Old Mother Hubbard Gets a Fancy New Cupboard

Not all books fit neatly on a shelf. Recently the Lab was asked to create enclosures to safely house a number of pop-ups by book artist Paul Johnson . The one I had the privilege of finding a storage solution for was the one-of-a-kind “Old Mother Hubbard in Cincinnati.”

To me this looks more like a castle than a book!


Ashleigh and I discussed it. Even though it’s quite tall we decided it ought to be stored upright because the turret-like spine seemed to want to sag downward when we placed it on its side. We could have tried to create a foam insert to support it but that might have rubbed against the book too much and caused some of the vibrant color to be lost.


The first step was to make a tray the book could sit in. It needed to be something someone could pull out of the outside box without needing to touch the book itself. We added Ethafoam supports in strategic spots, creating a wedge to support the angled base of the turret and bumpers on either side of the tray allowing space for the book to be maneuvered without abrasion but protecting it in case it moves.


Next came the box itself. We decided on tall banker’s box with a drop-down wall so there would be no need to reach in from above. Ethafoam strips on either side of where the book sits keep it from shifting and hitting the box wall but are far enough away that they don’t rub against it. At the rear of the box we placed a block of Ethafoam to brace the gate-like clasp of the book. When it’s in the closed box the book is effectively held in place between this foam block and the wedge under the turret.


Last but not least we created instructions for handling and opening the book. They’re inside the “drawbridge” drop – down flap of the box so anyone who opens it can immediately see how the tray slides out, the best way to remove the book from the tray, and how to open the book for reading.


All the Paul Johnson books are wonderful and I feel absolutely spoiled to have been able to spend so much time with this one. If you’re in town stop by the University of Cincinnati’s Design, Architecture, Art and Planning school’s library and ask to see it!


Veronica Sorcher (PLCH) — Conservation Technician

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