A Big Box for a Big Book

Say you have a really big book and need to house it in a box.  How can you get a two foot thick book in and out of a lidded box?

Answer:  a tailgate

This double walled box with lid and tailgate (side flap) was made by Conservation Assistant and boxmaker extraordinaire Linda Lundy.  It is constructed two layers of 100 pt. board and covered with maroon buckram.  It is quite sturdy and allows the user to get the book in and out without difficulty.

10,000 page book bound at Conservation Lab

In Celebration of Iowa City being named a “City of Literature” by UNESCO,   Dr. Alphabet (Dave Morice) sponsored by Sackter House Media has completed his largest, longest, world-record breaking poetry marathon by creating a 100 volume work of 10,000 pages in 100 days.

The marathon was a highlight of a four-month exhibit at the University of Iowa Main Library honoring the history of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop and the Actualist Poetry Movement.  The full text is available online at


The final text of 10,119 pages was printed out by Bu Wilson and bound by Bill Voss of the UI Library Preservation Dept.  The binding measures 8 1/2 x 11 x 24 inches and is possibly the thickest single volume book ever bound.

Poetry City Mararthon

Exciting forum at ALA Annual

The forum Strategic Future of Print Collections attracted over 300 librarians. The forum was produced by Debbie Noland, Library Binding Institute, and Gary Frost, University of Iowa, and was sponsored by the Preservation and Reformatting  sub group and the Rare Books and Manuscripts sub group of the American Library Association. The program featured three presentations offering three perspectives on print delivery in a context of digital technologies.

Walt Crawford, commentator on role of libraries in society, offered an overview of the current dynamic use of print and screen resources in research libraries. He suggested that libraries promote “inclusionary” or “multiplatform” reading that combines use of print and screen resources. He also projects such interplay into the future; “We don’t know how interdependence (of print and screen) will play out – but can guess that all-digital is an inherently unlikely future except as an ideological assertion.”

Shannon Zachary, preservation librarian at the University of Michigan, described the intensive interaction of print and screen resources caused by Google Print reformatting. This processing has features of selection and de-selection that indicates a continuing role for print in a context of digital delivery. While Google reformatting of print books exponentially improves access there is more conflicted appraisal of the preservation implications. As with microfilm conversion, digital conversion progresses in context with a continuing role for print.

Doug Nishimura, senior researcher at IPI, continued a theme of interplay between print and digital technologies. He discussed how print on demand books enabled by digital sources and electrostatic printing promises to project the role of print far into the future. Research at the Image Permanence Institute is assessing the digital printing technologies and evolving diagnostic tools for performance and permanence of print on demand books.

The program proved very cohesive and conveyed a consensus across the wide perspectives presented. This consensus was that there is a digital future for print in libraries collections as both screen access, digital book manufacturing technologies and print reading all invigorate the future of books. A lively discussion concluded the forum and follow-up materials and bibliography will be available at an LBI web portal.

Rare Book Exhibit Completed in Peru

A University of Iowa Library Preservation team Gary Frost, Conservator, Joyce Miller, project support and technician and Bill Voss, Exhibit Conservator, has completed a project to prepare and install a 26 case comprehensive exhibit of the treasures of the Library of the Convent of the Recoleta in Arequipa Peru. The two week project (May 26 to June 5) was completed on-site with materials supplied by Archival Products and the UI Libraries.

exhibit cases

This education exhibit depicts the amazing story of historical libraries in this highland colonial city. These books introduced European learning into equally complex indigenous culture and so advanced dynamics of empire still in motion in the Americas. The library of the Recoleta contains 22,000 volumes spanning the 16th to 19th centuries and is rich in linguistics, history, sciences, arts and literature, religious doctrine and scripture, and philosophy. The library was founded in 1661. It features early Peruvian imprints including unique copies.

Fabulous voyages were required to bring European books to Peru. Outward voyages went southward to the Canary Islands where the westward winds were encountered. A long Atlantic crossing brought the cargo to Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Another voyage across pirate waters came finally to land at the isthmus of Panama. This overland crossing of swamp and mountains was no less difficult than the previous sailings. On the Pacific coast newly constructed ships began the long voyage down to Lima. Finally, books destine for Arequipa still required the long desolate crossing of the vast inland desert before the books reached the start of the highlands.

gary and guests in the workshop

The Library was used by a Franciscan Order with missions to many colonial communities. Here readers prepared their minds for great dramas of contact between cultures and great challenges of interaction. For the Padres the library is not just books but it is also a state of mind. UI Staff members enjoyed this exotic excursion into a different book culture. The UI team was honored at a spectacular opening reception given at the historical Cloister.

Paper to Digital to Paper Again

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

     A UI prof and grad student were interested in getting a digital copy of Cursus Literaturae Sinicae, a 19th C. translation of classical Chinese texts into Latin in five volumes.  When the volumes came via ILL from Notre Dame, they were scanned using the overhead scanner with the gradation curve set to give as white a background as possible, since it was determined that we should also print out a copy of the scans and bind them for our own circulating collection.  Here’s what they look like.

     The sheets from the printer were perfect bound with the double fan press.  To account for the swelling in such large volumes we decided the backs should be rounded, which was accomplished with the aid of a couple of cardboard map tubes at the fore edge.



For the first volume (at left above) only three spine linings were used: kozo, acrylic/cotton super, paper.  As this volume had a lot of throw up, subsequent volumes got additional linings: kozo/cotton super/paper/cotton/paper, which worked better.  Hopefully they will stand up well to frequent use.

More Civil War Letters

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Here is another Civil War letter similar to the one posted below, only here the additional challenges were that the letter required some flattening of the wrinkles and folds before mending and the repair tissue had to be tinted.

This letter was pressed overnight between moistened blotter paper to flatten it.

Then the Walters repair tissue was tinted to match the original.  The tissue was brushed with a thin wash of acrylic paint and allowed to dry overnight on polyester sheet.

Once the tissue dries, mending proceeds as before.

To see a scan of the completed work in our digital collection, click here:


Preparing Civil War Letter for Scanning

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One of the collections that the department is currently digitizing is a collection of letters and diaries relating to the Civil War.  While most are in good condition, a few are so torn that they require considerable mending before they can be scanned. 

For our mending, we use Walters repair tissue which we have previously prepared.  It is made by brushing adhesive (half paste, half methylcellulose) in a thin layer onto kozo repair tissue which is then layed down on a sheet of polyester and allowed to dry. 

 For mending tears, small strips of the Walters tissue are torn from the sheet using a needle tear or a water brush tear.  The strips are positioned over the tear with the dried adhesive side down and reactivated using a moist cotton swab or water brush.  They then dry under blotter or Remay and small weights.  Infills are treated similarly, with patches adhered to the edges of both sides of the paper loss.


To see the finished product, scanned and uploaded into our digital collection click here: