Cornell University Library Conservation

by Michele Brown

Last week, Tre Berney provided an excellent summary of AV preservation and related issues. What about books, papers, photographs and other memorabilia you’d like to save and pass along? Here are some resources to help you preserve  your collections.

First, the Cornell Library Conservation website offers many resources to individuals and libraries.

Our  recently revised Preservation and Conservation tutorial for China, which was developed as part of the Luce grant, provides a broad survey of techniques for the preservation of all types of library materials.

One useful tool for protecting fragile books is the marginal materials (MM) case. The tutorial includes a slideshow that describes how to make this simple, but effective container. Written instructions for this and other techniques are included in our repair guides.

Providing a good environment for your materials is the first step in preserving them. The Image Permanence Institute offers numerous resources on ways to understand and control the environment in your home or institution. Watch the video on the effect of humidity fluctuation on a rare book!

Would you like to download leaflets that advise you on the care of your collection and give recommendations for disaster recovery? The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) has a series of  preservation leaflets that cover a wide range of topics.

Finally, the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) offers a series of  preservation webinars.

These are just a few of the many resources available to help us save our stuff so we can pass it on. Happy Preservation Week 2015!

 

 

Tre Berney

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During the American Library Association’s Preservation Week (April 26-May 2, 2015) libraries all over the country present events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared history. To start off Preservation Week 2015, Tre Berney, Multimedia Specialist at Cornell University Library, is sharing his expertise in audio-visual preservation with the following blog post.  Tre designed and established the Library’s digitization lab to digitize fragile recordings and older legacy formats and he is the heading up a campus-wide AV census as part of a larger AV initiative partnering the library with Cornell IT. He works closely with Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, Indiana University, Audio/Visual Preservation Solutions, Syracuse University, UCLA, Columbia and the Library of Congress. Thank you, Tre, for collaborating with us for Preservation Week 2015! –Michele Hamill

First of all, I’m honored to be a guest on our Library’s Conservation Department blog, as they are a great team doing magical things. When discussing audiovisual preservation and the big issues facing possible catastrophic loss of materials on magnetic media, proper conservation becomes even more important as we chart out solutions that may emerge from our campus-wide AV Preservation Initiative.

Both UNESCO’s Blue Ribbon Task Force publication (Sustainable Economics for a Digital Planet, 2010) and the Library Of Congress are estimating that the vast majority of materials housed on magnetic tapes (cassettes, open-reel audiotape, VHS, etc.) will be lost in the next 10 years due to degradation and playback obsolescence. This includes materials ranging from field recordings of cultural events in dying languages to your own home movies of grandparents or children.

Cornell University Library’s Collection Development Executive Committee has set up a preservation fund (allocated though a grant-based system) awarded to save fragile, unique, and heavily used collections and, due to issues with legacy AV content, a lot of that fund has gone to digitization of AV collections. As an example, I’m currently working on digitizing a large collection of VHS tapes for the Africana Library of unique lectures given at Cornell in the past. Last year, this collection was moved to the annex, as they are the only copies in existence and are no longer in circulation.

IMG_20150220_143557 copy

While preservation and digitization is key to older formats, it’s also incredibly challenging for digital formats as well. Digital content, while often easier to use and access in a lot of cases, is incredibly fragile and subject to many problems such as bit rot and errors, proprietary and complex formats and file types, and costly storage. In reality the world is creating digital content at a staggering pace, resulting in petabytes of possibly important or disposable content. How do we deal with this in our work or even in our personal collections of video or photos?

The Library of Congress has provided a thorough resource for individuals to get a handle on the digital content they are creating, as well as digitizing to share with family and friends across the globe. This is a rapidly increasing need of people everywhere, but how do we decide what do we keep and how much? Witness.org stands out as a good example of an organization that is also promoting a more curatorial culture for our content at large, and for a purpose. They provide a guide to archiving content from a journalism/activist perspective, from creation to preservation and access.

Working in a memory institution, I often feel like I’m helping usher content from the past into the future and that is a tremendously gratifying feeling. ‘This work will outlive us,’ is something I often hear said in libraries and archives and while that is true, there is a huge amount of effort and a lot of tough decisions that go into conservation, preservation, and access. Whether it’s a beautiful tome from the 17th century or video of one of the last known public appearances of Jimmy Hoffa, it takes detailed work, resources, and careful planning to keep these things alive. In reality, history is written by every one of us. What’s your story?

 

by Michele Brown

Parchment is a tough, long-lasting writing and book covering material used historically for important documents and still used for the transcription of some religious and government laws. Consequently, Cornell’s copy of the 13th Amendment was written on parchment. My previous post described its conservation treatment.

Legend has it that parchment was developed in the kingdom of Pergamon during the second century BC  as a result of a shortage of papyrus. (1) Scholars disagree on the reason for the shortage of papyrus, but it is widely accepted that parchment production was first refined in Pergamon, which became parchment’s namesake. Parchment-making has remained largely unchanged since its early beginnings.

Sometimes the term “vellum” is used for parchment.  Vellum, to be precise, is parchment made from calfskin. The terms parchment and vellum are now often used interchangeably.

How does parchment differ from leather since they are both made from animal skins?

Most leather is made from animal skin that has been treated with tannin. This changes the collagen of the skin so that it will be more durable. Since tannins are acidic, leather is also an acidic material.

Leather is usually dyed during the tanning process.

Leather is usually dyed during the tanning process.

Some skins are tawed rather than tanned. Very early books bound in Europe were often bound with alum-tawed leather. We will discuss tawed leather in another post.

Parchment is made by soaking an animal skin (usually from a goat, sheep or calf) in lime and then stretching it on a frame, scraping it to remove excess tissue and allowing it to dry under tension. During this process, the collagen of the skin is rearranged, but not chemically altered. The result is a material that is very smooth and hard, and also very sensitive to changes in humidity. Since it has been soaked in a solution with a high pH, it is basic.

A skin of parchment stretched on a frame.

A skin of parchment stretched on a frame.

Pergamena has been making leather and parchment for generations and has offered parchment-making workshops. The following images are from one of their workshops.

Skins arrive with their fur still intact. They have been salted to preserve them.

Skins waiting for processing.

Skins waiting for processing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, they  are “de-haired”.

Skins are put into the dehairing barrel with a solution of lime.

Skins are put into the de-hairing barrel with a solution of lime.

And then allowed to drain.

The skins are allowed to drain after being limed.

The skins are allowed to drain after being de-haired.

Excess flesh is removed, in this case, using a fleshing machine. Traditionally, they would have used a two handled knife.

Jesse Meyer pulling a dehaired skin through the fleshing machine.

Jesse Meyer pulling a de-haired skin through the fleshing machine.

On this day, we were making colored goatskin parchment so at this point the skins were dyed.

Dyed goatskin parchment.

Dyed goatskin parchment.

And then, clipped to a frame to dry under tension.

Goatskin parchment drying. The screen allows airflow on both sides of the skin.

These are skins of dyed goatskin parchment drying under tension. The screen allows airflow on both sides of the skins.

The skins for calfskin parchment were treated differently. Since they weren’t being dyed, they were allowed to dry and were re-hydrated before being stretched for scraping.

Dried calfskins after dehairing and fleshing.

Dried calfskins after de-hairing and fleshing.

The dried skins would be re-hydrated and then stretched and clipped.

The dried skins are re-hydrated and then stretched and clipped before scraping.

Once the skins were stretched and clipped, they were scraped to make them thinner. Parchment-makers use a curved knife called a lunellum for this purpose.

lunellum

A lunellum.

 

Scraping the flesh side of the skin.

Scraping the flesh side of the skin.

The skins may be sanded after scraping.

Sanding with a rotary sander.

Sanding with a rotary sander.

Once the skin has been scraped so it is thin and even, it can be used for writing or binding.

Thirteenth amendment.

Thirteenth amendment.

Galileo's Discorsi bound in Pergamena parchment.

Galileo’s Discorsi bound in Pergamena parchment.

Parchment can be difficult to work with because it has a hard surface and, depending on its thickness, can be somewhat inflexible. It is extremely sensitive to changes in humidity and using adhesives can be problematic. However, it is a beautiful and resilient material and with good care will last for centuries.

 

(1)  In Natural History, Book XIII, Pliny ascribes the cause of the papyrus shortage to the rivalry between King Ptolemy V, who was building the library of Alexandria and King Eumenes II, who was building the library at Pergamon. Some sources say that King Ptolemy cut off the papyrus supply to Pergamon, forcing it to come up with an alternative source of writing material.

 

by Michele Brown

The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude was formally passed by Congress on January 31, 1865 and ratified by the states December 6, 1865.(1) Cornell University Library owns one of the 15 copies signed by Lincoln.  Cornell’s copy of the 13th Amendment is a “Congressional copy” and was donated to the University by the Nicholas H. Noyes family in the 1950s.

Like other important documents, the 13th Amendment is written on parchment. Parchment is a writing material made from animal skin that’s been dehaired, soaked in lime, scraped and stretched. We will have another post specifically about parchment production.  Some types of paper are also referred to as parchment, but it would be more accurate to describe them as “parchment-like.” See here for descriptions of parchment, vellum and parchment paper. Parchment has long been used for important documents because it is considered to be the most permanent and stable writing material.

2014 was an eventful year for Cornell’s copy of this important document. In April, it was removed from its 20th century frame and scanned using hyperspectral imaging.

This gave us an excuse to examine the matting and framing materials supporting our copy of the 13th Amendment. Cornell’s copy is housed in an elaborately carved wooden frame. A decorative headpiece with the words  “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land, and unto all the inhabitants thereof” was attached to the document at some point. From the label on the back of the frame we assume the document was put into this frame in 1938 by Beard Art Galleries.

We were concerned that the document seemed to be unnaturally flat within the frame and we wondered how it had been attached to the backing board.

Framed copy of the 13th Amendment.

Cornell’s framed copy of the 13th Amendment, before removal.

 

Label from Beard's Galleries.

Label from Beard’s Galleries.

After the framed document was brought into the Conservation Lab, the hanging hardware was removed and the paper covering the back of the frame was lifted off.

Removing hardware from the back.

Removing hardware from the back.

011_Liner off

The paper liner on the back of the frame was removed.

We could see the document and its matting were sealed in a package that was held in the frame with nails. The nails were removed and the package was lifted out of the frame.

The matting and the document were sealed together with paper tape.

The matting and the document were sealed together with paper tape.

The document and matting were sealed together with brown paper packing tape, which was removed mechanically. We discovered that the decorative mat was glued lightly to the window mat below it.

The glued paper tape was removed mechanically.

The glued paper tape was removed mechanically.

The document had been taped to the backing board with the same brown paper tape. This tape was also removed mechanically.

The document was taped to the backing board.

The document was taped to the backing board.

Now, we could see that the document was stuck directly to the backing board. This was a common method for controlling parchment, but it is not good for the document. Parchment needs to be able to respond to changes in humidity. If it is constrained too tightly while experiencing changes in humidity, it may split. Fortunately, it was easily lifted off the backing board, although first we had to remove the staples!

Staples had been used to hold the document to the backing board.

Staples had been used to help hold the document to the backing board.

When the document was free of the backing board we could see that it wanted to curl. We could also see that the headpiece was cut from thinner parchment than the document itself.

The document started to curl once it was lifted off the backing board.

The document started to curl once it was lifted off the backing board.

There was a residue of glued paper tape around the edges of the document and the headpiece. This residue was removed mechanically and by lightly rubbing with damp cotton.

In order to humidify and flatten the document, we decided to separate the two pieces.

The headpiece was separated from the document using a Teflon folder.

The headpiece was separated from the document using a Teflon folder.

After humidifying each piece, we dried them on a suction table before putting them between boards.

We used the suction table to flatten each piece after humidification.

We used the suction table to flatten each piece after humidification.

They were allowed to dry for several weeks and then were reattached using hot gelatin.

Now, we had to decide how to re-mat the document.

For the reasons stated above, we did not want to re-attach the document directly to the backing board. Instead, parchment documents are often attached to the backing board of a mat by using pieces of string that have been attached to the document and which are then wrapped around to the back. After careful consideration we decided to instead use strips of Japanese tissue.  This method was described by Nicholas Pickwoad in The Paper Conservator (2). The tissue strips were attached to the back of the document using stiff wheat starch paste and then attached to the back of the board. This will allow the document  to expand and contract as needed due to changes in the relative humidity. If the humidity becomes too low, the paper strips will break rather than the parchment itself splitting. We decided to use usumino (thick) tissue from Hiromi Paper for the strips.

We constructed a new backing board by laminating 3 layers of archival mat board cross-grained, with the short grain piece in the middle and using wheat starch paste as the adhesive.

Because the humidity in the conservation lab was relatively low, we moved the the document to the Kroch vault to attach the document to the backing board. The vault has a better humidity for parchment and it is where the document will spend most of its time. This allowed us to apply tension to the strips while the parchment was in a relaxed state.

052_Doc with strips

The Japanese paper strips were added to the back of the document.

 

The shows the headpiece with the strips attached to the back.

The shows the headpiece with the strips attached to the back.

The back of the backing board.

The back of the backing board with the strips attached.

The front of the document.

The front of the document. The strips attached to the back of the document, but not to the front of the board.

Ariel Ecklund of Corners Gallery in Ithaca cut a new window mat from archival mat board and then reassembled the document with its new mat and its original decorative mat back into the frame. She replaced the 1930’s glass with museum glass. She added thickness to the original frame to provide better attachment for the framing points.

Increasing the thickness of the back of the frame.

Increasing the thickness of the back of the frame.

The document  doesn’t look as flat as it did before, but it is now surrounded by acid-free, archival materials and it can flex as necessary.

In its new frame.

In its new frame.

The Thirteenth Amendment is part of the new exhibit, “Abraham Lincoln’s Unfinished Work”, which will be in the Kroch Library from January 26, 2015 until September 30, 2015. The original copy of the Thirteenth Amendment will be on display at selected times. Check the the library website for those dates.

 

(1) Library of Congress. Thirteenth Amendment. Retrieved from  http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/13thamendment.html

(2) Pickwoad, Nicholas. (1992). “Alternative Methods of Mounting Parchment for Framing and Exhibition”. The Paper Conservator. 16(1), pp. 78-85.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery solved

December 12, 2014 | Conservation treatment  |  2 Comments

by Michele Brown

Recently, “Ask a Librarian” received the following query:

“Hi, I have a question about the 1579 edition of Hill’s “profitable instruction of the perfite ordering of bees”, which is your “SF523 .H996 Phillips Beekeeping Collection”.

Over at Distributed Proofreaders we are trying to create a free e-book of this for Project Gutenberg.

We started with the scans from the Internet Archive / Biodiversity Heritage Library, which are of your copy. Your catalog entry says “56 [i.e.57] p. 19 cm.” My problem is that on the last page (the second 56) it has a catchword, and you can see the bleed through from the printing on the verso! So there have to be more pages. Plus, the table of contents says the second treatise has 8 (viij) chapters, and the last page is the end of chapter four.

If the whole of signature Kk was missing I could understand it, but the recto of at least the first leaf is there, so the verso has to be there too!

So I am asking for two things. Firstly, can someone look at the second page 56, signature Kk, and confirm that it continues on from there (I would assume for a full quarto signature).

Secondly, is there any way I can get images of the remaining pages, either by you rescanning it for the Biodiversity Heritage Library or by you sending me images directly?

I think you have the only copy of this that is complete (the British Library copy being shorter than yours) so I do not have a plan B here. Thanks in advance, Neil. “

Since this book is held in Mann Library Special Collections, the query went to Linda Stewart, Life Sciences Bibliographer and Special Collections Librarian. Linda then contacted the Conservation Lab.

Although the book in question was printed in 1579, it had a library-style binding typical of the 20th century. The verso of the last page had a blank leaf stuck to it that appeared to be covering up text. This blank leaf matched the paper throughout the book, not the endpapers of the new binding.

Cloth binding added by a commercial binder, probably in the 20th century.

Cloth binding added by a commercial binder, probably in the 20th century.

The title page.

 

The last page has a catchword, implying there is more to follow.

The last page has a catchword, implying there is more to follow.

 

A blank page has been pasted to the verso of the previous page.

But, there is no more text. A blank page has been pasted to the verso of the last page.

We tried to see the obscured text by placing a light sheet behind the laminated page, but this was unsuccessful.

Since we were  unable to read what might be behind the pasted blank sheet, we decided to disbind the book and soak the last page in filtered water in order to separate the layers.

First we removed the commercial binding; then we cleaned the spine with a wheat starch paste poultice. This gave us an opportunity to see the steps involved in the previous binding process.

Binders often used waste-paper in the bindery to construct spine linings.

Binders often used bindery waste  to construct spine linings.

We used a wheat starch paste poultice to remove the old lining.

We used a wheat starch paste poultice to remove the old linings.

Under the paper linings, we discovered a cloth lining.

Spines are often lined in coarsely woven cloth for strength.

Spines are often lined in coarsely woven cloth for strength.

We could see that the new binding was put over the leather spine of an earlier binding.  The book was oversewn before rebinding it.

We can see the remnants of the spine of the earlier binding under the new oversewing added by the commercial binder.

Remnants of an earlier leather spine with a gold tooled title.

The book had originally been sewn on three cords.

Removing all of the linings reveals the original sewing structure.

Removing all of the linings reveals the original sewing structure.

The sections are held together by thread passing through the center of each section.

The sections are held together by thread passing through the center of each section.

 

Once the spine was clean, we separated the book into sections.

The sewing thread was cut and the sections were carefully separated.

The sewing thread was cut and the sections were carefully separated.

The book, separated into sections.

The book, separated into sections.

Finally, we were ready to separate the last page from the blank page that was pasted to it.

The last page was soaked in a bath of filtered water.

The last page was soaked in a bath of filtered water.

The blank page was teased off gently while both pages were still wet.

 

The blank page came off easily and we discovered that the printing on the verso has nothing to do with the rest of the book. We can also see the instructions “Paste over this” written with what appears to be iron gall ink at the top of the page.

The printing on the verso is revealed.

The printing on the verso is revealed.

How did this happen?

Thomas Hyll died around 1576; his books were reprinted several times. Could there have been some confusion in the print shop when this book was re- printed in 1579? Perhaps an examination of all of his work would show us exactly which book the verso printing belongs to.

Meanwhile, what is the next chapter for this book? The sections will be repaired. It will then be resewn and  rebound in binding more sympathetic to its time. It will also receive a new custom-made clamshell box and then it will be returned to the E.F. Phillips Beekeeping Collection where it will remain available for scholars for decades to come.

 

 

 

Michele Hamill

for blog_Lincoln

The Stephen and Beth Loewentheil Family Photographic Collection is a spectacular photograph resource in the Rare and Manuscripts Division, Cornell University Library. Abraham Lincoln, the most photographed American in the 19th century, is well represented in the collection in a variety of photographic processes. Abraham Lincoln understood the value of photography in his political role and as a face of the nation.  He actively sought having his photograph taken and distributed, resulting in photograph types and formats with a remarkable range of appearance, color, texture, and condition. His portraits, recently treated and rehoused in the Conservation Lab, showcase the exceptional value of the Loewentheil collection to explore different 19th and 20th century photographic processes and formats from many vantage points. Take a tour of some prominent photographic processes and formats through the iconic image of Abraham Lincoln. A summary of the processes can be found here.

The Loewentheil collection, which brings together a number of Lincoln portraits, has given us the opportunity to develop effective preservation strategies by assessing how each photograph was made, its inherent vulnerabilities, and how it has been affected by time and use. It is a distinct pleasure to work with this collection in the Conservation Lab and contribute to making it available for research, use and instruction.  The Loewentheil photograph collection is particularly rich in the Civil War, African American life, and the rise of the hand-colored photograph.

To learn more about the Loewentheil Collection see: Dawn’s Early Light: The First 50 Years of American Photography (http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/DawnsEarlyLight/index.html).  For more information about identifying and comparing photographic processes, see: http://www.graphicsatlas.org/

 

Reparo!

October 28, 2014 | Uncategorized  |  Leave a Comment

J.M. Iacchei

 BaraBruja
Above: Bara la bruja

We thought it a fitting time of year to highlight Cornell Library’s world class Witchcraft Collection, specifically the Witchcraft in Popular Culture subdivision.

Those of you familiar with Harry Potter may recognize Reparo as the Mending Charm:

“The Mending Charm will repair broken objects with a flick of the wand. Accidents do happen, so it is essential to know how to mend our errors.

- from the Book of Spells, (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Mending_Charm)

With hundreds of vintage movie posters, movie stills, and promotional materials depicting Witchcraft in Popular Culture (including Harry Potter movie posters and memorabilia) a mending charm in the Conservation Lab would be put to good use!

LaurentLaurent Ferri, Curator, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC), is leading the initiative to expand the Witchcraft Collection begun at Cornell in the late 19th century to encompass “Witchcraft in Popular Culture.” Laurent kindly provided a brief overview of this collection, its significance to scholarship, and importantly, the reason as to why it was necessary to branch out from the original collection, mostly 17th and 18th century bound volumes, into the new terrain of popular culture.

Here are a few words from Laurent:

Since 2012, we have assembled a unique and spectacular collection of approximately 490 pieces of vintage witchcraft-and possession-related movie material covering the period from 1916 through 2015 — that is, 99 years of outstanding material documenting the cultural impact of witchcraft and possession through the history of world cinema.

inquisition12992B_BT_Recto

 

This is the perfect complement to the Witchcraft Collection started by A.D. White in the 1880s, as today affordable demonology treaties and witchcraft trial records appear less frequently on the market, and more researchers choose popular culture as their field of inquiry.

Numbered #4781 in RMC, “Witchcraft- and Possession-Related Movie Posters, Lobby Cards, and other Cinema Memorabilia, 1916-2015” is a great resource for the study of the rich iconography of witches. It also offers an opportunity to reflect on film genres and sub-genres as defined by the film industry, critics, and censors (“horror film”, “nunsploitation film”, “adult movie”, etc…). Given the graphic imagery and permanent recycling of erotic stereotypes, it could be used in conjunction with Cornell’s vast Human Sexuality Collection as well.

These striking, colorful, and often very large items are gradually making their way to the conservation lab for treatment – cleaning, pressure sensitive tape removal, stabilization of weakened or torn areas, and humidification and flattening prior to storage. Overall, these items are of great variety in both their physical characteristics (dimension, support, and condition) as well as their artistic and graphic styles.

Laurent also points out the significant aesthetic quality of the collection “…movie poster design is an art, sometimes. Take, for instance, Bill Gold,  who worked in the art department of Warner Bros and produced more than 1,000 posters until his retirement in 2004. The poster for “The Exorcist” (1973) serves its purpose perfectly: it points to the tradition of the American “film noir”, and it is inviting but not a spoiler. Another “masterwork” is the minimalist and eerie poster for “Rosemary’s baby” (1968)…the president of the advertising company Young and Rubicam, Stephen Frankfurt (a kind of Don Draper in “Mad Men”) is often credited with the choice (and, perhaps, the idea).”

Exorcist PosterRosemarys Baby

Another masterwork of poster art is “…Giuseppe Bassan’s poster for “Suspiria” (1977), which is reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley’s decadent illustrations for Salome (1893) — they both evoke what’s been termed by some art historians “aesthetic Satanism”.

Suspiria PosterBeardsley Salome

 

Here is one example of a treatment carried out for this collection:

The poster below was printed on a wood pulp paper. Overtime it had become increasingly brittle and discolored from acid degradation. It had also, at one time, been stored folded leaving extremely fragile and weakened areas along the folds. As you can see, it became separated along the folds into five frail pieces.

12992A_BT_RectoIMG_1039
Left: Before Treatment; Right: During Treatment, blotter washing

Each individual piece was blotter washed (to provide support during aqueous treatment when the wood pulp paper is extremely fragile),  flattened, and dried underweight before being pieced back together with a thin Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. This treatment reduced the acidity and brittleness of the paper support, making handling much less precarious. In a more stable condition, this is one of the many items of the Witchcraft in Popular Culture collection now accessible for use.

Or maybe I just said “Charta Reparo!”

12992A_AT_Recto

Above: After Treatment


More information about the Cornell University Witchcraft Collection can be found here: http://digital.library.cornell.edu/w/witch/

Also of interest is a current exhibit, co-curated by Laurent, at the Johnson Museum of Art, Surrealism and Magic. More about the exhibit can be found here: http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/surrealismandmagic/

By: Michele Hamill and Jill Iacchei

Opening on October 17, 2014, a new exhibit in the Hirshland Exhibit Gallery, Carl A. Kroch Library, celebrates Cornell University’s Sesquicentennial.

The original linen drawings for the University Library (now known as Uris Library) were treated in the Conservation Lab for the exhibit. The University Library, as well as several other campus buildings, was designed by Cornell’s first architecture student, William Henry Miller, and is known as his masterpiece.

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The South Elevation of the University Library—the view when walking up Ho Plaza toward the Arts Quad.

The linen (or tracing cloth) drawings of the University Library are well over a hundred years old but remain remarkably beautiful and resilient. Tracing cloth was a strong, durable and translucent support, sturdier than tracing paper. It retained its strength and flexibility and could endure heavy handling and rolling, an important attribute for working drawings such as elevations and floor plans.

Commonly called linens, the tracing cloth was predominantly made from cotton which was free of lumps and imperfections. The plain woven cloth was heavily coated with starch, making the coated cloth more resistant to tearing than untreated cloth or paper. The coated cloth was then heavily calendared by pressing through hard rollers to compact the fabric and create a very smooth, glossy, drawing surface.

photo 3_blog IMG_1584crop_blogA detail of the clock face showing how the smooth surface provided an ideal coating to take ink and produce sharp, crisp lines. Notice anything different from clock drawing and the actual clock?

clocktowerdetail_Blog 13041_BT_Verso_Blog

The University Library drawings have accent watercolor applied to the verso of the drawings, as seen in this detail of the spiral staircase of the clock tower, which results in subtle shading to select parts of the drawing. The color was applied to the back of the drawings to avoid disrupting the inked images which rest on the surface of the starch coating and were very sensitive to moisture.

maindoors

Detail, main doors, East Elevation.

Working drawings were not elaborately colored, but were selectively tinted with flat, simple washes of color. A standard color code was used by architects to clarify structure and to indicate the construction materials —red indicates brick, ochre denotes wood, and blue indicates iron.

westcrop

Drafting manuals from the late 19th century specified that red ink should routinely be used to indicate distance marks, as seen in the left of this detail of the West Elevation. Notice how the word “IRON” is written to the left and right of the window, as well as the area tinted blue. Because the tinted color did not reproduce in the blueprints made from the linen drawings, the drafter also indicated the construction materials through words or symbols.

 IMG_14931

This detail shows the metal work for the A.D. White Library which is housed inside the University Library. Drawings on tracing cloth served as the master for making expendable blueprints for workmen to use on-site. Linen drawings can have an overall blue or blue-grey tint, as seen here, due to colorant added to increase their transparency to the actinic (photosensitive) light needed to produce blueprints.

 ADWhitelibrarycrop

This albumen photograph, cleaned and stabilized for the exhibit, shows the interior of the A.D. White Library with the magnificent metal work conceived in the drawings.

 13041D_AT_Blog Uris_Blog

The drawing for the East Elevation and the 1891 albumen photograph showing the north and east elevations of the completed building.

The treatment of the University Library drawings included surface cleaning, removal of old, failing repairs, stabilization, and flattening. The linen drawings responded well to treatment and will continue to serve as a historical record, as A.D. White asserted, of ‘the best academic library built’.

Thank you to Rhea Garen, Lead Photographer DCAPS, for providing the elevation images seen above.

The Sesquicentennial exhibit showcases a wealth of photographs, memorabilia, and documents depicting the inspiring history of Cornell University.  For more information on the Sesquicentennial exhibit, see: http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/events/current_exhibitions.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Pat Fox and Caitlin Moore

For our recent exhibit in Uris Library, Book and Paper Conservation at Cornell University, we decided to explore a historic structure that is a link between scrolls and modern bindings.

Coptic bindings were first produced in the 2nd century AD by the Egyptian Christians called Copts. The Copts popularized a way to bind together several folded sheets of papyrus using a series of linked stitches forming a chain. This codex format is what we know as a book. It evolved from Roman diptychs, hinged wooden tablets coated with wax.

book

Courtesy of WikiMedia

 

The codex was easier to use than a scroll because it opened flat to any page, and both sides of the pages could be written on. By the 6th century AD, scrolls had been replaced in Western culture by codices.

Exposed spines of machine sewn books

The link stitch is very similar to the machine sewing used today to produce publisher’s hard cover books.  We chose to produce models of this binding style because the exposed spine makes the book structure visible.

detail of machine sewing

 

two colored sewing

 This book is bound with a two colored greek coptic stitch using 4 needles and two colors of thread.

detail of greek coptic stitch

preparing to join the halves of the two part greek binding

This book is sewn with the same linked stitch but the halves are sewn independently and then joined with a figure eight shaped knot.  Each half was sewn with 6 needles and the knot to join them required 12 needles.

detail of greek sewing with joining knot

Please join us on July 25, 10:00am in the lower level of Uris Library for a tour of the exhibit!

Davenport, C. (1907) The Book Its History and Development, London, Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd.

Diringer, D. (1953) The Hand-Produced Book, London, Hutchinson’s Scientific and Technical Publications.

Greenfield, J. (1998) ABC of Bookbinding, New Castle, Delaware, Oak Knoll Press.

Smith, K. (1995) Non Adhesive Binding, Vol. 3: Exposed Spine Sewings, Rochester, New York, keith smith BOOKS.

 

 

By Michele Hamill

Greek Coptic

As part of Cornell University’s 2014 Reunion Weekend 2014, Conservation Lab staff have installed Book and Paper Conservation at Cornell, a new exhibition in Uris Library that celebrates bookbinding techniques and materials, and the development of hand papermaking; two craft traditions that greatly inform and direct conservation treatment practices.

coptic sewing Beautiful books, expertly hand-made by Pat Fox, Assistant Book Conservator and Caitlin Moore, Conservation Technician, are featured in the exhibit to illustrate bookbinding techniques. Coptic Sewing focuses on stitch variations originated by the early Egyptian Christians that are similar to today’s machine sewn books.   Caitlin contributed her exquisite Nag Hammadi (an early codex binding) and a model of sewing structures made during her graduate studies at the University of Iowa Center for the Book.  Michele Brown, Book Conservator, consulted on the development and content of the bookbinding techniques and materials exhibit cases.

casebindingCarol Kinsley-McNamara, Conservation Technician, contributed skillful, technical models to the Anatomy of a Case Binding, which shows the parts of the most typical hard cover binding in our libraries and how those parts are assembled.  What’s In a Book? displays samples of a wide range of materials used in bookbinding through the centuries.  Stunning marbled papers are showcased both on books and as backdrops.

paperJill Iacchei, Conservation Technician, has a deep interest in how raw materials, local conditions, and methods employed by Eastern and Western papermakers result in finished papers of distinct qualities and characteristics.  Eastern and Western Papermaking explores the differences in Eastern and Western sheet formation methods and highlights specialty papers used in library conservation. Jill contributed some fine papers she hand-made during her graduate work at the University of Iowa photosCenter for the Book and a beautifully crafted papermaking mould she constructed from local materials.The role of Eastern and Western papers in paper and photograph conservation are illustrated by treatment examples in a case developed by Michele Hamill, Paper and Photograph Conservator.

This exhibit was a wonderful opportunity for Conservation Lab staff to curate, design and install an exhibit highlighting the talent, skill and knowledge of our department.  Our work on this exhibit was made possible by the support and assistance of Barbara Berger Eden, Director, Department of Preservation and Conservation, and Susette Newberry, Assistant Director of Research and Learning Services.

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