An introduction to the Book of Puddings

This is the first book I am working on for my MA major project, the second being Mrs E. Nevill Jackson’s Scrapbook from the Museum of Childhood. This one is a recipe from an individual rather than a Museum, and is absolutely wonderful to work on.

My client, whose book this is, receieved this book as an heirloom. It was put together by her great aunt, Kathleen A. Christmas, and is a collection of receipes and household tips from during the war.

I thought I would post some updates of the work that I am doing on the book, as well as try out some of the recipes – some of them are quite interesting, like how to make omelettes with powdered eggs! – They are all wartime recipes, based on rations of food at the time, and are quite fabulous!

The book when first received – with heavily damaged sewing, and a lot of additional material within, forcing the book apart
The damaged sewing – sewn on two parchment tapes
The additional material, sticking out of the book along with the loose pages
The cover of the book is a green leather sheep skiver, marked in a straight morocco grain
One particularly fascinating and stained page!
A close up of one of the recipes, I plan on trying out

 

Essays, Letters and Poems 1781, vol 6

I feel like I am making good progress with this book and it will soon be finished – best not speak too soon, but it is amazing the detail that goes into the conservation of a book. I suppose once you have done something once, it does then get quicker, but at the moment, this particular book feels like it is going at a snails pace.

With the spine piece dyed as mentioned in my last post, I then moved on to preparing the book for the repacking. This meant creating small splits at the edges of the boards at head and tail, back and front, inside and out – leaving very small pieces of leather on the edges of the board which had to be paired, which should be seen in the photo below. This was to allow the new leather to go underneath the existing leather and over the boards for the backing. The tiny fingers of leather on the edges can then be put down again to keep as much as the original leather in place.

Lifting the corners of the boards
The little foot lifting off the edge of the board

Once the edges were lifted, I pasted the joints to allow the adhesive to soak in prior to lining the spine. At the same time I pasted up the leather. To do this the leather must first be wetted on the hair side and allowed to soak in, it is then pasted on the flesh side and folded in half to keep the moisture in. I then wrapped mine in cling film as our studio is very dry.

Pasting up the shoulders
Pasting up the leather

Once this is done, the spine piece then goes onto the spine and is strongly pressed down onto the spine and shoulders, it is imperative that the spine piece is in the right place at this point as it cannot be moved later. This is where I had a problem as the spine piece was squewhiff when I put it down, so one side was a lot longer than the other, meaning that I now have to trim it when dry to ensure the edges of the original leather go down correctly.

Lining the spine
Pressing the joints

Once the spine and edges are down, the book is taken out of the press and prepare for the end caps. One edge of the spine is folded back on itself and the book placed on end to work on the opposite end cap.

Standing the book on end to do the end caps

Following this the boards are spread to give access to the end caps, and the leather is then folded underneath itself and under the leather on the boards.

Folding in the end bands

It is important that the leather is worked onto the boards evenly, so that will be seen as little as possible. The leather encasing the end bands should be just to the height of the end bands, if not, fractionally higher. The book is then placed upside down and the end cap on the bench, knocked up with a bone folder to give it shape, and the second end cap done. Once both are done, thread is wrapped around the book to produce the shoulders, which should also be worked with a bone folder, so that they are in line with the boards.

Working the end caps

Essays, Letters and Poems 1781, vol 5

So I am back to my Essays book this week which is exciting! I have to admit that I have been a bit nervous about the next few stages of conservation on this one, as I am venturing into unknown territory. However the book belongs to my tutor and come from a charity shop, so I take comfort in the fact that if I completely destroy it, its not the end of the world!

So the next two stages are toning my leather spine piece and repacking the book. After that it will be retouching little bits to make it look amazing! Unfortunately yesterday I had plucked up the courage to dye my leather spine piece that I pared for a whole DAY last term only to find a much better matching piece of calf – so guess what today is – yup, leather pairing again. Dammit.

Anyway, I did manage to practice the toning yesterday and get the right colour, so at least I will be ready to tone next week. If not today if I am super quick!

Bits of toned leather

So I thought I would just update this post with the actual dye ratios – more for my future reference!

Batch 1 – key colour
4 – yellow
1 – brown
25 – water

Batch 2 – touch up colour
3 x yellow
1 x brown
1 x red
50 x water

Tinofix
1 x tinofix
17 x water

Essays, Letters and Poems 1781, vol 4

Well I’m getting there – I’m not convinced I will finish this book before Christmas given that I’m off next week, but we will see how I do on Thursday and Friday. I’ll need to tone and pair my spine piece and then attach it – bit nerve wracking…

Anyhow – last week was fairly successful – I did in fact manage to attach my boards, using a method of board slotting, as previously planned. First of all, I had to slice through the edge of the board to create a space for the aerocottong to slot into. This was primarily done with a sharp scalpel and then retraced with a cobblers knife to get the width.

The slot made in the edge of the board with scalpel and cobblers knife

Once the board was slotted, the aerocotton on the spine was pasted out and pushed into the hole. Both this and the board slotting create a thicker board edge than would have previously been present, hence it is important to put the book in the press to set well and to the correct thickness. It is primarily nipped for about five minutes, checked for movement, and then left for much longer. I was able to leave mine in the press overnight as I completed it at the end of the day.

Melinex used to protect the text block whilst pasting the aerocotton
The aerocotton slotted into the board edge
In the press

The following day gave me two well attached boards, which was a happy moment! Next I moved onto lifting the edge of the boards in preparations of the leather reback. This was done by first lining the leather with Tengujo 5gsm and Cellugel, to adhere it and prevent the leather darkening. This tissue prevents any loss of friable leather pieces that may have been dislodged during the lifting.

The result - a nice strong attachment
Lifting the edge of the board in preparation for the leather reback

 

 

Essays, Letters and Poems 1781, vol 2

Having toned some japanese tissue for my repairs to the cover of this book, the next steps were able to happen in conjunction in one another, and I have been working on them steadily. Unfortunately it was at these following points where some hiccups occurred. My colleagues tell me that you learn more if you make mistakes to begin with, though I can’t help feeling a little disappointed in myself.

Having discussed various options with my tutors, we decided that I would remove the spine of the book as it is severely deteriorated and crumbling away. It would also give me practice in spine removal. If this book was of great importance, it is unlikely the spine would be removed and would be worked around. In order to save the spine, I used a Klucel G gel to adhere a strip of japanese tissue, this way, when lifting the spine, it will remain in tact and can be pasted back on again once I have completed the reback.

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Unfortunately, this was the first thing that went wrong, as the spine was so deteriorated, it was not lifting and instead was crumbling rather than coming off in one piece. This meant that having got what meagre bits off that I could, the remainder of the spine would have to be lifted with a poultice and would be unsalvageable.

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So I started a full spine removal with the hope of using methyl cellulose, but realised once I started to make it that it would have to be left for 24 hours, and unfortunately on the following day, it was much too runny and adding more methyl cellulose meant waiting another 24 hours. It was at this point I moved on to a wheat starch paste poultice, which I found worked well.

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Then came the second fiasco, having removed the spine, it became apparent that the first two cords had come loose and the sewing, completely eroded, making all the sections loose at this point and the text bock began to split. Rather than resew the book, my tutor decided that it would be better to paste down the cords and hold it together whilst they dried, therefore keeping it together, almost like the modern perfect binding (a ridiculous name given the technique).

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At the same time that all these problems were occurring, I was also able to consolidate the corners of the book boards and cover them with my specially prepared tissue, which, once dried, all looks okay. I will have to tweak the colour a bit and darken it and am practicing on some dummy boards at the moment, so hopefully they will not be so visible in the end.

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Dickin’ around at the V&A

Well last Friday our class spent a really interesting afternoon at the V&A seeing the conservation being done on the Dickens manuscripts for David Copperfield – these were the actual pages that Dickens wrote – amazing!

Here you can seen some of the pages as I imagine they would have looked like on Dickens’ desk – all piled up and scribbled on! It’s unlikely these will be seen again in these piles as they are being re-bound in manuscript volumes for safe keeping at the National Art Library at the V&A.

The V&A are working through all the Dickens manuscripts they own and rebinding them, as the way they were previously bound (tipped on at three edges) was starting to pull at the pages. In their new housing the pages will be tipped on one edge and held down on the opposite side with a paper tag similar to what you would find in a photo album (as in the image above). This means the pages will be able to move around if they need to.

The covers of the manuscripts are in a replica marble paper that matches the original paper that covered the first bindings of these manuscripts that happened around Dickens’ time. These original bindings were taken apart in the 60’s by the V&A and rebound – this is what is now being updated.