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.
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.
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.
This book is bound with a two colored greek coptic stitch using 4 needles and two colors of thread.
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.
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
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.
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.
Carol 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.
Jill 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 Center 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.
by Michele Brown
During Preservation Week (April 27 – May 3) we posted tips for preserving your home collections on Facebook.
The best thing you can do for your materials is to provide them with a good environment. This means maintaining low temperature and moderate humidity and storing them away from light on properly sized book shelves (for books) or in archival folders and boxes (for photos and manuscripts). Careful handling is also important.
Preservation Tip #1: Keep the humidity at 50% RH or below, but above 30% RH. High humidity promotes mold growth; humidity that is too low may cause some materials to become brittle. Avoid storing your materials in basement and attic spaces.
Preservation Tip #2: Maintain a low temperature (below 70 F) in the areas where your materials are stored. Check out the Dew Point Calculator at the Image Permanence Institute’s site and learn more about how temperature and humidity affect your collection.
Preservation Tip #3: Protect your materials from light. Light exposure causes fading and discoloration.
Preservation Tip #4: Use archival enclosures to organize and protect documents and photographs.
Preservation Tip #5: Do not fold down corners, use sticky notes or paper clips to mark your place. Instead, use strips of acid-free paper.
Preservation Tip #6: Keep food and drink away from your collections. Food and drink can damage materials and will attract insects and other pests to your collection.
Preservation Tip #7: Keep your materials free from dust by cleaning them periodically with microfiber dust cloths or a HEPA vacuum. Dust can be abrasive and disfiguring and also contains mold spores.
by Michele Brown
Preservation Week was created in 2010 by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), to promote preservation of our library collections.
Libraries all over the country have scheduled preservation events for this week (April 27-May 3). Free webinars and webcasts are available at the ALCTS Preservation Week website.
The Cornell Conservation Lab is celebrating Preservation Week by posting preservation tips on Facebook throughout the week. These tips will be summarized in a blog post next week.
Join us next week for a summary of our tips for preserving your collection.
We wanted to take the opportunity to both welcome and thank Sheniqua Young for her contribution to the continuation of the epigraphic squeeze project. Sheniqua is a freshman Chemistry major at Cornell University. She has a rigorous course load in preparation for her future aspirations to be a Pediatrician with a specific interest in Asthma and Immunology.
Sheniqua began working on the project in January when the second batch of squeezes arrived to the lab. The initial batch of squeezes was collected from a specific monument in Ankara, the Res Gestae. This second set of approximately 100 squeezes was also collected from throughout the Assyro-Babylonian Orient as part of the 1907 Cornell expedition organized by Professor J.R.S. Sterrett. While the first batch was fairly consistent, these squeezes vary significantly in size and condition. Sheniqua comes to the lab four days a week and patiently cleans and carefully stabilizes the squeezes in preparation for storage. We are most grateful for her diligent work and commitment to this project.
by Michele Brown
The Conservation Unit has been busy treating a variety of materials for Speaking of Sex, the new exhibit opening February 14 in the Hirshland Exhibition Gallery of the Carl A. Kroch Library. The exhibit celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Human Sexuality Collection. Brenda Marston, Curator of the Human Sexuality Collection, describes the importance of the collection: “A quarter of a century ago, the Library began to gather rare books, letters, photographs and original artwork, films, erotica, and all sorts of ephemera related to sexuality — much of which was ignored or shunned by academia and society at large.” The exhibit includes items from the original Mariposa archive and some recent additions.
Examples of the many different editions of The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall are included in the exhibit. Most of these are in excellent condition except for damaged dust jackets.
Losses and tears on each dust jacket were repaired with colored kozo tissue and usumino tissue using wheat starch paste. The first edition published in Paris by the Olympia Press had more extensive damage. The cloth was torn at the joints and the edges were worn away.
It was rebacked with airplane linen that had been laminated with 100% kozo moriki tissue. The edges were repaired with colored kozo using wheat starch paste. The original spine was put back on over the new spine.
Among many other unusual items needing repair were:
A box holding humorous cocktail napkins from a nudist resort: the tears in the box were repaired with colored kozo, using paste.
Album pages containing suggestive postcards: these had rusty staples holding the pages together and numerous tears. The staples were removed and the tears repaired with colored kozo using wheat starch paste.
Supports for the materials on display were constructed by Pat Fox and Caitlin Moore from the Conservation Unit.
Stop in and see examples the many unique materials in the Human Sexuality collection. The exhibit will be up until the fall. Check the Human Sexuality Collection Facebook page for regular updates.
By: J. M. Iacchei
A Cornellian, Elsa Guerdrum Allen (1888-1969) was an ornithologist, lecturer, and writer. The Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collections at Cornell University holds a collection of her work: manuscripts, photographs, prints. Selected items from this collection have been brought to the conservation lab for treatment. This box contained 38 beautiful, but tightly rolled and heavily creased, ornithological photostat prints, and two color lithographs, the subject of this post.
The lithograph prints had been rolled and subsequently crushed during storage, leaving them with sharp vertical creases. They were discolored, rather brittle, and contained excessive edge damage and areas of loss. These characteristics heightened the potential for further damage to occur, making the prints unsafe to handle, and therefore inaccessible to patrons and researchers.
Of the two litho prints, I will present you with this one:
The goal of the selected treatment was to prevent further deterioration and make these items accessible by repairing tears, filling areas of loss and stabilizing the paper support with a tissue lining. The basic treatment steps are discussed below:
Washing: During washing, soluble deterioration products that cause papers to become discolored and brittle are reduced. The process can improve the paper’s flexibility and reactivate fiber to fiber bonding, thereby improving strength. The inks were first tested for solubility to determine whether or not an aqueous treatment was advisable. They proved to be stable and we proceeded with washing the lithographs in three successive baths of filtered water at a pH of 8-8.5.
Mending Tears, Filling Areas of Loss, and Lining
If you have ever let a wet piece of paper dry unrestrained, you have probably found that it did not dry flat. If that paper had a tear in it, you may also have found that some distortion occurred during drying-the edges of the tear are no longer in alignment. To reduce the potential for this unwanted distortion, significant tears were mended and areas of loss were filled directly after washing and prior to lining with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. The areas of loss were filled using toned Japanese tissue.
Once lined, the print was left to dry under weight between blotter and polyester web. Washing has a tendency to “grey” the support, bringing it closer to its original color. This can be anticipated to some degree, but the fills were a little lighter in color than anticipated. An additional fill was added to compensate. The item was then re-humidified using Gore-tex, and dried under weight. It now looks like this:
In retrospect …
Overall, this treatment was very successful. However, it was not without its challenges and learning opportunities. Alternative methods to filling large areas of loss, choice of lining material, and the use of toned tissue were re-evaluated. After treatment, the larger areas of loss showed some cockling. This is a risk when applying a fully pasted out tissue fill to an area extending the entire width of the document, even when supported with a sheet of mylar. A thicker tissue lining may have helped to reduce the cockling that occurred. Another alternative would have been to fill the larger areas of loss after lining.
The tissue used for the fills and mends was toned with acrylic paints. Once dry, the larger filled areas showed some discoloration. This is possible due to 1)”movement” of the pigment with the application of paste in the lining process or 2) the result of an uneven distribution of paste.
Despite these setbacks, the lithographs, along with the other contents of the box have been stabilized and rehoused. The beautiful imagery that was once too fragile and unstable to be unrolled is now accessible to patrons and researchers to view.
If you are interested in ornithology, or birding, and have not found it already, you may enjoy visiting The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
by J.M. Iacchei
In a library’s conservation lab, tightly rolled photographs, brittle newspapers, weathered maps, and heavily soiled and torn architectural drawings are fairly common items to come across a conservator’s workbench. Every so often though, an item arrives for treatment that is not so typical. The collection of epigraphic squeezes (paper cast impressions from inscribed surfaces) recently brought to Cornell Library’s conservation lab falls into this category.
“SQUEEZES” & “SQUEEZING”
“Squeezing” is a method used in the field by archeologists to collect inscriptions from ancient monuments. The “squeeze” is made by laying dampened paper over an incised surface which is then beat with a flat brush and let to dry. Care to remove air bubbles and to capture each area of incision results in a highly accurate reverse relief of the inscription and a negative right-reading impression of the inscription.
THE VALUE OF A SQUEEZE
Squeezes are an incredibly valuable resource to scholars of epigraphy for a number of reasons:
1) Many monuments reside in distant locations; access often requires expensive and timely travel. Squeezes are lightweight and portable.
2) The squeeze allows for comparison to and revision of existing interpretations, as well as potential for fragmentary inscriptions to be pieced together. This is especially useful in reconstructing the topography of antiquity. The congruity of a text was often disrupted in times of conquest or political changes as it was common for monuments to be moved from their original locations and re-purposed for building materials.
3) Many monuments have become the casualties of time, man, and natural disasters. It is likely that they are in poorer condition today than they were at the time the squeeze was collected. Photographs are of value, yes, but, their accuracy depends heavily upon the light in which they were captured. A squeeze often provides the most complete, accurate and accessible copy of the text available to date.
THE J.R.S. STERRETT SQUEEZES
These particular squeezes were collected as part of an archeological expedition to the Assyro-Babylonian orient organized by Cornell professor J.R.S. Sterrett in 1907. Following their use by Professor Sterrett in the early 20th century, these 200 or so items have been stored in an attic of the Goldwin Smith building in cardboard boxes. The roughly 90 that have been selected for treatment at this time were collected from the Res Gestae in Ankara of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Inscribed in both Latin and Greek, they contain a text central to the study of Roman history.
The squeezes arrived to the lab heavily coated with surface soil – dust, and dirt; maybe even a little inactive mold. Due to the topographic nature of the squeezes the surface soil is heavily ingrained, especially in the curves and angles of the raised impressions. The squeezes are composed of multiple layers of paper which have begun to delaminate and have become creased with folds from previous storage and handling.
The objective of conservation treatment is to: 1) clean and stabilize the squeezes prior to scanning and digitization and 2) provide a permanent storage solution taking into consideration size, quantity, topographic nature, and spatial limitations.
Cleaning: The squeezes were vacuumed with a NILFISK Hepa vacuum, and cleaned once with absorene sponge erasers and again with latex free cosmetic sponges. Each cleaning method contributed to reducing the buildup of dirt and dust on the surface.
Stabilization: Local humidification was used to reduce folds and creases that were not part of the inherent nature of the items topography. Areas that had begun to delaminate were generally left alone unless they were at risk of becoming torn or presented potential for loss. In these instances, Japanese tissue and/or wheat starch paste was used to stabilize the area.
This project is part of a larger initiative funded by the Grants Program for Digital Collection in Arts and Sciences to preserve and promote accessibility for research, study, and dissemination. The scope extends beyond the lab and has called upon the collaboration of conservators, curators, faculty, and imaging specialists. Once cleaned and stabilized, the squeezes will be digitally imaged using different lighting at different angles. These images will then be given to a group at Florida State University where algorithms will be applied to render 3-D reconstructions that will in turn be studied by graduate students of the Cornell University’s Classics department.
Many thanks to Professors Eric Rebillard and Ben Anderson for their insights into the significance of these items, and to Rhea Garen who will be capturing the images. It is the collaborative efforts that make projects such as this one possible.
More to come. Epigraphic Squeezes: Part II and III. Fiber Analysis and Exploration in Squeeze Making are in progress.
McLean, B. H. An introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods from Alexander the Great down to the Reign if Constantine (323 B.C.-A.D. 337). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2002.
Olmstead, A.T., B.B. Charter, and J.E. Wrench. The Cornell Expedition to Asia Minor and the Assyro-Babylonian Orient, Travels and Studies in the Nearer East, Volume 1 Part II: Hittite Inscriptions. Ithaca, NY, 1911.
by Michele Brown
In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, Cornell University’s Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collection has mounted an exhibition of Civil War manuscripts and artifacts.
Our own original copy is currently on display until November 22.
Lance Heidig has been writing an informative blog about the materials in the exhibit.
When the original copy is not on display, a facsimile is in its place. Michele Hamill, Paper and Photo Conservator of the Conservation Unit directed the rehousing and display of both the facsimile and the original. Read her excellent blog posts describing the journey and installation of “our” Gettysburg. Listen to her interview with WHCU.
Before the exhibit was installed, other staff members from the Conservation Unit restored several items now in exhibition cases located in the Rotunda and in front of the Reading Room. Pat Fox constructed the cradles and supports for the materials.
We like our materials to look their best.
Some materials were structurally at risk.
It’s important to retain the original character of the item.
The exhibit will be up until December 22. Please stop by or view the online exhibition.
By Michele Brown
Chen Hong, Director of Circulation at Tsinghua Library and Zhang Huili of the Special Collections Department at Peking University are the fourth pair of librarians from China to participate in the care of circulating collections training program funded by the Luce Foundation. Hong and Huili arrived in Ithaca September 16 and began working with us September 23. This week-end they will return to Beijing.
They began by learning how to determine the grain direction of paper.
Then, they sewed and bound their own blank books.
They learned how to do full and partial repairs, fan glue bindings and constructing phase boxes.
We discussed disaster preparation and salvaged some wet books and documents.
They visited the Mann Library Preservation Department and Special Collections vault, and spoke to Frank Brown about the Mann Library preservation program.
Finally, they learned how to construct exhibit supports.
Many thanks to our translators and all of the people who helped make the program a success.