For some of us here at the Lab it’s not enough to work with books all day, we even work with them in our spare time!
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County collaborates with the Cincinnati Book Arts Society every year to put on Bookworks, an exhibit celebrating the work of book artists. We’re thrilled that four staff members (we’ll always think of Pat as staff, no matter how long he’s retired!) have pieces in Bookworks XVI .
Pat Schmude’s leather-bound “Zombies,” made with techniques learned from bookbinder and conservator Jeff Peachey during a 2013 workshop at the Lab on Eigteenth-Century French Bookbinding.“The Red Door” is a piece Pat worked on over many years, adding a detail here and there when the inspiration came to him. All of us at the Lab fell in love with it. Don’t you just want to walk through that door and see what new world it takes you to?
Jessica Ebert’s “Curiosities Behind Glass” shows off the carousel form we learned during our December “fun day” to great effect.
Ashleigh’s “Study of Impermanence of Early Contact Printing Photography” is research and binding skill rolled into one!She also saved neat old spine linings she had to remove during treatments over her years as a student worker and turned them into a nifty and whimsical documentary for “Spines.”
My own wee accordion book, “Wholehearted” uses techniques I learned for toning paper for treatments.
If you’re in the area check out the show in the Atrium at the Public Library’s Main Branch. It’s up from June 10th to September 6th, 2015.
Veronica Sorcher (PLCH) — Conservation Technician
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of handling special collection materials, you may have noticed that some books stand the test of time better than others.
In particular, why is it that some older leather books that date to the 15th century still function well, while other leather covered books from the 1700’s and 1800’s fall apart and turn to powder in our hands?
The reason is twofold. Books made in the Carolingian, Romanesque and Gothic periods were highly engineered luxury items that were made with high quality materials. Later, as books become more of a household commodity, quality was sacrificed to meet rising production needs, leading to books being made cheaply with poor quality materials. The common degradation we find in 18th and 19th century tightback leather bindings is a direct result of poor construction combined with the use of poor quality materials.
What exactly is causing this later leather to degrade? There are many reasons such as environmental factors, but two of the most common condition issues are caused by the type of animal skin used, and the materials used to tan the leather.
For example, sheepskin leather exhibits characteristic degradation of shearing away in layers while calfskin does not. This is essentially because sheep have a thicker undercoat of fur. The roots of the sheep’s undercoat grow in-between the lower corium and upper grain layers of the skin, and after the hair is removed during the tanning process, a microscopic void is left between the layers of skin. As a result, the leather becomes vulnerable to delamination overtime (see photo below).
I love to design and make things work! Recently I have had the opportunity to kick around a new contraption for displaying or otherwise supporting books, the collapsible book cradle.
These guys are handy for keeping a book stable for viewing which greatly reduces the wear and tear on the object through excessive handling. The cradle is also useful as a support for a book in delicate condition for the conservator or tech to perform repairs.
This particular cradle design also has the feature to collapse to a book like shape which can be stored on the book shelf next to the other books when not in use. Thus the name “The collapsible book cradle”.
Since creating one from a web blog by Elissa Campbell, I have made one for a miniature book (it’s so cute!) and several to distribute to various departments. I’ve just finished one for an oversize book that was just treated in the lab for the UCL’s Classics Library.
In about 2 weeks I am going to be holding a workshop to make the cradles here at the lab. I think these are a great versatile tool easy to make and easy to store when not in use.
Chris Voynovich (PLCH) — Conservation Technician
If there’s one thing we really love, it’s sharing what we know with others. And one of the beauties of being in an academic setting is that opportunities to share sometimes fall right into our laps! We got a chance to play host to two classes of students from the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, who came to learn creative ways to present their work when they went out to hunt for jobs.
The one-hour sessions were packed with information and examples of staff work, from the simple to the sublime; in order to illustrate both what was possible at home with a few tools, and much more advanced projects to aspire to. The students were intrigued with what was presented to them, and asked thoughtful questions. They even promised to show us some of their work! (We have, as of this writing, already received our first image, and it is beautiful indeed.) We’re so glad they came; it’s always a pleasure!
Hyacinth Tucker (UCL) —- Binding Processor
Several times a semester UCL’s Reference and Instructional Services department hosts 1st Fridays @4, a fun activity (with food!) that engages and educates students/patrons. When Pam Bach, the lead coordinator of 1st Fridays, asked the Preservation Lab if we would be interested instructing a simple, fun bookbinding workshop we jumped on the opportunity. Being in the basement of the library can be a bit isolating, so any chance we get to interact with the students and patrons is very appealing to us. We decided to show the participants how to make an adhesive-bound miniature book with a paper case. We chose this because it would be easy for people new to bookbinding to construct, we had all the supplies we needed to prep for the workshop, and we already had a little experience prepping and teaching the structure since we made these cute little books during our student and volunteer fun day in November.
Every once in a while a library receives a new book that needs a little something special. Sometimes it’s a pocket to hold an enclosed map or other added material, sometimes it’s a special box or enclosure, or sometimes it’s an extra page that needs to be tipped in. Recently the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County received 20 copies of the book, “S” by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. It’s unusual and highly visual, filled with things like postcards and news clippings, 22 in all, stuck in at different points as if someone had been reading it and had absent-mindedly left their impromptu bookmark between the pages. None of these ephemeral-seeming pieces are attached in any way. It’s a really neat interactive book, in fact I want a copy of my own, but having a book with numerous loose parts is definitely challenging as part of a library collection. The potential for the various pieces, all part of the book’s storyline, to be lost or misplaced is huge! In fact there was an outcry across the country as the book arrived and librarians saw the potential for chaos and disaster:
Our student assistants and volunteers are a dedicated, hardworking group of individuals and they are invaluable to the Lab. They are constantly learning new treatments, expanding their preservation knowledge, and helping our Lab move forward and treat general collection items. For the students, this means they do all this while going to school full-time at the University of Cincinnati. So, every year we like to pick a day or two around the holidays to celebrate our students and volunteers and say “thank you” by treating them to a little bit of preservation-related fun. We appropriately call these our “student/volunteer fun days”.
We always pick an activity that will be enjoyable for the students/volunteers, but also benefit the Lab in some way. In the past this has included paste paper and paper marbling. For both we asked everyone to donate a portion of their papers to the Lab for our supply. This year for “fun day” we decided to demonstrate and create a selection of book structures with the idea that the people could expand their conservation skills and learn new techniques, and afterward the Lab would have a selection of models of the various structures.
A little math problem for you :
Making a blank book can be a lot of fun and it’s fairly easy to do if you have the right equipment. A blank book can be almost any size, shape and color that you want it to be. It can be used as a sketchbook, diary, photo album or just about anything you can think of. The type of book I am making is called a quarter binding because approximately one quarter of the cover is cloth while the rest of the cover is paper.
One of the best parts of the formation of our joint lab was the addition of a full time conservator. The University of Cincinnati lab had been performing a variety of conservation repairs or mends on general collection items for years. Tip-ins, tears, tape removal, sewing and spine repairs were all familiar types of mending to those of us who had been working in the existing UC lab. But when our joint lab began and our new conservator, Kathy Lechuga, started we quickly began to see that not all our repairs or mends were up to par. Kathy had a vast knowledge of conservation, including best practices that were more up-to-date. Even straight forward repairs like spine repairs (or re-backs) that haven’t changed much in the last 30 years needed some minor tweaking. But one repair stuck out as needing a major update, a paper hinge repair we had been doing for years and years.