Earlier this year the blog carried a report from a student conservator about some simple repairs she did while on placement in the Library. There was such a warm response, we thought you might be interested to learn more about the work our NADFAS volunteers do to help preserve some of the Library’s modern pamphlets.
As our retrospective cataloguing project progresses, and more and more nineteenth and twentieth century publications are added to the online catalogue, the relative fragility of modern printed items is amply demonstrated. Not only are the papers used since the early nineteenth century less stable and durable than the rag paper of earlier years, but bindings are often weaker and the leather prone to degradation.
The Library holds a vast quantity of pamphlet material from this period, including tracts, campaigning material, ephemera, and a wide range of cheaply produced modern publications. A typical pamphlet consists of a few sheets folded in a single section, held together by staples down the fold – and there’s the rub. Over time the metal of the staples rusts (rapidly, if they have been stored in damp conditions). The rust damages the paper, and use hastens the damage.
The Library’s stalwart team of NADFAS volunteers are working in tandem with the retrospective cataloguer to tackle the problem of rusty staples.
Each boxful of pamphlets added to the catalogue is methodically examined, de-stapled and single section pamphlets re-sewn using a simple, safe and easily reversible technique. This is how they do it.
Step 1: Carefully remove the staples using special gadget.
Step 2: Brush out any fragments of rust onto a tray to be discarded.
Step 3: Stitch along the fold, using existing perforations (if sound) and new ones, following this pattern (C – B – A –B – D – E – D – C):
The thread should start and end at the mid-point inside the fold (C)
Step 4: Tighten the thread gently and tie both ends across the long central thread going from B to D.
Step 5: Trim the ends to 1 cm each and fray them with the needle to flatten the thread
The end product is attractive, free from sharp or rusty metal, and safe to handle. This simple measure has prolonged the life of countless pamphlets in our collection. Finally, as they examine every item in the boxes that pass through their hands, the NADFAS volunteers are also able to provide a survey of conservation needs, noting any damaged items needing professional conservation work.
Hurrah for the NADFAS volunteers!