Welcome to Part 2 of this post, in which I am describing the conservation treatment given to Early Minton Pattern Books 1 and 2. By the end of Part 1, I had disbound the book, removed the library film and tape, and repaired the pages and spine folds. With the constituent parts of the book in much better condition than before, it was then time to start putting them back together again…
With the pages and spine folds repaired, I was able to re-sew the books. This is a fun and satisfying stage of the treatment, when the book really starts to look like a book again! In both cases, I re-sewed the text blocks on two tapes, using the original sewing holes to avoid the need to puncture new holes in the paper.
After that, it was time to ‘round and back’ both books. ‘Rounding’ means shaping the spine into a nice, smooth curve. The purpose of this is to take up the swell introduced by the sewing threads. ‘Backing’ is the process of making ‘shoulders’ on the text block—that is, encouraging the edges of the text block to sit neatly over the edges of the boards. This enables the book to fit snugly within its boards and open well.
With the spine rounded and backed, I then applied new spine linings. First, I pasted some more mitsumata paper to the spine, in order to consolidate the sewing and help keep everything together. Next, I added a lining of archival cotton, leaving a slight overhang on either side. You will see why in the next step…
It was then time to reattach the boards. To do this, I carefully lifted the ‘pastedowns’—the paper that is stuck down on the inside of the boards. Then, after making sure I had the boards in the right place, I adhered the overhanging parts of those cotton spine linings underneath the pastedowns. This attached the boards to the text block in the correct position.
Next, I made a ‘tube hollow’ on the spine of each book. A ‘tube hollow’ is a folded tube made of paper which is stuck to the spine of the book, so that there is a ‘hollow’ of paper created above the spine. When the book is then covered (see the next step), the tube hollow allows a gap to remain between the spine of the book and the covering. This protects the covering material from damage, because it does not bend with the spine when the book is opened, but curves with the tube hollow instead.
The next step was to ‘reback’ the books—that is, to cover the spines with new leather. I used archival quality goat leather, and dyed it to match the colour of the boards. I then used wheat starch paste to adhere the leather to the book, working it over the tube hollow and into the joints, and tucking the edges beneath the original leather on the boards so that there was a smooth transition between the new and old material.
For the final touch, I made new labels for the books out of thin green leather, so that they can be easily identified.
Both books are now much stronger than before and resistant to further damage, but their original aesthetic has been respected and retained. They are therefore better able to withstand the level of handling they will receive at the Archive, and I hope that readers will continue to use and enjoy them for many years to come.
The treatments described in this blog post and others in the Conservation series are carried out by a qualified conservator. If you have an item in need of conservation, it is always best to ask a conservator for advice. In the UK and Ireland, you can find a conservator through the Institute of Conservation’s Conservation Register.
The Minton Archive one-year conservation project is funded by: