Tuesday’s at St Brides

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.


Tuesday’s at St Brides

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.

Some of the collection at st brides

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.

Gold around some of the chocolate box covers
Some chocolate box covers

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!

The collection of four pamphlets and a damaged box
An interesting 18th century book using early printed material for paste downs
A 17th century vellum binding - fabulous!