Mondays at MoDA

Over the past four weeks, and for the next two, four of us gals from Camberwell have been spending the day at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA), where we’ve been making archival boxes for their library. The reason for this being that MoDA, and the part of Middlesex University to which it is connected, is moving (quite frankly this seems like an excellent idea to me, as its current location in Cockfosters, seems like the other side of the world after two hours on the tube!!).

Anyway, as any good trainee book conservator will know, books must be protected in a move, especially those which may be fragile in any way – this could be the cover, spine, boards, text block – anything really. So we’ve been making phase boxes for the badly damaged books and melinex wrappers for reasonable conditioned books with their dust jackets in tact. I’m still not that keen on these glued phase boxes, there seems too much margin for error, but I’m getting better at them.

The museum has a large collection of books on domesticity including cookery books, interior design, house keeping etc, many of which date back to the early 20th century, and some possibly earlier still. An excellent collection and great museum, well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Here are a couple of pictures of the studio – I’m always a fan of seeing studio pictures.

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.

The Reverend Samuel Parr L.L.D

The Reverence Samuel Parr L.L.D
c. 1811
Machine printed on wove handmade paper
343x504x53 (WHD)

CONDITION

This dashing man was the Rev. Samuel Parr, and is dated 1811. The media is machine printed, so not at risk from washing. The paper is a very nice wove handmade paper – at the time of the print, paper making machines were in use, but were still not making the majority of paper, this was still handmade. You can see from both sides that it is quite discolored and has a lot of reddish spots, known as foxing (this is believed to be iron content within the paper that rusts and bleeds out to the surface).

TREATMENT

  • Surface cleaning using a chemical sponge.
  • Humidification using a water spray as photographed
  • Washed in a bath of tap water for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Left to dry somewhat on a drying rack.
  • Pressed recto up on a blotter under a weight, allowing any excess dirt to be drawn out through the verso onto the blotter – very clever!

The UCL Special Collection

Over the last couple of weeks we have spent a couple of afternoon’s with the exceedingly nice and knowledgeable Mr. Fred Bearman, who is the Preservation Librarian at the UCL Special Collection, and a Bookbinding Historian.

They have been wonderful afternoons, looking at some very early bindings dating back to the 15th century when printed books first came into existence, known as Incunabula, meaning ‘cradle’ or ‘swaddling’ in latin. Prior to this books were all manuscript and hand written, often by monks and clerical men.

There were also some other interesting ones, including a chemise binding – books with an extra cover on them which would wrap all around the book like a cloth, these popular prior to the development of  Protestantism and after the latter these books were often cut down as they represented extreme Catholicism in some areas and were frowned upon.

Two very interesting afternoons – and very educational!! My brain is struggling to keep all the information locked in!!

A book to conserve… Cookbook in Colour

Well, many apologies for not updating this earlier  – I actually have lots of updates, but have just not gotten round to sitting down and writing something!

So I will start with what we are working on at the moment in our studio time (Fridays). We have all been asked to bring in dilapidated books, preferably ones that require re-sewing. Togther we’ve brought in a range of interesting books, mine is actually something I had on my bookshelf at home already. It is a cloth case bound book that belonged to my grandfather – a very colourful cookery book from the 60’s/70’s, which I rescued from a clear out some years back with the thought of conserving it, so am quite chuffed I’m actually getting round to doing it! Some pictures below show the book as it looks like in its current state, it also has a lot of little inserts in it with my grandparent’s and mother’s writing, which is quite entertaining!

Apparently the tape is going to be tough to get off
(thanks Grandma!!)
The endpapers are an integral part of the book,
and can’t be discarded and replaced as they
may be in another binding, so I will have
to try and get them off…
Our tutor will be coming round to each of us and explaining how we must go about conserving our books, which will take time. So in the meantime, we have started three flat back books, to practice our binding techniques. Here are mine so far:
Nice and neat if I do say so myself!
As you can see I have been practicing using the sewing frame, which I’m starting to love a little bit – I’m not quite used to sitting sideways as they did in days past, as I can’t get my arm round the frame properly, however I’ve seen an etching of women sewing with their arms through the frame, which seems a lot more logical – so I might try that next! One of my classmates, Salvador, also told me that book sections were sewing in large batches on long stretches of tape, and then split up after sewing into separate books – so that’s some thing else to try!
I’ve also been practicing my marbling (again!!!), with a little more success this time – thanks to another classmate, Naomi, who has given me some Carragean moss for the ink to sit on, and some good instructions (previous attempts were so shameful, there were demoted to making cards!). So I am going to try and cover these books with my new papers – watch this space to see what they’re like – exciting!!!