings. Book conservators, technicians, and bookbinders who wish to learn, expand, refresh their treatment skills are all welcome. Previous bookbinding or conservation experience is required.
Detached boards are the most common place leather bookbindings fail, and all five of the primary methods of treating this will be taught: mechanical sewing extensions and tacketing, inner hinge repairs, outer hinge repairs, interior-board repairs (both splitting and slotting), and several styles of rebacking. Many treatments involve a combination of these techniques. Questions concerning methods of consolidating older leather, the archival qualities of modern leather, and leather dyes will be discussed. A variety of methods to pare, consolidate, and lift leather will be introduced. Since a sharp knife is crucial to success in leather work, sharpening and easy ways to maintain a sharp edge will also be taught.
Participants should bring six to eight non-valuable leather bound books to practice on. It would be best to have a mix of tightback and books with hollows, and avoid case bound books. Skills to be learned include leather paring with a knife and paring machine, how various tools and machines for leather paring including a modified 151 spokeshave, and how to choose an appropriate lifting knife or tool for the task at hand.
There will be individual consultations with students before the workshop to discuss potential treatments for their chosen books, and determine if extra materials or tools might be required. Decision making based on the actual books brought to the class will be foundational.
The primary goal of this workshop is to equip participants with a more nuanced understanding of the pros and cons of currently practiced leather conservation techniques, gain supervised experience while performing them, and feedback when they are completed.