The scraps are scraps no more

Well I definitely passed a marker today, as I have finished the paper repairs for the toys scrapbook – Mrs E. Nevill Jackson’t Scrapbook from the Museum of Childhood. They have taken a long time as many of them protruded from the edges of the book, meaning they have been crushed over the years.

Some pictures of the book and its inserts before I completed the work.

Mrs E Nevill Jackson’s Scrapbook
The head of the book with crushed inserts
The foredge of the book with crushed inserts

In order to repair these pages, many of them had to be locally humidified first, as they were folded in on themselves, and opening up the folds without the introduction of moisture, would have broken them. I separated the local humidification from the rest of the book using melinex and effectively sectioned off a page at a time. Once humidified, they each had to be dried between blotters before I could repair them. The repairs were then done using japanese tissue (usumino) for the support and a toned thicker tissue for any infills, as can be seen in my last post.

The repaired pages…

The front of the book with paper repairs complete
The head of the book with repaired inserts
The foredge of the book with repaired inserts

So obviously now the inserts are much bigger than the book, as they would have been originally. In order to prevent them being crushed again, I am going to have create some sort of chemise cover to extend the boards and protect the inserts – so watch this space!!!

Two weeks at the National Library of Scotland

As promised in my last post, this is a little more detail on my placement at the National Library of Scotland. I was hugely grateful to be accepted on this placement, as two weeks is never very long to get into a project and placements always require people to take out time to show you around the building and instruct you in various matters, so I am extremely grateful for the whole conservation team at the library for taking time out of their days to help and advise me.

The National Library of Scotland

Initially I was taken around the building itself and shown how the library works on a daily basis, as I mentioned before, it is a massive building – a bit like a tardis and much bigger on the inside than can be seen on the outside. The studio itself was on the 4th floor, with three additional disaster rooms throughout the library for use in emergencies. The Library’s disaster plan was far more organized than any other I have come across, even down to having work clothes and boots sized correctly for the disaster team members – I was quickly informed that the Library has suffered not one but three major floods, so their disaster plan is not only well planned, but has been accurately carried out as well, which is a great success.

The Studio

The studio was a great space and sensibly laid out with desks for each conservator as well as larger communal work areas and a sectioned area for tooling and finishing and for board cutting.

Sit Hill box machines
The box die cutter at Site Hill
The dies for the die cutter

I also spent a day at the second site for the library which is located at Site Hill on the outskirts of Edinburgh, where half the conservation team are based and carry out work using some of the more heavyweight and visibly dangerous looking equipment!! Like many of the bigger institutions, the NLS found that some years back they were spending huge amounts of funding on storage boxes, and decided to invest in a box cutter, becoming the first institution to have an onsite box cutter – this has made a massive difference to their work load and reduced the amount of work hours per box, therefore increasing the number of boxes it is possible to make per year – so much so that they now make boxes for some of the local institutions that don’t have the same equipment, similarly to the Metropolitan Archives, therefore making the whole process much more economically efficient.

Whilst in the studio I was given the opportunity to work on two projects, the first was the conservation of some maps from the St Bartholomew’s collection and the second was a box for a sculpture.

The Bartholomew collection is a donation to the library of the archives of an early 19th Century Map cartography company who produced and printed maps. The collection itself includes records held in bound volumes many maps. It was some of these maps that I was working on alongside the Bartholomew conservator.

One of the maps prior to repair
Map after repair - spot the difference!!

The second project was the sculpture and was one of a series of anonymous sculptures left at various book associated institutions around Scotland. They are fascinating sculptures and often associated with the Scottish author Ian Rankin. They essentially adapt a book into some of the most intricate paper sculptures – really fascinating work in amazing detail. My job was to make this very fragile sculpture a box in which it could be safely stored. And I am quietly confident that none of the other sculptures will have such a lovingly and bespoke made box! – I will go into more detail on instructions in another post. It was made with board, plastizote and buckram book cloth.

The anonymous sculpture
The complete beautiful box
What's inside the box!

In addition to the maps and this box, which did take me a while, I was also lucky enough to have a go at tooling and finishing. Unfortunately this is not something we cover at Camberwell, which I hope is something that will change in the future as I (and the NLS) feel that it is a necessary skill to cover. Having not done any before, I was understandably not let loose on an actual book, but I did have some instructions from three skilled finishers, who set me on the straight and narrow path to start and practice. As many will know, these skills have to be practiced to great extents as it is not something that can be perfected overnight. I will also go into more detail on this in a later post.

So all in all, a fabulous two weeks that I was thrilled to be able to do. A very big thank you to the National Library of Scotland and the conservation team there.

Tools of a bookbinder (a student at least!)

Well it seems that this year is already one for finishing off projects that have been sitting around for several years, the first being the finishing of my quilt squares, which I am very relieved about! And now I have managed to finished my tool kit, which has been sitting around unfinished for two years. I made it too long initially and have been meaning to reduce it in size for a long time. So here it is finished – finally!

As you can see the top folds over and it rolls into a portable tool kit, which has been very useful. My tool kit contains a few scalpels, a cobblers knife, two bonefolders, dentist tools, a japanese brush, a japanese awl, a water pen, nail clippers, scissors, tweezers, a ruler, an eraser and a couple of very nice wooden muji pencils.

This is my Singer sewing machine, which along with my tool kit is a favourite possession of mine. My father bought it for me from a charity shop, and amazingly it had all the original instructions, extra feet, extension plate and all sorts still with it. With some good instructions from my father and his help in installing my new motor for it, I have been making good use of it recently.

My first week of college

Sorry I have not been around recently, Kelly from May Day Studio, kindly nudged me for an update on starting at college, and as I have now completed my first week, it seemed like a good moment to let you know what has been happening!

This is my college, Camberwell College of Arts, where I am studying Book Conservation. The building itself used to be a boy’s grammar school, but it’s now all part of the London Arts College.

The first week included a lot of introductions to what lies ahead. We also launched straight into the basics of the chemistry we will need, including the structure of an atom! A little daunting to begin with, but also exciting. Thursday included a trip to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, for an introduction to their ‘Handling Collection’, which was very interesting. The museum itself is beautiful and on fantastic grounds – apparently they have some great Christmas events, including carols by candlelight, which has always been a favorite of mine!

We spent all of Friday in the studio, which you can see above, its a fantastic space, and kitted out especially for the book conservators. We all have our own desk space and have been over the do’s and don’ts of the studio – such as no pens, nail varnish or perfume! The former may damage the book you’re working on, and the latter will prevent you from smelling any rotting pages!!

We then got straight down to making some small pamphlet bindings, which you can see below. The greener one is made with two sections, using a very nifty technique of folding the cover in the middle to allow you to sew the two sections to the cover without any glue!

Anyway – tomorrow sees the beginning of a series of lectures on European Hand Made Papers, which should be really interesting, so I will report back on them next week!

Bookbinding Update | Week 36

How very sad – our course has now ended and no longer will I be spending Tuesday evenings at the City Lit, enjoying the company of our small group of bookbinders (I’d like to call ourselves that as we have now completed the course), perhaps more affectionately known now as the Montague Binders following our visit to the mythical Montague Arms pub (otherwise known as the Prince of Wales – sorry about that!)

Yesterday we did manage to complete all sorts of bits and bobs and I am fairly sure we all came away with our final project 2 books – so well done to everyone on that!

I also managed to complete my phase box, which I must admit is pretty much just as bad as the coptic binding it is encasing – I think perhaps a smaller book would have been better to start with, so I think I will try that again.

Here are some more pictures of the evening, including our class in full and Nesta receiving her apron from us

I have added some more pictures onto Facebook, in our new group page that Katherine has kindly set up called ‘Bookbinding 2010‘, which I think we should rally to change to the ‘Montague Binders’!!

And finally, thank you very much Nesta for such an enjoyable year, I really have had a fantastic time!

Bookbinding Update | Week 35

I’ve finished my book!! And its not too bad – currently it’s between some boards with blotting paper to soak up the damp from the glue, so I’ll take some better pictures next week.

Mid casing in
In the press above Kate’s book!

I managed YET AGAIN to forget to trim my endpapers prior to casing in, though I was able to trim them after it had been in the press, not a good habit to get into though. I have plans to make a dust jacket for the book out of tracing paper, and my very helpful friend Angela has just given me some super tips for printing the title on it, so we’ll see how that goes over the week.

The final thing!!

Well next week is the final week for out little group at the City Lit, which is rather sad, so I will no longer be doing my updates. However – don’t fret – I will still be adding to my blog and keeping you informed of other projects I have on the go, and things that I have been up to that might be of interest!! (Phew, I hear you say – WHAT a relief!!)