Sibel Ergener, of West Dean College, continues her guest blogpost on voluntary conservation work she undertook at the Library this summer.
The Library of the Society of Friends is a working library with researchers making heavy use of its collections. Over the years handling inevitably results in some wear and tear, including, in some cases, books with detached boards from extensive use. Despite the conservation programme funded by the BeFriend a Book scheme, not all of these books can immediately be repaired, so they are carefully secured with unbleached linen tape and re-shelved. I wanted to be able to help make as many of these volumes as possible fully functional in the short time I was at the Library, so my goal was to find books that needed less extensive repairs. With David Irwin, the project cataloguer, I went through a part of the stacks and picked out several books that could have their boards reattached using Japanese tissue hinges. Here are examples of some common damage.
The first book I worked on had both boards attached, but part of the hollow tearing away from the spine and a split forming down the spine.
It took a bit of messing around with how best to hold the book and hollow open enough, but I managed to get a piece of heavy Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste into the hollow to create a new spine lining and help prevent further cracking, keeping a bit of Bondina inside the hollow to prevent it from sticking to the hollow.
I then used the 12 gsm Japanese tissue to reattach the torn bit of the hollow, and reattached the hollow to the spine using the heavier weight Japanese tissue.
Some books were suffering from red rot, or acid deterioration. Red rot is caused by a variety of factors but is particularly related to changes in leather production in the 19th century, and is acerbated by environmental factors such as pollution. Since the Library has always been located in London, several of the books are at some stage of acid deterioration.
This book was almost unusable because of its red rot, which weakens leather and leaves powdery red residue wherever it touches. It was hard to handle without becoming covered in red powder. Both boards were also coming detached.
I consolidated the leather with Klucel G and then used tinted heavy Japanese tissue hinges to reattach the boards. Klucel G doesn’t fix red rot, but it does hold together damage and prevent the leather from deteriorating under the tissue repair or leaving powder residue on reader’s hands.
I used Klucel G to consolidate red rot and mechanical damage that I had to work around on several books at once.
These books all had one or both boards detached, but several also needed interior paper repair on tears, or had pages detached altogether, that I needed to complete before reattaching the boards.
This book had the flyleaf and first page detached.
I reattached them using lens tissue before reattaching the board.
When I finished with the paper repair, I tinted heavier Japanese tissue for board reattachment with burnt umber acrylic paint and reattached the boards. When the leather was in good enough condition, I lifted it and attached the repair underneath to make the repair more unobtrusive and also, since it is sandwiched between the board and leather, to hold it better.
In the end, the books were all returned to their shelves in much more stable and usable condition.