Treasure Island | Starting a Fine Binding

Treasure Island Starting a Fine Binding

June 2016 will see the return of the Worthing Artists Open Houses to our seaside town. As a craftsperson, I have previously enjoyed the increased members of the public coming to say hello at The Book Hut, but never directly taken part. This year, however,  I will be much more involved, with two projects on display and a workshop at the Worthing Library, it’s all go at this end. The first, and key project, is that which is introduced here – Treasure Island – a fine binding of my own creating, that will be on display at StudioFreer in June. It is the first fine binding I have made for approximately four years, and the very first which will be available to buy.

Treasure Island | Starting a Fine Binding

The following initial stages were madeto the binding to prepare the text block for sewing:

  • Initially the cover was removed from the binding and kept for future use in the design process.
  • The textblock was then placed in the press and the spine lining and adhesive (animal glue) was removed manually with a spatular, having been previously softened with a wheat starch paste poultice.
  • The sections were then cleaned individually and put in the press for flattening.
  • The outer folio of each section was then guarded at the spine with a 12gsm tengujo tissue to reinforce them, and placed back in the press.
  • It is now ready to go onto the sewing frame.

In addition to the preparation of the sections, the leather has now been delivered for the later stages of the binding – a nice lime green goatskin.

Treasure Island the leather
Green goatskin ready for later stages of the binding


This book will be on display at StudioFreer 18th/19th June, 25th/26th June, 2nd/3rd July. It will be on sale at this time. If it is something you would be interested in purchasing, please do get in touch.

Penrhyn Archive Jamaican Estate Slave Accounts

Penrhyn Archive Jamaican Estate Slave Accounts

Penrhyn Archive Jamaican Estate Slave Accounts, Bangor University Archives
c.18th Century
Single section pamphlets of handmade paper, stab-sewn through a plain or marble-paper cover
Project for National Conservation Service
Report written by Mary Garner

DECONTAMINATION, CONSERVATION & DIGITISATION

The items treated in this project come from the Penrhyn Estate archive, deposited at the Bangor University Archives in North Wales. The project included a series of 32 paper account pamphlets from Jamaican estates. The accounts include names, roles and other details of slaves working on the estates and as such are of considerable significance historically and for their descendants researching their family histories. They are striking and disturbing documents, with slaves ‘accounted’ for as resources; for example death is referred to as a ‘decrease in slaves’ and birth as an ‘increase in slaves’.

The items have suffered from extensive water damage and damp, causing excessive mould growth, fading, weakness and discolouration. The project aim was to decontaminate and stabilise the collection and to digitise the account papers. The programme of digitisation was carried out after cleaning but prior to conservation treatments. This enabled capture of the documents in their found state and so that any repairs did not interfere with legibility of the text. Digitisation would also minimise unnecessary handling of items in the future, which while strengthened would remain vulnerable.

The main issues within this project were the presence of fugitive iron gall inks and mould damage. Iron gall ink is prone to fading and deterioration due to instability inherent in the ink composition and the varying recipes it has been historically made with. Since 2004 Mould has been classed as a Category 1 risk to health as assessed under the Health and Safety Hazards Rating System (HHSRS) – the same class as asbestos for example. The HHSRS risk assessment has been legislation in England & Wales since 2006, under the Health & Safety Act. The material in this collection had considerable mould infection and presented a definable risk to staff and users. For this reason it was vitally important to remove mould growth and endeavour to denature the spores remaining in the paper. Mould damage and bacteria cause heavy darkening and discolouration which renders documents illegible over time, in some cases causing a problem with digitisation.

The items comprised single section pamphlets of handmade paper, stab-sewn through a plain or marble-paper cover. The paper had become very fibrous and fragile and easily prone to further damage from handling. Many had large areas of loss and some pages had become stuck together. The sewing structures had disintegrated and in some cases no longer held folios into signatures.

Cleaning was carried out with soft brushes and a museum vacuum where applicable, on a Bassaire extraction unit with an ultra fine ULPA filter. Due to the weakened state of so many of the paper documents and their covers, strengthening and stabilisation was achieved by consolidation of fibres and support and repair to areas of loss and damage. Consolidation using 1% hydroxpropycellulose (‘Klucel G’) in isopropanol had the added advantage of safely denaturing the mould spores in the fibres in the treated areas. Klucel G 3% in isopropanol was also used as an adhesive for lens and Japanese tissue repairs to tears and areas of loss.

The old paper covers were in severely degraded condition and while some could be repaired, nonetheless they would continue to be weak and not provide suitable protection. On this occasion it was decided to commission new hand-made marble papers for new covers. The marble-papers were lined with an archival quality paper to make them slightly stiffer and the cleaned, digitised and repaired pamphlets were re-sewn into them. Archival sleeves were also made for each account to be housed in.

Peasant Poet John Clare’s Bible

This is a volume that I have recently completed as part of my work with the National Conservation Service. The John Clare Bible was initially acquired by the poet in 1813; he has signed the inside front cover and dated it. The bible itself is much older than this, dating back to 1639 when it was published by Robert Baker. It has since been presented to The Peterborough Museum by Mr J. Lee, Mr J. W. T. Meehan and Mr. J. C. Sturton and is currently in the care of the Peterborough City Archive, a member of NCS.

IMG_0049

Much of the damage this book had suffered was believed to have been caused by its owner. The bible was subjected to extensive wear and tear from constant use and a partly itinerant lifestyle. He is understood to have made several attempts to repair the book and reattach the loose boards. Taking this into account, the aim of the project was to take a minimal approach to maintain what are thought to be his own repairs,  while making it possible to be handled from time to time.

 

 

Before
Before
After
After

Description and condition of the book prior to treatment
Before treatment, the front board had become detached from the volume, except for a small amount of sewing threads keeping it loosely attached. The back board was mostly detached, with two of the four cords broken. Both boards had loose leather that was curling where no longer attached to the board. The first four sections of the volume had suffered substantial damage due to the lack of protection from the front board. Many of the folios were split at the spine, making re-sewing largely impossible without substantial changes. These sections had become detached from the volume. The final section was also damaged, though not to such a great extent.

The cords on the spine were considerably shortened at the front of the book, making re-sewing the loose sections and reattaching the front board impossible in its current state. Both endbands were broken into two, though the sewing on both appeared to be stable and not frayed.

Before
Before
After
After

Conservation treatments
Repairs to the damaged and loose pages were undertaken using sympathetically toned paper as minimally as possible. Heavily creased folios were humidified, misaligned folios were reshaped and reinforced and heavily damaged folio spines reconstructed. The original cords were extended using a similar weight cord to both front and back board and attaching them by sewing onto the existing cord remains to ensure a strong bond. This allowed the loose sections to be re-sewn onto the volume.

To ensure strong reattachment, the boards were split at the spine edge and the cords inserted into the boards and pressed together with adhesive. To repair the endbands a small dowel was inserted to join the two broken parts at each end. These were then re-adhered to the spine using a ‘spider’ tissue. Finally the loose parts of the leather on the spine and boards were re-adhered to the book.

Before
Before
Humidification of sections
Humidification of sections
After
After

The outcome was a stronger and less vulnerable volume with its old repair threads still in place and still showing the book as clearly a worn and used thereby retaining its original character.