Book & paper conservation Category


Two for One Box

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

P3140148We box a lot of things in the Conservation Lab.  Linda Lundy, our resident box maker extraordinaire, has making clamshell boxes down to a science.  Every once in a while something a little more complicated comes along, but there is no stopping Linda!

The Engineering Library brought us such a case recently.  A student group has a tradition of having buttons made for their events.  The Engineering Library wanted to show off their collection and store the buttons in something better than a plastic baggie.

P3140146Linda created a great display and storage solution for them.  She created two partitioned trays for the buttons to rest in.  Behind each button there is a small piece of foam so the button can be attached for display and storage.

Linda then created a clamshell box for both of the trays to live in.  The resulting box was beautiful, useful for storage and doubled well for display!


Elizabethan Pocket Almanac

Friday, June 21, 2013
Submitted by Pamela Olson*

Spitzmueller's Exemplar

Spitzmueller’s Exemplar

During the second week of PBI, I participated in a workshop by Pamela Spitzmueller, former conservator for the University of Iowa Libraries and currently a rare book conservator for Harvard University. The focus of her workshop was to study and create a model of an Elizabethan pocket almanac housed at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. We began by viewing exemplars and images of almanacs, writing tables, and calendar books from various collections throughout the world.

The Houghton almanac is dated from 1581 and includes a calendar for 24 years, tables of weights and measures, prayers, a history of England, and five bifolios of erasable pages for notetaking. It measures 4 3/8 x 3 inches with the spine at the head of the text block, and a full-leather cover impressed with a decorative block and line tooling. A stylus is housed in a groove in the back cover, and the erasable pages are made of parchment coated with gesso and animal glue, to be written upon with the stylus and erased with a damp cloth or sponge. Because this type of book was used daily and discarded when finished, extant copies are rare.

Following an in-depth discussion of the exemplar, we began making our own models as Spitzmueller presented demonstrations of creating erasable surfaces with parchment size and gouache, making the stylus, sewing the text block onto three cords, trimming and shaping the wood covers, rounding and lining the spine, attaching boards to the text block, adhering and embossing the leather cover, and making hooks and clasps out of brass. By the end of a productive week, each participant brought home their own historical model of this rare and unusual book.

*Pamela is currently in travel mode conducting research for her thesis.


Respirator Fit Testing

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Putting the respirator onLast week I attended the American Institute for Conservation annual meeting. To keep up with my disaster response training, I went to all the sessions of particular interest to AIC-CERT (Collections Emergency Response Team) members. One session was on respirator fitness testing, including the actual fitness test. Before we could take the fitness test, we had to turn in a signed doctor’s statement of fitness. We reviewed how to put the mask on (chin in first) and clean it and then tested for a secure fit. As you can see, a bag is put over your head and then a scent is squirted into the bag. If you do not smell anything after you’ve moved your head from side to side, up and down, and read a statement, then you have a good fit. I’m happy to report that I past my test. Getting respirator fitness tested

We also a reviewed several brands and styles of disposable N95 particulate respirators that can be purchased at a local drugstore or online. The important thing is to make sure that the disposable respirator is rated N95 or higher. The N95 mask will provide you protection during limited exposure to molds, dust and other airborne particulates (not oil). As always you should consult with your doctor before using any type of respirator and follow whatever protocol has been established for your work area.Variety of disposal respirators

This, my very first AIC annual meeting, was a wonderful learning experience. I was able to attend thanks to a partial scholarship from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Map Conservation Challenge

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Map Before Conservation

Map Before Conservation

One particular map from the “History of the Expedition under the Command of Captain Lewis and Clark, 1814″ was a particular challenge. It presented a great opportunity to treat a very important map that was in much need of repair. The map, depicting Lewis and Clark’s route and the first map of the journey to be published, was in poor condition, with past mends of heavy paper, which caused stretching and stress to the paper. The map had also been backed, or adhered to linen in order to give the heavily used map more support, but it had been glued with an adhesive that was thick and degrading, causing yellowing and staining of the paper. The proposal was to remove the map from the book, remove the old lining and adhesive by aqueous means, wash, and then reline the map
Removing the Old Linen

Removing the Old Linen

onto a Korean hanji paper. The washing treatment would hopefully brighten the map overall, but also prolong the life of the paper by removing the old adhesive. The new lining would provide a stable, flexible support.

The old linen came away easily, but Giselle and Bill were in for much more work when it came to removing the adhesive. In many cases this simply floats away in the bath, but this adhesive was thick and viscous. It required a very gentle scrapping to even move it off the surface, done with soft bamboo spatulas, designed by NY area binder and conservator Jeff Peachy. Once the map is wet, it’s best to finish this process all in one day. Thankfully we started first thing in the morning!

Gently Removing Old Adhesive

Gently Removing Old Adhesive

After the adhesive removal was complete, the map was washed and relined onto hanji paper. This is a Korean paper, made in a similar way to Japanese washi, and made to meet conservation standards. The team enjoyed utilizing the sparkling new, oversize table, specifically designed for large flat work.
Free of Old Lining

Free of Old Lining

Preparing Hanji Paper Liner

Preparing Hanji Paper Liner


Vinzani’s Papermaking class at PBI

Thursday, May 23, 2013
Submitted by Pamela Olson

Paper made with watermark at end of class.

Paper made with watermark at end of class.

Bernie Vinanzi, a veteran papermaker who trained at Twinrocker Handmade Paper and now teaches papermaking at the University of Maine at Machias, taught a workshop with a focus on paper history, fiber selection, and sheet formation. Workshop participants designed their own watermarks and made a wide range of textweight, Western-style paper from cotton, abaca, and hemp fibers.

Julie McLaughlin and Jana Dambrogio cutting out watermarks from vinyl lettering adhesive.

Julie McLaughlin and Jana Dambrogio cutting out watermarks from vinyl lettering adhesive.

Bill Hosterman forming sheets at the vat

Bill Hosterman forming sheets at the vat

Pamela Olson is a Graduate Student at UICB and Conservation Assistant for the University of Iowa Libraries Preservation & Conservation Department and attended Vinzani’s class. Images in this post are from the PBI Facebook page.


Islamic Binding with Yasmeen Kahn

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Submitted by Kathleen Tandy

Dark brown book with almond shaped designFor my second session class at PBI, I took An Introduction to Islamic Binding with Yasmeen Kahn from the Library of Congress. She explained that in the Islamic tradition calligraphy is the most important aspect of book. The binding is secondary, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. She began the class by showing us pictures of wonderfully ornate bindings and then immediately told us we weren’t going to make those bindings. What we ended up making was even better, we based some of our designs on more everyday books. The main takeaway from the class was that there isn’t really a right or wrong when it comes to these types of bindings. The Islamic world spans such a large area that there isn’t a consistent style from place to place. Each place influences the other and styles were influenced by the times.

To begin with everyone in the class made a hard cover binding with an envelope flap. We painted end papers for the books and either pasted them up and burnished them or shellacked them to create a high sheen.

White plaquette with blue and gold almond shaped designFor our second item we could go as crazy as we wanted to. Some students made soft cover bindings and some of us made lacquer plaquettes. I made a plaquette loosely based on a Turkish binding. To create the plaquette I edged the board in leather and then added shellacked paper. I drew an almond shaped design in the middle and shellacked the paper again. I then added gold paint and shellacked again.

Fingernails painted goldTo end the class Yasmeen had us all paint our fingernails gold. This is a rare moment for my fingernails to be painted as nail polish can rub off onto items in the lab, but as Yasmeen said “In Islamic Binding there can never be too much gold!”


Turning the Corner – Leather Paring with Jeff Altepeter

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Submitted by Kathleen Tandy

Plaquette with a KIn my first week session course at PBI, I took a leather paring class with Jeff Altepeter from the North Bennett Street School. The tricks I learned in his course were well worth the price of admissions. I feel so much more comfortable on the Sharf-fix paring machine and am more confident about my knife skills as well. Plaquette with inlayTo begin, we worked at paring leather as thin as we could to work on covering plaquettes. We also worked on paring leather thin enough to become onlay pieces. We learned how to use the ascona tool to create thin lines on our plaquettes which we would then lay in a very thin strip of leather.Ascona Tool

Notched board with endbands pasted upThe best trick that I learned all week was how to make stuck on endbands. This is something that I have done in the past and something that we occasionally do in the lab, but the process is usually a messy and gluey one. With Jeff’s trick it is simple and painless.

To begin you take a piece of book board and make a notch on either side. Then you take a piece of thread or cord and stretch it across the board and catch it in the notches. Next glue or paste up your endband material, in this case leather, and slip it under the cord. Fold the endband material over the cord and press into place with your fingers or a bone folder. Then leave to dry. It is as simple as that!Close up of endband


Historical Long and Link Stitches Lessons at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Adam Larsson, Conservator from SwedenReporting from Oxbow School of the Arts in Saugatuck, Michigan, Giselle Simon, here, attending Paper and Book Intensive, 2013. We got off to rousing start with a fantastic line up: Jeff Altepeter, binder and instructor from North Bennett St. School taught a technical leather paring class. Bernie Vinzani, Papermaking faculty from the University of Machias, Maine covered papermaking techniques involving watermarks and sheet formation. Sarah Bryant, printer from the UK covered pressure printing on the letterpress. Paula Jull, book artist and instructor from Idaho presented a page design class. Adam Larsson, Conservator from Sweden, shared with us 14th C. limp vellum structures from the National Library in Uppsala.

Close up of long stitchingLarsson’s class was of particular interest to me, as we saw a version of historical long and link stitches originating from Northern Europe. We recreated two particular bindings from the Uppsala collection, these being manuscripts. The structures featured a stiff spine piece sewn with the text, which was usually carved horn, leather or parchment. The spine piece protected the cover and allowed for bookmarks of thread or tawed skin to be tied to the linking stitches at the head of the book. Decorative elements such as colored tawed Example of long stitchingskin or silver sheets (like foil) were placed behind cut outs in the spine. The long stitching was woven with additional thread after sewing to add protection to the stitches, but also added a beautiful aesthetic touch. There was a close connection with Italian paper case structures, but clearly these bindings have a look and feel all their own, each being relatively the same size (approximately 9 inches in height), a stiff spine piece, and some type of horn or parchment “button” closure and all link or long stitch.

Book showing experimentation with other materialsDuring the final day, Larsson encouraged the class to experiment with other materials for the spine piece, with some participants finding drift wood from the nearby Oxbow lagoon. The sewing holes, which were drilled into the wood and text attached to it by the sewing (linking and long stitches), created a modern twist to the Medieval structure.

Canoe trip for relaxationAfter a brief “day-off” to prepare the studios for the next session (plus a canoe trip!), we look forward to another week of paper, book and print…intensive!


University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Now on the Road

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Exhibit flyerSeveral items from the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections are now a part of the exhibit “Marking Territory, Cartographic Treasures of the Mississippi River and the World Beyond,” March 2- June 16, 2013 at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport.

Curator Rima Girnius from the Figge, worked with Mary McInroy and Greg Prickman to select 17 maps, 3 books and 1 copperplate for this exhibit which explores “how maps communicate highly complex ideas about identity, politics, and culture.” After selecting the objects for the show, the items were documented and prepared for exhibit by the Conservation Staff. Giselle Simón, Bill Voss, and Kat Tandy of Conservation, with the help of graduate student Pamela Olson, completed repairs, fabricated mounts, and framed the maps for delivery and installation at the Figge on February 28, 2013.

Conservation team

–submitted by Giselle Simón


The Szathmary Digitzation Project

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cover of a CookbookThe University of Iowa’s Special Collections was fortunate to receive Chef Louis Szathmary’s library of cookbooks throughout the mid-80’s.  Among the items were a number of handwritten cookbooks that Szathmary had collected over the years. In the Spring of 2012 conservation and digital preservation students began scanning the manuscripts. The first item, Josiah Ingall’s account book, went digital on March 13th, 2012. The goal was to crowd source the transcription of the pages and create legible, accessible, versions of the cookbooks, some of them dating from as far back as the 1600’s.

A little over a year later, the project reached the 100 mark with the digitization of the ‘Household recipe book of Mrs. Howard of Staines, Middlesex and Salsfield Court, Nr. Westerham, England’.  This number represents hours of work in addition to 12,674 images totaling 249,361,919,444 bytes!  Each item is assessed before scanning, treated if necessary, scanned, processed, and rehoused in a 4-fold-flap.  The DIY transcription project is also moving along at a good pace with 33,222 pages transcribed to date.

If you’re interested in browsing the digital collection go to:

Or, if you’d prefer to try your hand (or eyes) at manuscript transcription, visit the DIY transcription site at:

Lastly, if you’re feeling super adventurous, try out some of the recipes yourself, also found at the DIY site. There’s everything from dandelion wine to cures for the plague (which hopefully you don’t have).

-Jessica Rogers