It was a great honor for the Preservation Lab to be a part of the University of Cincinnati’s farewell photo album for departing President Santa Ono.
The past two years have become an exploration into encapsulated page bindings!
Recently, I found myself faced with a fascinating scrapbook preservation project from the Public Library: the scrapbook of Althea Hurst. I took the opportunity to further research encapsulated bindings made by other institutions to find an existing solution that would fit the needs of the Public Library’s scrapbook.
I didn’t know much about making an encapsulated binding before starting these projects, other than the bindings are usually time consuming and expensive due to the amount of welding and polyester film required.
Being a novice at the traditional encapsulated page binding, I started off with the following criteria in mind:
- Something elegant to house an important object
- Lightweight, protective, yet strong and supportive for large brittle books
- Reversible for displaying pages, future repair, or digitizing parts
I figured, “This will be easy. I’ll take a quick look to learn the structure of a traditional encapsulated binding and be on my way to preserve the attached parts.”
Little did I know, after reading a few articles and surveying a few structures – there isn’t a standard model. There are many variations depending on how an object is used, as well as the condition of an object and format. I was surprised to find that encapsulated bindings can be screw post bound or sewn in a variety of ways!
Here are a few case study examples:
Example #1: Larry Yerkes model, images from the University of Iowa Libraries’ website
This is a full cloth covered binding that doesn’t reveal that it is an encapsulated page binding until you take a closer look inside. I especially like that the pages are supported overall due the setback joint of the cover. Also, the spine is covered, protecting the encapsulated pages from dust.
The drawback to this structure is it might take a little work to remove the case if the object needs to be disbound, thus requiring a new case for rebinding, resulting in an expense of time and resources. However, I found it an overall elegant construction and took note of the protective paper endsheets.
Example #2: Oversized Classics Library Binding, bound by the collaborative Cincinnati Preservation Lab
The Lab’s first encapsulated binding project was to house a brittle oversized text from the University of Cincinnati’s Classics Library after it received in-depth treatment. The first structure we experimented with was a modified full-leather-over-an-exposed-spine binding structure. This structure was taught to the lab’s technicians Veronica Sorcher and Chris Voynovich at a course by Gabrielle Fox. The sewn structure was altered from Gabrielle’s original form by using a cloth covering. The textblock consisted of polyester leaves welded into folios with Hollytex hinges (a new technique I discovered last year – more on this in Part Two). It was sewn with a single pamphlet stitch through each gathering, therefore, should a gathering need to be removed in the future, it could be cut out without disturbing the rest of the binding. I found this solution extremely satisfying. The rounded spine structure complimented the second volume’s split board library binding well. It handled nicely and opened flat – perfect for a paleontology class to flip through while looking at a book of plates.
Example #3: Binding by my predecessor, Kathy Lechuga, bound at the Preservation Lab in Cincinnati.
This is a traditional structure that is elegantly quarter bound with a cloth spine and marbled paper boards. I like that this is a relatively quick structure to construct compared to the University of Iowa model. This design is perfect for a thin group of lightweight paper as shown in the image above. It’s a screw post binding which makes it reversible. Since the spine is uncovered, it can easily expand if additional pages are added later. This structure is reversible and adjustable without the need to construct a new binding.
In the above example, the screw posts are positioned on the inside of the cover. There are no exposed screws on the outside of the book, so books adjacent to the binding on the shelf are not at risk to abrasion. However, compared to the University of Iowa’s version, I noticed that the position of the posts places the cover’s joint at the edge of the spine, rather than set back. This results in pages that are unsupported near the gutter when open.
In the above example, it’s not an issue for the pages to flex near the gutter. I think this is a perfect structure for the needs of this specific object, however, I kept this in mind since flexing at the gutter might be problematic for an oversized heavy scrapbook with brittle pages that are crumbling. To remedy this, the screw posts would need to be situated on the outside of the binding so the cover’s joint would be set back. Unfortunately, some may argue screws on the outside of the binding aren’t quite as elegant.
After reading Henry Hebert’s extremely descriptive article in Archival Products News, I saw a beautiful example of screw posts on the outside of the binding and I really liked how the brittle pages were supported overall. Was there a way to have the best of both worlds?
Example #3: Ohio Book Store, Cincinnati, Ohio
Similar to Kathy’s version, this binding contains a few fancy additions: A reversible cloth spine and an extra flap to cover the screw posts. This flap helps protect the screw posts from rubbing on the inside of the cover, as well as possibly preventing the screws from loosening overtime.
Example #4: University of Michigan Side Sewn Binding
One of the final versions I came across was the side sewn cased-in binding introduced to me by my talented Buffalo State classmate, Aisha Wahab. I loved that the binding was sewn. In a pinch if I was out of screw posts I needn’t worry. But more importantly, this binding is elegant, the spine protected, and perfect for housing thinner books that don’t need the thickness of the aluminum post. The only issue – not as easily reversible as other bindings since the sewing was covered by cloth.
Through my research, I didn’t find a quick fix with a one-size-fits-all structure to meet my needs. Instead, I was able to incorporate some of my favorite elements from each structure and create my own.
See below for a sneak peak of the solution for the Althea Hurst scrapbook.
Before Treatment, housed in acidic “vinyl” sleeves:
The next hurdle to jump:
How do I encapsulate a scrapbook that houses a variety of adhered material, such as pamphlets, postcards, letters, maps, and more, and still make the parts accessible?! See the upcoming Polyester Encapsulated Page Bindings, Part Two.
- Hebert, Henry. “Sleeves and Posts: A Rehousing Option for Scrapbooks.” Archival Products News, Vol. 16, No. 4, (2011).
- Meier-James, Barbara. “Modifications of a Basic Polyester Post Binding.” The Book and Paper Group Annual, The American Institute for Conservation, Volume Two (1983).
Ashleigh Schieszer (PLCH) — Conservator, Conservation Lab Manager
One of the things I love most about working here in the Lab is that’s like the proverbial shark: always moving. We’re constantly learning and growing and trying new things; it’s great! We do, however, reside rather off the beaten path in the library, so it often happens that unless people have to come down for a specific purpose, they never know what we’re up to now.
Enter the annual Open House. You would think that after so many years, it would be pretty rank and file, but we’ve managed to keep the fun. This year, in addition to learning a few new things about the lab’s treatment reports on the UC Libraries’ Digital Collections & Repositories site and the hot stamper bookmarks that everyone has come to know and love, we focused on papermaking, highlighted by the opportunity to pull a piece of their very own. Holly and Catarina walked our guests through the process, to great (and messy) results. People love the opportunity to mix it up and put their hands in things, and I would definitely call it a success. On top of that, our conservator, Ashleigh, displayed an array of different types of paper and plant fibers that are used to make paper, and she demonstrated and discussed the different ways in which we use paper in the lab (mends, pulps fills, etc.). It was such a good time that I’m not sure how we’ll top it next year. No doubt there’ll be something fascinating going on. Stay tuned!
Hyacinth Tucker (UCL) — Binding Processor
This October the Preservation Lab arranged for staff training in photograph conservation with an expert in this specialty to help us address specific needs for the two institutions. The lab hosted a 3-day workshop taught by Photograph Conservator, Tom Edmondson. Lab staff and two other local paper and book conservators attended. We were taught how to identify more than 16 types of historic photographic processes. We learned how to safely preserve and store a variety of formats, including daguerreotypes and lantern slides. Using actual historical photographs as learning opportunities we were taught basic and advanced treatment techniques such as surface cleaning photographs, washing, removing linings, flattening creases, and matting. The technicians have already begun to implement the knowledge gleaned from the workshop in the treatment of some Public Library lantern slides.
For example, with the lantern slide below the losses on the glass were filled with Vivak in order to prevent further damage. Vivak, a clear thermoplastic sheet, was chosen since it is archival, looks similar to glass and is an easy material to cut and shape without losing its structural integrity.
The Vivak was precisely cut and placed onto the missing areas.
To attach the recto and verso of the Vivak fill pieces to each other, a strip of Filmoplast R was used around the edges. Filmoplast R, a cellulose tissue coated with an acid and solvent free heat-activated adhesive, was toned with Golden fluid acrylics to match the original paper strip around the edges of the lantern slide.
To protect the edges of the lantern slide, and to secure the filled areas in place, a strip of Mylar (polyester film) was placed along the edges and secured with a small piece of Filmoplast R.
This project was a great opportunity to learn and work with different materials.
Ashleigh Schieszer (PLCH) — Book and Paper Conservator, Author
Catarina Figueirinhas (UCL) — Sr. Conservation Technician, Author & Photographer
Jessica Ebert (UCL) — Conservation Technician, Photographer
Some small booklets from the 1820s recently came to the Lab to be cleaned and prepared for digitization at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Ashleigh, our Conservator, noticed a couple of them had a small loop of string attached in the upper left hand corner.
Well, the booklets are all copies of “Freeman’s Almanack”. Before the days of smart phone calendars and weather apps, before the days of catching the weather on the radio or TV, people had almanacs. In fact some people still use them today, though these days their scope has expanded and some of them can be many hundreds of pages, depending on the information they contain. Back in the 1800s they usually looked like small magazines. Published yearly, they contained articles and snippets of wit and wisdom the publishers thought their target audience (often farmers) might enjoy. Most important though were the tables, usually organized to represent a calendar month, giving times for sunrise and sunset, astronomical highlights such as eclipses, church festivals, planting dates, and what kind of weather to expect.
So what about the loops?
Well, the almanac would be something a 19th Century family might refer to often, perhaps even daily. Where do you put such a thing in your home so everyone can grab it quickly when they need it? You hang it on a nail of course! How do you do that? You make a little hole in the top left corner of the booklet, you run some string or thread through the hole to make a loop, and you pop the loop over the nail.
Problem (and mystery) solved!
Veronica Sorcher (PLCH) – Conservation Technician
Stack shifts and moves are an inevitability in libraries. Collections change. Spaces change, more often than not becoming too small for the collection(s). And in the end a shift of collections is imminent. For most collections these stack shifts do not require the intervention of a conservation lab. Periodical bindings moving to another floor? It happens all the time and that’s that. But when special collection items are shifted or moved, the Preservation Lab generally plays a part. So when UC’s Archives and Rare Books Library decided to move and shift the bulk of their oversized special collections between stack levels the Lab was contacted to play a part in the prep work.
The plan? To measure and box as many unstable or unwieldy oversized books that will be moving between floors or shifting within narrow, restrictive shelving stacks before the move in April. In order to keep our current workflow of treatments (both general circulating and special collections) for both institutions going, it was decided that a couple of lab staff would measure the books on-site (ARB Library), have corrugated enclosures created through our commercial bindery vendor, and then as the boxes were received the staff would match up the books with the boxes. Three staff members, Holly Prochaska (librarian), Veronica Sorcher (technician), and myself, took on the duty of assessing the books and taking measurements for those we felt could easily hinder the move or be damaged further by handling and moving.
At this point we are about half way through the process. We’ve measured over 750 books for enclosures! We enlisted one of our trusty student assistants to record all the data so that we could send it off to the commercial binder. The first batch of 150 boxes arrived and were matched up with the books earlier this week. And luckily, our error rate was actually very low, even with that first batch where we were still figuring out the kinks of measuring in confined spaces and often dim lighting!
What’s the workflow like? Each person has list of numbers that correspond to the number the binder prints on the inside of the enclosure, per our request. For each number, the staff member records the call number (to be printed on the spine of the box), along with the height, width and thickness of the book. A flag with that number written on it (in pencil, of course) is then placed in the book so that it is visible on the shelf and clearly recognizable when matching the boxes to the books. So far, the process has worked pretty well.
What kinds of things are we prepping for storage and handling? Prime candidates for move-prep housing include…
- Any book previously tied with cotton tying tape, usually to hold a detached/loose board or textblock in place.
- Any book with loose, detached, or protruding parts that could be abraded, damaged further, or lost during the move.
- Any extremely fragile or flimsy books, including extremely oversized, thin bindings or bindings with fragile paper or degraded leather covers.
- The evil monster known as RED ROT!
If you’re interested in seeing more snapshots from our adventures of measuring in ARB, check out the Preservation Lab’s Instagram, here.
Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician
There’s an exciting new Public Library exhibit located in the Popular Library in the Main Library building downtown. It’s titled, Tiny Tomes and includes over 50 small books that are part of the reference library collection. There are a variety of subjects, binding styles, and time periods represented. Topics include sport flip books, lichens & ferns, children’s books, and many more!
This past week, the Preservation Lab assisted with preparing the books for display. Once the layout of the show was established and pages were selected for display, I helped strap bindings with soft polyethylene strapping and showed staff how to use various supports made out of Vivak and archival mat board. These supports were made beforehand in our lab by lab technician, Chris Voynovich. Since we knew the overall size of the books were generally 4 x 6 inches, a variety of general supports were constructed out of lab scraps rather than custom fitting the supports to each book. This greatly expedited the process of making the book cradles.
Out of approximately 40 constructed supports, every single one was put to use! There were V-shaped supports used to hold books open while lying flat, U-shaped supports to lift up books, triangle shaped supports to act as cradles, and other supports to hold books safely upright.
Some books were too fragile to be opened or had more than one page to exhibit. As an alternative to displaying interior pages, some of the books were scanned by Digital Services and surrogates were printed. These images are also available online, located here: http://cdm16998.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16998coll52.
The exhibit runs from Jan 18th to March 13st. While you’re at Main Library, be sure to check out the Smallest Book on exhibit in the Cincinnati Room, located on the 3rd floor!
Ashleigh Ferguson Schieszer (PLCH) – Book and Paper Conservator
One of the treasures I was recently asked to prepare for display was a book called The Smallest Book in the World. The library owns two copies of this book printed by German typographer, Josua Reichert. The book contains typography that was uniquely designed specifically for the binding. Each page contains a CMYK colored alphabet letter in an exquisitely designed font. While not currently the smallest book in the world, it is probably the smallest traditionally printed edition! Read More…
In April the Provost Office awarded the lab funds to purchase paper making equipment through the Third Century Faculty Research Materials Grant. Over the next six months the lab intends to establish a workflow for paper making so that we may begin producing our own archival quality papers for conservation treatments. With the grant monies we purchased a Hollander beater in July, and yesterday the other pivotal piece of equipment arrived, a hydraulic press. The beater masticates fibers, that with water, create a fiber slurry that is poured into a mould. Each mould forms a single sheet of paper that is then pressed to remove the excess water – further bonding the fibers and creating a smooth surface.
More information as we begin our experimentation!
Holly Prochaska (UC) — Preservation Librarian
We have many occasions to use cradles. Including, in the lab while working on delicate materials and for viewing the text of fragile bindings. In an effort to create a new standard for the lab to store with a book, I revisited the construction of a collapsible cradle that fits inside a corrugated clamshell box.
I am intrigued by this integral cradle system for a few important reasons:
- The cradle is custom fit for the individual book’s opening and is stored safely with the book in the corrugated clamshell so it won’t become lost.
- The cradle can be made adjustable to accommodate the book’s special handling needs by adding in additional notches.
- The cradle has a base, making it removable from the box. This enables diversity in placement of the supported book. For example, librarians can remove the cradle from the box for exhibition.
- This system is light, yet durable.
- This system is fast and easy to create.
- This system can be shelved with other books making it easily stored and accessible.
Considering all the cradles I have made so far, this one is by far the easiest and fastest to complete!
For a “one size fits all” solution, check out our blog on Elizabeth’s Rideout’s Collapsible Book Cradle.
It has been fun to explore solutions for this support mechanism to strengthen our arsenal of weaponry in the war of conservation!
Chris Voynovich (PLCH) – Conservation Technician