Some time back in a post earlier in the year, I mentioned that I would potentially be working on a scrapbook from the Museum of Childhood. Well I was lucky enough to be allowed that project to work on as part of my MA final project, along with a recipe scrapbook that I am working on at college.
So I thought I would write an update of the work I have been doing on this second scrapbook, whilst at the V&A. This past week, I have been working on substantial paper repairs for the material that is sticking out of the scrapbook. These are items that, due to their oversize, have been bashed and damaged – so I am repairing them.
It’s quite short and picture heavy, this one, but I will try and post some more soon!
This week I was continuing my work on the book covered in green parchment – as yet I have not found a proper title for this book, just a library mark and a small amount of blurb at the beginning of the book stating what it contains – I think this must be where the library have got the name from – Prints by Four Artists.
I have come across some interesting quips today, by what must have been the owner or the collaborator of the book – there a two blank pages where there were once prints, the first being roughly removed and leaving damaged paper behind. The pages have been left blank and annotated as in the pictures:
And finally some more pictures of dirty pages that have come up clean!
This week was my second at St Brides, and I was glad to get started on some conservation. Thankfully Nigel has been putting aside books that urgently need some help and has made a pile of about eight books. These aren’t necessarily the oldest or the most valuable books in the collection, and indeed in this case they are relatively modern, most being perfect bound – but they are ones that, in their current state, are not useable by the general public.
It is important to remember the reason that we conserve books, which is different in each case. At the V&A, it is often because a book is going on display – in a library it is almost always because a book cannot be used. In each case a different approach is required. A book going on display is likely to have more time given to it for conservation, and possibly more funds. It will almost always be a special book, or one a value of some kind or another, possibly it’s pictures, or the binding itself. A book in the library may have none of these attributes, it is unlikely to be of any other value except for the written content, it will almost never have funds associated with it for conservation, and generally no time allowed to it for repair. The latter has various consequences for library books – they fall apart, they get badly mended by people who (although despite having good intentions) are likely in most cases not to have experience in conservation, and they get damaged further. There are, of course, exceptions in every case and Libraries that purely exist to house prestigious collection.
However, this is, generally speaking, the sad life of a library book in my opinion. So I am more than happy to be helping at St Brides, and bring some of their less prestitigious books back into the publics hands. As I say, quite a few of them are perfect bound, and being a very modern form of binding, I am not sure yet how to conserve these in a time efficient. I have grout this issue up with my tutor at college and we may look into good methods of repair. I will also research and come back on this issue.
So with my lack of knowledge in repairing perfect bindings fully intact, I went about beginning on a binding I was more familiar with. This particular book is a reference for type faces, and as such, is printed on good quality paper. It has had a relative amount of previous repairs, using a very white paper to adhere loose pages back into the book. I had primarily thought that with one loose sheet that needed repairing, I would remove the previous repair, both on the sheet and on the book and repair it with a Japanese tissue. However, on finding that several other sheets have also come loose and also have previous repairs on them, I may not do this on every page. This is not preferable to me, though as mentioned above, time and resources for these books are not fruitful! And having removed the paper from the initial loose sheet, taking me most of the afternoon, I am not convinced it is worth it for the book.
Well today at the V&A has been great today as always. I started today making paste, which I quite often do – it’s a very relaxing start to the week, as I sit under the widow sill and look out into the sun blushed V&A old building whilst stirring the paste. It’s just about finished and ready to cool down as the time comes for morning tea – couldn’t be more perfect timing!
Once tea and paste was done, Anne and I went to the National Art Library to fill up the boxes with books that I was working on last week and at the same time came across a project for me to start working on over the next few weeks.
This book we selected is called Prints from Four Artists, and is a collection of prints by four different artists. It is a large book covered in green parchment, which is something I have not seen before, and Anne tells me is quite rare. The book needs thorough cleaning throughout, which I have started with a chemical sponge – this is going to take me some time! Then I will move on to paper repairs, and finally onto the structure of the book. It needs resewing onto its cords and then rebacking, and some parchment repairs on the front, which I may do with toned parchment, or tissue. The sections are quite thick, so it will be an interesting one to sew back together.
All in all a very interesting book to work on with some fantastic prints throughout and I’m looking forward to getting to work on it.
A little late I know, but last Tuesday was my first as a voluntary conservator at the St Brides Library in Blackfriars. It was a lovely day and I felt thoroughly welcomed into the team!
The start of the day was a discussion about the team, who is working on what and the changes that have recently taken place within the staff. Conveniently, the voluntary book conservator has just moved across to start working as a librarian at St Brides, so I have come just at the right moment it seems!
I was then given free reign of the collection to try and find myself an MA project, which I have been hoping to find within the library. There is a large amount work to be done on all sorts of books, and it’s going to be great to get to work on them, but a couple of books did stand out as potential projects for my course.
I have taken some pictures below of the books, one very interesting one is a collection of German Chocolate box covers. This volume needed some substantial paper repairs, some tape removal and some spine repair. I can’t remember if it needed re-sewing or not, but it seemed like a good project.
Another was a collection of four pamphlets in a box. Interestingly the paper within the pamphlets was of very good quality and in a good state, though their covers were heavily damaged by their lignin content and had become very brittle. In addition to this, the box was very badly damaged as well. So some interesting possibilities to work on!
As mentioned in my previous post on the Eagle comics, Monday was the first day back at the V&A, and thankfully I was given the nice straight forward task of box making to start the year. The V&A boxes are not like those we worked on at MODA, which we made from scratch, these are almost entirely made for you before you start!
Having measured the books, the measurements are then put into the box making machine, and the boxes are cut flat as the image shows. The first step is then to put the rivets onto the edges, these are so that the box can be tied shut. The museum has an amazing machine that presses the rivets all together with a foot peddle – its so simple!
Then the string goes in which will tie onto the rivets, and then the two layers of boxes are adhered together with EVA and pressed to dry.
They are then folded and ready for the books! As I said, a super nice start to the year, and very therapeutic! Once I had done these, I was then doing some minor cover repairs on a couple of books that are going to be part of the Golden Spider Silk exhibition – I can’t say I enjoyed looking at these books, though I could appreciate the excellent hand painted drawings, however being of spiders, they did give me the shudders!