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Conservation Before and After: Victorian Nursery Rhymes

May 17, 2008

This was my first project to finish at West Dean. It took me ages to finish, for a couple reasons. One, I was learning and therefore didn’t really know how to proceed without consulting my instructors. Two, it’s pretty hard to find time at the bench, what with field trips and lectures and work placements and all those other kinds of things students do. I finished it perhaps a month ago, though I’m still writing the condition report–which has proven to be a pain! So, sparing you the boring long description of what I did (since it’s still not all written yet!), I will just let the photographs speak for themselves:

Well, okay. I’ll give a little bit of description : ) In the above photo, the original sewing was loose, which caused the book to fall open at this spot, and was causing stress on the leather spine of the book. I had to remove the book from the case and remove all the spine linings in order to pull the loose thread through to the spine and paste it down. I also reshaped the spine to a nice round, since it was a pretty wonky shape and hindered proper function.

Here is a detail of some of the mending I did. The old repair ad to be removed with humidity, and while most of the book was only dry cleaned, this particular page was very stained, so I washed it in-situ by placing the page on a vacuum wedge and humidifying the page with a hand held humidifier. The idea was to loosen the dirt by moving moisture through the page and down into the blotter that was between the page and the vacuum table. It worked quite well!

More mending. This was one of the more complicated ones. Paper is typically mended with strong long-fiber paper (generically called Japanes tissue) and starch paste. It’s quite an art form, selecting the right weight tissue and using a strong enough adhesive to bond the paper, but not so stiff that the mend is crispy–because then the soft page will just tear right next to the crisp new mend.

The broken leather was repaired by lining the case (while it was separate from the book) with a tinted Japanese tissue. Then the weakened parts of the outside leather (which was ridiculously degraded–nearly everything from the Victorian era is acidic thanks to the Industrial Revolution) was reinforced with a tinted Japanese tissue.

The boards were reshaped by gently humidifying the case (while off the book) and drying it under weight. The bumped corners were put back down with paste, and tinted tissue replaced missing bits of fabric and leather.

As you can see, the leather darkened due to humidity I had introduced in order to release the flyleaves from the book. The leather was so degraded there wasn’t a whole lot I could do… The book is functioning again and fairly robust, but because of the state of the leather, I made a clamshell box in which the book will live forever more.

Ta da!

One Comment leave one →
  1. evan permalink
    September 2, 2008 12:44 am

    hey i love seeing your work, and especially about your experience over at west dean… i’m a student in the states… keep it up, it’s great

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