Drop Spine Cradle Boxes

Nine years ago I designed a new style of cradle box, and it is rewarding to see the idea picked up by others. Below is recent one I made is for this stunning early 20th century French fine binding.  The cradle also supports the slip-case chemise which is quite fragile. The slipcase itself is missing, or maybe it never had one.

French fine binding in a cradle box. Private Collection.

Some other examples from around the web:

A variant from Trinity College, Dublin.

Rehousing a fragile book of engravings at Princeton University.

Display and storage for an artist book from Karen Apps.

Three different types of cradle boxes on the AIC book conservation wiki.

A simpler version made out of folding board.

A group conservation project from Duke University, with some construction details. 




Box Making Weights

box weights

Jeff Altepeter, the other bookbinder named Jeff that is obsessed professionally interested in bookbinding tools, is the Bookbinding Department Head at North Bennet Street School. Recently he has begun manufacturing box making weights, often referred to as “L” weights, though it seems angle weights would be more descriptive. Whatever you call them, they are really, really nice. Not only do they speed production and increase accurate corner wall miters — so there is less sanding — but because of their clamping pressure you end up with a stronger join.

Jeff explains that  “Tini Miura turned us onto the design [calling them “L” weights] years ago at the American Academy of Bookbinding and they used to be sold by Lucinda Carr of Jumping Bird/ Mesa Canyon Studios. When she lost interest in manufacturing them, I picked it up because my students here at NBSS fight over the sets I have in the classroom. They are useful when building the walls of boxes, measuring for boxes, and as nice single hand weights at about 7 pounds each.”

These are solid steel, precision machined on the inner faces and zinc plated. They are 2 inches square on the short ends, 4 inches on the long ones. Current cost is $160.00 for a set of two plus $25 shipping in the US. Up to two sets can ship at this price. Larger orders ship at cost.

Contact Jeff Altepeter to purchase:  jaltepet <AT> gmail <DOT> com

Cooked Books

In preparation for an upcoming lecture on book boxes (May 23, 2013, 6:30) and workshop on drop spine cradle boxes (May 24-25, 2013) at Columbia College in Chicago, I’ve run across some crazy ideas on how to protect a book.  The housing system below is noteworthy. Over 200 books at an NYC Institution were treated this way.

Crazy Housing

The outer shell is an acidic marbled paper and a laser printed paper label.  As you can see, it is difficult to unwrap the book without tearing the deteriorated paper. The laser printed label seems to date this treatment after the early 1990’s. Is it my imagination, an accident, or did the person who wrapped this book take extreme care to try and match the marbled patterns at the join of the paper?

Crazy Housing

The next layer is the big surprise: aluminum foil. At the moment, I can only think of one reason for wrapping a book in foil, to prepare it for baking. I’m not sure what the Interactions between the aluminum and leather might be, but the mechanical problems are quite apparent, since the extra aluminum is rolled up and pushed onto the head and tail of the text block causing uneven stresses when the book is shelved upright. Again, it is unwieldy to unwrap.

Crazy Housing 3

These books were also given an marinade of potassium lactate according to the treatment records. I think this must have caused some of the blackening and changes to the surface texture of the leather—they do look a little like they have been baked. Potassium lactate is used as an antimicrobial preservative in Hot Dogs.

Putting potassium lactate on leather books is a very bad idea, though. Even though it is discussed in some older book restoration manuals, it has been discontinued because of the damage it can cause. Tom Conroy (in the first comment) dates this treatment to 1984. At least one conservation vendor in the US still sells it, though.

The best way to preserve leather bindings is to put nothing on them. If there is already red rot, you should consult with a book conservator. Pass the ketchup.

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