Rusty staples and red rot: a student conservator reports. Part 1

We’re pleased to present the first of two guest blog posts from Sibel Ergener, a conservation student at West Dean, who recently spent a short but productive fortnight in the Library as a volunteer. Working on-site, with basic equipment, Sibel applied her careful expertise to the repair of a batch of 20th century pamphlets and several 19th century books.

For two weeks in July, I volunteered at the Library of the Religious Society of Friends, at Friends House, London.

The Library has a large quantity of pamphlets that its team of NADFAS volunteers is systematically working through in order to remove staples and re-sew. Some of these pamphlets have additional need of paper repair, or have staples that are difficult to remove, either because paper covers are glued over them or they have rusted very badly. These pamphlets were passed on to me.

More Penn correspondence, Ireland, 1669-1670 by Henry J. Cadbury (an offprint from the Pennsylvania magazine of history and biography, Vol. 73, No. 1 January, 1949) is a typical example of one of the pamphlets I worked on. It had rusted, covered staples, paper tears throughout the pages, and some brittle areas of the paper that needed guarding.

I used 12 gsm Japanese tissue and wheatstarch paste to do paper repairs after removing the staples. The fills were completed using a 32 gsm Japanese tissue.

In the end, looking much less fragile!

I did some more simple repairs like this to other pamphlets so they could be sent back to the NADFAS volunteers to re-sew.

Some staples glued under a cover:

Removing staples:

Repairing covers:

and some more fills and paper repair:

Overall, this kind of conservation work is simple but necessary to preserving the material for future use in a functioning library. It’s not the most exciting work to be given, but these pamphlets are pulled out for research and the nature of how they are made leaves them more susceptible to damage compared to a more robust book. Removing staples before they rust or cause damage to the paper is important to maintaining their longevity, but due to the huge quantity of pamphlets in the collections, the damage is sometimes only detected when the pamphlets are requested for research. Hence the value of the systematic NADFAS project to prevent the problem developing in existing and newly received collection items.

A slightly different version of this post is on the Current Projects blog published by conservation students at West Dean College.

NEXT! My experience of book conservation at the Library of the Society of Friends.

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4 Responses to Rusty staples and red rot: a student conservator reports. Part 1

  1. Jim McNeill says:

    Beautiful, quality restoration/preservation work – it’s good to know how such things are done. Can’t wait until Part 2.
    Jim

  2. Judith Jennings says:

    Thank you for this informative post and for your volunteer work at the Library of the Society of Friends. Judi Jennings, Louisville Kentucky, USA

  3. Pingback: Rusty staples and red rot: a student conservator reports. Part 2 | Quaker Strongrooms

  4. Pingback: A stitch in time | Quaker Strongrooms

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